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 Rev. Patrick A. Halpin, Ph.D. 

CNR Chaplain & Professor of Philosophy

 

Rev. Patrick A. Halpin, Ph.D., Professor of Philosophy in the early decades of CNR, was a powerful figure on campus. A former Jesuit who had taught at Fordham University before leaving the Jesuits and becoming chaplain and professor of philosophy at CNR in 1900, Father Halpin died in 1920 at the age of 75 of pneumonia “surrounded by the girls and the Sisters he loved.” As reported in the 1921 Annales of CNR, “On the Campus that was so peculiarly and inevitably his, he grew old in peace and, at last, turned away from the homely, quiet routine of the ordered Campus to the greater peace of the life beyond.”

In the 1918 Annales yearbook one young alumnae recalls this famous figure from her classroom days at CNR. As part of our Centennial Celebration, we are reprinting her recollections of Father Halpin.


Remembering Father Halpin

Not long since, at a little afternoon tea, one of my friends said: “Margaret, I gave one of Father Halpin’s books as a Christmas present this year!” And my heart went pitter-patter with delight to hear of his fame thus spread; to know that the beautiful thoughts, the wisdom and the learning of his extraordinary mind, were thus being passed on and on, to instruct and to inspire.

On my desk, in a little silver frame, is his picture—only a wee one, snapped one day with a humble Brownie No.2 by one of us girls while he was strolling unsuspectingly across the campus. But the small camera did its task efficiently; the picture looks just like him! The soldierly bearing; the tall, splendid figure, with the romantic-looking cape-cloak thrown around his shoulders; the white hair, blown by the wind; the keen eyes, looking straight ahead!

I know better than the little picture, however, how blue they are—“blue as water, when the sun of March shines through it.” And they have a way of looking straight through you, into your very soul; yet so kindly that they cast pretty, golden lights on any dark spots there. When you come back to college and meet him, he is apt to say: “Look at me, child!” Then, with the flashlight of those keen eyes, he will search your heart in an instant; and if you’ve behaved well during the year or two since your last visit, he will say, with a humorous twinkle: “You’re all right, child. I can tell by the left corner of your eye.” Under his arm is a little book—I know it must be Coppens, old Coppens’ Logic, with the brick-red cover.

If I try to analyze the charm of him, I fail miserably. Is it his courtliness of manner; or his keen, peerless intellect; or his exact justice; or his simplicity and humility; or his gentle, consuming kindness and charity, which wins you most? I cannot say.

I got to thinking of him today–inspired, perhaps, by the small, silver-framed picture. It was as if I were turning the pages of a picture book of which he was the subject. The pictures did not work out a story; they were just mental snapshots of him, stored in my memory ever since those “violent days”—as Helen from Toledo used to call them—at CNR.

Come girls, and see the pictures in my memory book of Father Halpin! Here he is, on a spring afternoon, coming home from his walk through the village.  He is swinging his cane; now he spies the very little four-year-old girl who lives in the cottage across from the gym—the cottage with the myrtle or bluebells all over the front lawn. She has a little bit of a broom with which she is sweeping the walk, over and over again; she is so busy that she must keep on sweeping even while she talks with Father Halpin. He enjoys this babe hugely. That is one of the wonders of him—the simplicity joined to his greatness which makes him love the little ones, even as his Divine Master loved them. It is evident that the little girl likes him very much, also; too wee to be conscious of his greatness, yet wise enough to be won by his friendly smile. Gracious, girls! That babe must be ten years old now! How the years are flying!

And here he is again, sitting at the desk in our Logic Class. Remember that front classroom on the first floor, with its two long rows of chairs? The principles of reasoning he taught us there, and the beauty of truth. And he had so many, many stories tucked in the lesson. What a mind is his! Like an immortal’s, truly!

He who had taught the men in Fordham University expected to find ours a toy college, and us girls not over-clever. But he was pleased, he used to tell us, to be disillusioned. Now and then, moreover, he would speak a neat, brief word of counsel, such as this: “Keep your heart like a poodle with a strong string attached. And don’t let it get away from you –until you’re sure.” Or: “Never turn the page of a letter; one page is enough to say all you need to say.”

Maybe it was at our Alpha Alpha meetings, which he attended in courtly fashion, that he gave us those bits of advice. Alpha Alpha, our philosophical society which he founded! Remember the meetings in the beautiful Castle Hall; and how we used to put on our prettiest dresses; and the papers read; and how we would thrill with pleasure at his least word of commendation?

In this next picture, girls, he is in the chapel—now preaching our Senior retreat; now our Baccalaureate Sermon. Each word—he used so few—a ton in weight; each one precisely chosen and beautiful; each one a precious seed, dropped into our hearts! Are we helping them to grow, girls, into the splendid plants he meant we should?

And here he is in his study, with books, books, books, from floor to ceiling—Aquinas, Plato, and countless others! Seated in his big leather chair he is reading and thinking! On the table near is his set of Shakespeare—marvel of marvels for tininess! Each volume is as teeny-weeny as your littlest finger; and the miniature revolving shelves are made from the tree that grew in majesty near the great author’s very birthplace! And there, on his desk, is the little gold statue of the Virgin Mary which he holds in his hands each night when he raises them to bless Alma Mater, the fair green campus and all who dwell within its happy bounds.

And, girls, I’m sure that bright rays from that nightly blessing reach us, too, and fall on our souls tenderly; for we Alumnae are all the great and kindly Father Halpin’s own girls.

 


O F F I C E  O F  C O M M U N I C A T I O N S
29 Castle Place, New Rochelle, NY 10805

info@cnr.edu



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