1921 – 1992 (November 7)
Robert Joseph Welsh was born on July 15,1921, one of two sons and four daughters of Robert Welsh and Elizabeth Walpole, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. He was baptized and received his elementary education at Saint Agatha Parish, Philadelphia, and attended West Catholic High School, from which he graduated in 1938. After a semester at LaSalle College in Philadelphia, he transferred to Augustinian Academy, the Preparatory Seminary on Staten Island, New York, as a post-graduate student. In September 1939, he was received as a novice at Our Mother of Good Counsel Novitiate where on September 10, 1940 he professed simple vows. Three years later, at Saint Mary's Hall, the collegiate seminary, he professed solemn vows. He graduated from Villanova in 1943 with an A.B. degree and began his study of theology at Augustinian College in Washington, DC. During the summer months he took graduate courses in English at the nearby Catholic University of America. On February 11, 1947, he was ordained to the priesthood at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. Following ordination, he was sent to Saint Monica's, the international house of studies in Rome, where he began graduate studies in theology at the Gregorian University. In 1948 he earned a S.T.L. and two years later he was awarded a S.T.D. cum laude.
Father Welsh's first assignment was to Augustinian College in Washington, DC, where from 1950-1956 he taught theology and was submaster of professed. In 1956 he was transferred to Villanova College where he taught in the department of theology until 1965. During these years he also served as secretary of the Province until 1959. In 1960 he was appointed assistant dean of Liberal Arts and Sciences, and the following year he became dean. Inn1967 Father Welsh became the 28th President of Villanova University, a position he held until 1971. These were years of change and campus unrest during which his understanding was greatly appreciated by both students and faculty. In 1971 he was named prior of Augustinian College in Washington, DC, and at the same time was chosen to be president of the Washington Theological Coalition, later to become the Washington Theological Union. In 1975 he was elected to the Council of the Province and transferred to Saint Thomas Monastery. Father Welsh served also as province director of education until 1979. From 1980 to 1984 he brought his wealth of experience to Malvern Preparatory School where he became a popular and respected guidance counselor. In 1985 he was named Province Treasurer and held that position until 1988. In that year he was named Assistant to the President of Villanova University, a position he continued to hold even as his health began to fail. During his active years in the education apostolate, Father Welsh served on the Board of Trustees of Villanova University, Merrimack College in North Andover, Massachusetts, and Malvern Preparatory School in Malvern, Pennsylvania. A building on West Campus at Villanova University was named in his honor.
A very private person, Father Welsh endured with patience the discomfort associated with the treatment of his condition, giving to all with whom he was associated an example of Christian suffering.
A Mass of Christian Burial was celebrated at Saint Thomas of Villanova Church on November 11. Father Edmund J. Dobbin, O.S.A., president of Villanova University, delivered the homily. The following day interment took place in the Augustinian plot of Calvary Cemetery in West Conshohocken, Pennsylvania.