Faculty in Memoriam: Frank Monaghan

“The first thing about him was his faith,” said Joe Healey, Ph.L., associate professor of Philosophy. “He was always an advocate for Catholic teachings.” Healey was referring to Francis “Frank” Monaghan Jr., a much beloved professor of Sociology at Immaculata for 47 years, who died in February at the age of 84. His faith expressed itself as sincere kindness toward his family, students, colleagues, and society at large.

Several of Monaghan’s former students posted condolences on the funeral home’s website. “Wherever we saw him, his friendly manner and his smile made him very approachable,” wrote June List ’71. “He challenged you, yet there was a comfort zone in his classroom that made you feel a part of something. You trusted him.… He treated young women at Immaculata with great respect,” wrote Flossie Love Chapman ’69. “We loved his classes and we loved him,” wrote Susan M. Caccese ’69.

Monaghan’s colleagues loved him as well. He shared in the camaraderie that flourished in the 1960s and ’70s in the Faculty Center Lounge, a place that “was really the heart of Immaculata,” said James Mooney, professor emeritus of English. Dan Machon Ph.D., another English professor, now deceased, often spoke of the group of faculty he nicknamed “the M&Ms”—Machon, Mooney, Monaghan, and Bud McKinley, a History professor—saying “we melt in your heart, not in your hands.” They and the other faculty members often shared meals together.

“We had a human connection in an academic setting,” said Sister Agnes Hughes, IHM, Ph.D., professor emerita of psychology. Immaculata had few lay male faculty members at that time, and although their vocations and life situations were very different, Sister Agnes enjoyed the connection she shared with Monaghan.

They also shared ideas and learned from each other. As a sociologist, Monaghan was interested in culture, and as a psychologist, Sister Agnes was interested in the impact of the culture on the individual. After their conversations, he would often say to her, “That’s helpful; I hope I can remember that.”

He made it his business to study not just sociology, but a variety of other disciplines, and he read widely. “He never had a magazine or a book out of his hand,” Sister Agnes recalls. Healey remembers finding him, on more than one occasion, stopped dead in the middle of a hallway, underlining sentences he wanted to share with his class. If you wanted to visit him in his office, you would have to move a pile of books to enter. A Sister once bet him lunch that he couldn’t reduce the number of books he kept in his office, Healey recalls. “She won that bet.”

Monaghan was brilliant, Mooney said, and somewhat eccentric, not always down-to-earth. You could always spot him by his Russian fur hat with ear flaps, which he wore until it was well past its prime. Healey finally bought him a replacement.

But his eccentricities only served to endear him to everyone. “Everybody loved him,” Mooney said. “You might get mad at him sometimes, but you could never dislike him.” Monaghan loved to argue, and Mooney sometimes contradicted him just to provoke a lively dispute. “We had the most wonderful arguments, in terms of the exchange of ideas,” Mooney said.

Faculty meetings never ended until Monaghan had given the last word. He was known for saying, “According to Vatican II…” “He wanted to make sure everyone knew it had happened,” Sister Agnes joked.

He would stand up in the middle of the meeting and pontificate for a while—lecturing about philosophy, theology, sociology, all sorts of disciplines—although his head was so far up in the clouds that people couldn’t always understand what he was trying to say, Mooney remembered affectionately.

“Sometimes you just wanted him to get to the point,” Sister Agnes said, smiling, “but he needed to build his case.” Monaghan wanted to provide input on the various decisions the faculty considered, but he rarely proposed any solutions. He often abstained from voting, and he occasionally introduced a motion and then baffled and amused his colleagues by voting against it.

Monaghan also proved to be a bit of a contrarian when he and his colleagues visited Oregon Avenue for dinner before they went to Phillies games. They would buy way too much food at the Italian eateries along the avenue and then set up a buffet for themselves in a bar that didn’t serve food. Though the bartender didn’t approve, Mooney remembers, Monaghan would invite homeless people off the street to help eat all the food, and he would treat them to drinks.

Monaghan was a genuinely humble man, although he would have denied it, Mooney and Healey said. It wasn’t until they attended his funeral that they learned about some of his other acts of kindness. As an usher at St. Dorothy Parish in Drexel Hill, PA, he greeted everyone who came through the doors, not just for one service, but for every Mass from 7 a.m. to noon.

In this role, he became one of the first in the parish to hear about any problems people were having. After Mass, he often approached the pastor and made sure he was aware of the parishioners’ needs. “He was the backbone of the parish,” the pastor told Sister Agnes.

Monaghan was deeply loyal to his wife, Mary Louise, and their three daughters, Rosemary, Anne, and Molly. Mary Louise’s health declined until she was confined to a wheelchair, and Monaghan cared for her tenderly, fetching things for her and pushing her wheelchair wherever she needed to go. “Nothing was ever a problem for him,” Sister Agnes said. “He was a real model of ‘till death do us part.’”

He was always “others-centered,” Sister Agnes said—at Immaculata, at church, or at home. “There’s a burning in my heart that says, ‘Don’t forget people like this. Don’t forget people like this.”

Author: aduncan

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