St. Patrick Seminary
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Rev. Charles Patrick Dillon, S.S.

August 21, 1914 - July 29, 2003

A letter to John Ward, S.S. about his sermon at the funeral of Chuck Dillon, S.S.
by Bruce Atkinson, R'1952

Dear John,

Dillon_(Dan Folliard_ChD1).JPG

In 2002, you wrote me a very complimentary note about my article in the Saint Joseph’s College Alumni Bulletin. You told me how much enjoyment the article gave you. “Well written”, “packed with details”, “wonderful anecdotes”, and “optimism” were some of the phrases you used.

Your article about Chuck Dillon was better. Your comments on his strictness and his awareness of it, his later regrets, his mellowing, and his happiness and freedom in retirement, really touched me. You knew the man and you liked him with his good qualities and his not so good ones.

When I was a student at Saint Joseph’s, I was not so fond of Chuck Dillon. I thought he was a terrible teacher. Years later I thought of him when I studied about unplanned effects of teaching. Some researchers on this subject proposed that the most common unplanned effect of teachers was that they often taught students to dislike the subject. I thought Chuck did this in his chemistry course.

When I was a novice teacher at St. Joseph’s, I disagreed with Chuck on most issues. This was true in faculty meetings and in private conversations.

Then I went to Solitude where, like most people, I became much more serious. At the end of the year when it was time for assignments for the coming year, I was amazed to learn that he had made a special request to the Provincial that I return to St. Joseph’s as Prefect of Discipline.

I think I learned the reason for this a year or so later. Chuck liked people who stood up to him and disagreed with him. Jack Olivier told me he could not be his Vice President because he did not agree with Chuck’s policies. Chuck said, “That’s why I picked you. I need someone to present the other side of issues to me.”

I don’t think most people come to know this side of him. There was more to his character than what you saw at first glance.

While I was still in Solitude, after I had received my appointment, I consulted with Jack Canfield. I asked for his advice about being a Prefect. I think everyone would be surprised at what he told me. He said, “Don’t be too strict. Give the students a break. Don’t take things personally. Be moderate and understanding.

I’m afraid I wasn’t able to follow this advice under the pressures of a very difficult position. But Chuck was always supportive of me and my efforts. At the end of the year, he was transferred to St. Charles. When he said goodbye to me, Chuck said: “You did a good job this year but you were too strict. I know you realize that and you’ll do a better job as you go along.”

Dillon (Don Broderson).jpg

Since those days, I’ve always thought of Chuck Dillon as a kind of father figure. That’s the way he treated me. I have a soft spot in my heart for him.

I don’t think Chuck Dillon had a lot of close personal friends. But I’d like to think that you and I are two of them. We saw the qualities that ruined some people against him. But we saw more. We saw the goodness beneath his harsh exterior. I add my AMEN to the AMEN of your article.

Bruce Atkinson

Picture credits:
Dan Folliard, R'1963, took the photograph of Fr. Dillon reading his breviary in the classroom
Don Broderson, R'1962, clicked the picture of Fr. Dillon "waiting for the pitch" in a softball game