By Katie Davern
In August of 1967, a young man with nothing but green Keds, green Levis, the shirt and jacket on his back, and a ukulele set foot upon the University of Dallas campus after a two-and-a-half day trip on a Greyhound bus from San Francisco. Little did Fr. Robert Maguire — or “Bob” Maguire, then — know that it would be the beginning of a long history with UD. Luckily for students, that history is not about to end quite yet.
After the official University of Dallas Facebook page posted that “Fr. Maguire will retire at the end of this year. We will miss him terribly. Please share your favorite Fr. Maguire story below,” many feared that Maguire would be gone for good.
Yet it turned out that the beloved professor is not fully “retiring” next year, but rather is stepping back to part-time status after 33 years of teaching full-time.
The following week, the Facebook page clarified its statement.
“When we posted last week about Fr. Maguire retiring, we should have mentioned that for Fr. Maguire “retiring” means teaching 2 courses per semester instead of 3 next year,” the status read.
In the fall of 2015 he will be teaching two classes, and in the spring semester he will teach one class — versus the full-time load of three classes per semester that he has normally taught.
“After 33 years I wanted to reduce my load — I’m looking forward to that,” Maguire said.
With fewer classes — and fewer papers to grade — he hopes to have more time for writing, reading and research.
Dr. Gregory Roper, chair of the English department, said that he felt Maguire is stepping back “due to health concerns and the simple fact that the man does a thousand things. [He] helps out in lots of parishes, doing all sorts of service, liturgical and otherwise, in the diocese; he plays a very active role over in the monastery.”
Fr. James Lehrberger, who has known Maguire for over 50 years now, believes change can be a positive development. “This going part-time actually can be a very strong stimulus to doing other things… this ‘retirement’ is richly deserved, and I hope will be very profitable both for him and for the students.”
Reflecting on knowing him over the years, Lehrberger commented that he has seen “tremendous growth” in his colleague and longtime friend, ”but growth in the form; that is, not a night-and-day reversal, but the unfolding and developing what was there already in seed.”
The two met as freshmen at the University of San Francisco in 1962. “We spent a lot of our college years, from 1962-1966, as good friends — we would hang out, double-date…go on [camping] trips to Yosemite,” Lehrberger said.
After they graduated, Lehrberger came to straight to UD for graduate studies, whereas Maguire elected to do a one-year teaching certification program at USF, for which he won the top teaching award. He then came to UD for its new interdisciplinary Politics and Literature graduate program, developed and led by Louise Cowan and famed political philosopher Willmoore Kendall, which he learned about through Lehrberger.
Dr. Robert Dupree taught Maguire in the Politics and Literature program. “[He was] a fine student…the same thoughtful, modest person — a very steady, diligent scholar,” said Dupree.
Dr. John Alvis, who was a fellow student with him in the program, noted that “Maguire maintained both a philosophic dedication with his religious and pious attachment… UD exists to combine the Catholic intellectual tradition and the classical intellectual tradition, and Father came to be most especially learned in both traditions.”
At the end of his three years of graduate classes, he won a Richard M. Weaver Fellowship for a year of independent study and research. During this time he became more acquainted with the Cistercians. Lehrberger had, at this point, entered the novitiate at the Abbey, where Maguire would often visit him. After attending a retreat at the monastery and going back to San Francisco for Christmas, Maguire decided that he too wanted to enter the Cistercian Abbey.
“I remember the exact moment that happened,” he recalled. “It was December 23, 1970, at 5:37 p.m. in Old St. Mary’s Church in Chinatown. I was making a thanksgiving after Mass, and it became clear as crystal that was where I was to go.”
Maguire then entered the novitiate in August of 1971, and was ordained in May of 1976, just a few months after Lehrberger. “Ever since college he was a year behind me…but he was catching up!” Lehrberger joked.
Maguire wrote his dissertation on Faulkner’s “Go Down Moses” from 1976-77 under the direction of Louise Cowan. He said she was the most inspiring teacher he has ever had.
“She could think clearly, and she opened up the world of literature to me such that I could see how literature reenacted human life…literature was a way of focusing on reality, but interpreting reality in terms of human feelings.”
According to Maguire, they were wonderful years for him.
“The best years of my life — by that I mean the happiest and freest — were my years as a grad student at the University of Dallas. After that I had to go to work!” he said.
Since he began teaching here in 1983, many faculty members said that he has been an incredible resource and asset to the University, though always in his modest way.
“He’s been such a figure around here. He has been this real guiding presence in the students’ lives in so many different ways,” said Roper.
Roper also spoke of students’ love for him, saying that, “I didn’t know this until I was chair, but one of the chair’s duties is to beat students off with a stick who say ‘Can’t you add one more student to Fr. Maguire’s classes?’”
Maguire’s famed Modern Irish Literature course — one such class that always has students vying to get in — was actually passed on to him by Dupree, who developed the course. Dupree recalled what Maguire said to him when asked to take over the course:
“‘If I can admit this, if ever I envied anybody of anything, I envied you this course!’ That tells you something about his modesty.”
Roper noted that something that current students might not know about Maguire is that he has probably married more UD couples than anyone else.
“He’s in constant demand…I think that says something amazing about him: couples want him, his presence, and his homily and his thoughts, at that most significant moment in their lives. It says that that his influence goes well beyond what happens in the classroom.”
Roper similarly emphasized the deep and rich intellectual quality through which Maguire, and the Cistercians in general, have shaped the university — something that he thinks current students might not be fully aware of.
“We’re not a Cistercian school, but we always have the Cistercian spirit here,” Roper said.
Commenting on his time at UD and at Cistercian Abbey, Maguire himself said that “I continually learn from my colleagues and students, and I am most remarkably blessed to belong to a community of some of the finest men in the United States.”
Happily for the university, students and faculty will still be blessed by his wonderful presence next year.