1842 – 1923 (November 19)
Thomas Cooke Middleton was born in Chestnut Hill, PA, on March 30, 1842, the eldest of nine children of Joseph Middleton and Lydia Cooke, a colonial Quaker family. He was baptized at the age of 12 when his entire family entered the Church at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, Germantown. That same year he was sent to Villanova Prep School and, in 1858 entered the novitiate at Tolentino, Italy, where he made his simple profession on October 10, 1859. His philosophy and theology studies were done at Sant’Agostino, Rome, where he made his solemn profession on October 11, 1862. On September 24, 1864 he was ordained to the priesthood, at the age of 23, in the Basilica of Saint John Lateran by Costantino Cardinal Patrizi Naro.
In 1865, Father Middleton returned to the United States and Villanova where he served and lived for the next 58 years. At Villanova he was a teacher, prefect of studies of the college, archivist, and secretary and socius of the province. In the first Provincial Chapter of 1874, he was elected prior of Saint Thomas of Villanova Monastery. He also served as President of the college from 1876 to 1878. After service for 36 years as secretary of the province, he resigned in 1914, at the age of 73, because of declining health.
In 1884, Father Middleton helped organize the American Catholic Historical Society of which he was the first President. He was the author of many essays on local Catholic history and the history of the Order, including the introduction to the Oratorian Translations of the Life of Saint Thomas of Villanova. He also prepared a sketch of Villanova College, which was published on the College's 50th anniversary.
To Father Middleton is owed the recording of precise and detailed notes on the friars, activities and growth of the province with such specificity and personal annotations as to provide a rich and, at times, colorful account of our history over many decades. No cold statistician, however, his demeanor was always cheerful and his manner unselfishly thoughtful.
Father Middleton was 81 when he died at Villanova on November 19, 1923. The Requiem Mass, at which Denis Cardinal Dougherty was in attendance, was celebrated on Thursday, November 22, 1923 at Villanova, with burial following in the community cemetery. Middleton Hall, the former infirmary at Villanova University, is named in his honor.