Despite his 39 years teaching at the University of Dallas, Dr. Daniel Joseph Luby spent most of his early life skirting the fringes of UD.
Sitting in the large classroom on the first floor of Catherine Hall, Luby puttered around with a projector, preparing for his Tuesday evening course.
Luby has few evenings such as these remaining. At the end of the semester, Luby will retire from full time teaching after a cumulative 43 years spent working at UD.
Luby is retiring but will remain on staff part-time throughout next year, teaching Western Theological Tradition in Rome this summer and working with pastoral ministry seniors.
Having grown up in the Dallas area as the youngest of six, Luby knew UD students and attended on-campus performances from a young age, he said as he picked up a white wire and plugged it into his laptop.
Luby’s wife, Theresa Bennett Luby, attended UD. According to Luby, they met at a youth retreat in September 1970 while Luby was working as a 21-year-old religion teacher for Bishop Dunne High School.
But it wasn’t until 1972, when he accepted a position as an admissions counselor, that Luby officially became a member of the UD community. Luby held this position until 1975.
After his wife graduated in 1975 with a degree in theology, the Lubys spent the next few years working in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, during which time Luby acquired his M.A. in Theology from UD in 1977, according to his Curriculum Vitae.
Then, it was time for a change. Anxious to delve deeper into the Catholic faith, the Lubys – who had recently celebrated the birth of their first child – relocated to Rome, Italy, where both Daniel and Theresa Luby pursued higher education at the Pontifical University of Saint Thomas Aquinas.
Luby paused for a moment and smiled in fond remembrance, placing his hands behind his head and leaning back in his chair.
“We were there for about a week when John Paul I died,” he began.
One night during the papal conclave, Luby said he ran into some friends at St. Peter’s Square where he was posting some letters “because Vatican post is better than the Italian post.”
“Because it was nighttime, you couldn’t see the smoke. But all of a sudden, big banks of television lights started flickering on…and then, whoever was the camerlengo came out and said, ‘Habemus Papam,’” Luby said. “People wouldn’t have known who Karol Wojtyła was anyway, but then [saying the name] in Latin, it was like, ‘what?’”
According to Luby, he and his wife had the honor of meeting newly-elected Pope John Paul II twice, and he blessed their young daughter.
After obtaining a Licentiate of Sacred Theology and a Doctorate of Sacred Theology, Luby returned to UD in 1980, serving part-time as an adjunct lecturer in the theology department and teaching classes at Holy Trinity Seminary. From 1986-2006, he taught as an adjunct professor in UD’s Institute for Religious and Pastoral Studies (IRPS).
When the IRPS became the Ann and Joe O. Neuhoff School of Ministry (SOM) in 2007, Luby said he quit his job at the Diocese of Fort Worth, where he he had been working in ministry and formation, so that he could teach full-time at UD.
Reflecting on his lengthy teaching career, Luby laughed lightly and was quick to remember how it all started.
“I was drowning as a new teacher … kids [students] were eating my lunch, I had no idea what I was doing,” he said with a wry smile.
Luby originally arrived at Bishop Dunne High School to teach English. Luby had obtained his B.A. in Communication Arts from the University of Notre Dame because “I loved fiction, I loved narrative,” he explained.
But after teaching a semester of religion classes, “I wound up falling in love with teaching theology,” Luby said.
As a young adult, Luby said he “had nothing to do with church, much.” Serving on a youth retreat team changed his perspective.
Luby compared his epiphany to a tuning fork.
“When the right sound is made, the fork begins to vibrate…there was this religious […] capacity” that was “plugged in,” Luby explained haltingly.
Until teaching religion, “I had never really made the connection between that aspect of human life and expression and church,” Luby said. Then, he began to realize that theology was “full of story.”
Stories “open us up to the transcendent” based on “God’s ultimate self-expression [which] makes itself known in human life and expression,” Luby said.
Pastoral storytelling, or preaching, is unique because it is “naming grace” in an explicit way, Luby reflected.
This facet of teaching is what Luby will miss most. Teaching provides a “privileged entrée into people’s lives” and an opportunity to play a role in people’s stories in an informal, but influential, way, Luby said.
“Dr. Luby has a humble and soft way of speaking,” junior pastoral ministry major Jorge Gonzales said. “He doesn’t talk at you, but with you.”
SOM Dean Dr. Theodore Whapham said in an interview that what makes Luby extraordinary is his ability to combine “head knowledge” with pastoral knowledge.
“Dan was someone who was able to recognize that the purpose of all of this in theology and ministry is for the life of the Church,” Whapham said.
Luby developed the majority of the pastoral ministry major undergraduate curriculum, according to Whapham. He purposefully instilled in the major a sense of hospitality that recognized that the Church “starts with the people you take classes with,” Whapham said.
Whapham said that the senior undergraduate pastoral ministry award, which is currently titled the “Co-workers in the Vineyard Award,” will be renamed the “Luby Medal” in honor of Luby’s work to “establish the spirit of the department.”
After retirement, Luby said that he has no plans to become involved in “anything right away,” but hopes to take this summer in Rome to “listen to his life” and discern his next step. He said he is particularly drawn to become more active in social ministry and is looking forward to spending more time with his two children and four grandchildren.
One thing is for sure: Luby still has more stories to tell, and his own certainly isn’t over.