Pebble Beach. St. Andrews. Shinnecock. Olympic Club. Pinehurst. Merion. Royal Troon. The list goes on.
Dr. Patrick Dooley figures he’s played 20 of the top 40 golf courses in the world, the memories of each eliciting his inimitable, wry Irish grin.
The courses he treasures most, however, are the ones he’s shared with students over a St. Bonaventure career that’s touched six decades. He taught his final course at SBU this past fall, and is teaching this spring at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) in Singapore before officially retiring in August.
“I’ll miss the kids the most,” said Dooley, who was named a distinguished Board of Trustees Professor of Philosophy in 1998. “I’m 73, and to go in to class with their energy and enthusiasm keeps you young. You can break through that kind of ennui they have, especially teaching ethics and philosophy and literature. You can get them enthused.”
Dooley wasn’t afraid to use any means necessary to break through a student’s malaise.
Owen Maxwell, ’09, was a senior walk-on on the men’s basketball team and had grown accustomed to doing just barely enough to get by in class.
“You had clearly grown tired of me ... and you let me have it — like really let me have it,” Maxwell wrote in a letter to Dooley in 2012. “You went on and on about my failed potential and the pitfalls of trying to coast through life on my charm and wit alone. It was a solid four-minute tirade in front of everyone and it embarrassed the hell out of me.
“But I don’t hesitate in saying, I deserved every word of it,” Maxwell said. “That night I went home and read ‘The Sea Wolf’ cover to cover, and it changed my life.”
Upon graduation, Maxwell spent three years interviewing Hells Angels in the Boston area and wrote a contemporary adaptation of “The Sea Wolf” titled “Stone’s Thunder,” which won the StoryPros International Screenplay Competition in 2012.
“A lot of teachers would have just allowed me to coast through … but not you,” Maxwell wrote. “You saw the wasted talent and the half-hearted effort as an insult to my potential — to my ability — and I respect you so much for that.”
That’s just one example of the impact Dooley has made in class. The most memorable, for him, happened in 2008, when Dooley shared a student’s insightful essay about the “The Kite Runner” with the agent of the bestselling book’s author, Khaled Hosseini.
Dooley never expected a reply and was “blown away” when Hosseini took the time to write back to Adam Mutch, a senior in that fall section of Literature and Art.
“It was pretty amazing,” Dooley said, “but just the sort of classroom experience that goes on around here.”
A native of Fargo, N.D., Dooley finished his Ph.D. at Notre Dame in 1969 and entertained five or six teaching offers before narrowing his choice to Xavier and St. Bonaventure.
“I wanted to get a little farther east (than Cincinnati) so I chose here for a couple of years,” Dooley said.
Drawn by the appeal of Frs. Angelus Gambatese and Stephen Brown, philosophy department faculty members, and Dean Boyd Litzinger, who “I liked a lot and talked a really big game,” Dooley loaded up his ’62 Chevy with “everything he owned” and a bonus check of $500 from SBU for having completed his doctorate to make the 450-mile trek from South Bend to St. Bonaventure in the summer of 1969.
“And here I am, 46 years later,” said Dooley, whose wife of 46 years, Nora, now teaches as an adjunct at St. Bonaventure after earning her Ph.D. at UB seven years ago.
Dooley stayed for two reasons: because the university was committed to teaching and because Dr. Litzinger encouraged him to write.
“I never expected to publish this much, but Litzinger was very supportive,” said Dooley, who received faculty awards for Teaching Excellence in 1988 and Professional Excellence in 1993. “One of my goals before I finished here was to publish 100 articles. I’m just two short, so I’ll hit that in the next year or so.”
Dooley achieved another goal in 2007, becoming one of St. Bonaventure’s first two Traditional Fulbright Fellows. He taught students at NTU in Singapore the relationship between American literature and philosophy during the spring of 2008. He returned to NTU for six weeks in fall 2010 as a Fulbright Senior Specialist.
Tracing the philosophical themes woven through the writings of American literary icons — from Stephen Crane and Willa Cather to Jack London and Mark Twain — has been Dooley’s passion for 30 years. It’s the basis for almost all of his scholarly work, including his most recent book, “A Community of Inquiry: Conversations Between Classical American Philosophy and American Literature” (Kent State UP, 2008).
In 2006, Dooley gave the William James Society lecture at the American Philosophical Association Eastern Division meeting in Washington, D.C.
“I told the head of the James Society that I had gone to the dark side because I feel more comfortable at English conferences than I do at philosophy conferences,” Dooley said with a laugh. “I don’t really have a theory (as I approach an author’s work). I just read carefully and sympathetically and see the philosophical themes that emerge.”
Dooley was more than a professor during his tenure at Bonaventure, from being thrust into the role as department chair in just his second year — a position he held for 11 years split over two terms — to later chairing the Faculty Senate, from 1977 to 1981 and, most notably, from 1992 to 1994.
The plaque honoring him among the Plassmann Hall gallery of 40-year Arts & Sciences faculty members makes special note of his service during that difficult time, when the university was dealing with financial exigency and upheaval in the president’s office.
“Dr. Dooley managed the Senate as a genuine ‘faculty’ body in every real sense of the term — representative of and accountable to faculty, primarily — and he dealt skillfully and fairly with the inevitable contentions of that approach in a turbulent time in the university’s history,” the plaque says.
Dooley said he was “proud that during my tenure as chair, the faculty via the Faculty Senate were listened to and that both the administration and the Board of Trustees responded to faculty concerns. One of my philosophical mentors, John McDermott, said, ‘It is the duty of an intellectual to worry in public.’ That’s how I saw my role as chair of the Faculty Senate.”
Eventually, though, the worrying took its toll.
“My brother and his wife are both architects and when they’d come to Cuba, they’d talk about how stressful their jobs were and how nice it was to visit and relax. And I thought stress was just bull — until I was involved with Faculty Senate,” Dooley said. “I was just happy to be out from under all of that administrative stuff.”
The classroom was always Dooley’s comfort zone.
Dr. Stacy Kastner, SBU classes of ’06 and ’08, wrote a letter to Dooley while working on her Ph.D. at Bowling Green.
“I have learned so much, and the most difficult thing of all for me to grasp was that it would largely all mean nothing in the worlds that I wanted to enter if I lacked confidence. You are the professor that gave me confidence and rigorously fanned the flames to keep the fire alive,” wrote Kastner, now an assistant professor of English at Mississippi State.
“Time and again you have given sincere thought to my ideas, serious treatment to my writing, and genuine attention to my aspirations. … You have always treated me like I had something to say, eventually making me altogether comfortable with that, too. It has truly made all the difference.”
His classroom career complete, Dooley still has a few academic pursuits, most notably finishing books on the philosophical themes of Cather and John Steinbeck. Traveling across the country to see his four children and soon-to-be-six grandchildren, summer camping in U.S. national parks and, of course, golfing will fill the rest of his days.
“The biggest goal on my retirement bucket list is to shoot my age,” he said. “I’ve come within a shot or two.”
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