In Memoriam: Brother S. Edmund Dolan, FSC Saint Mary's College Professor of Philosophy (retired)

Brother S. Edmund Dolan, FSC, died at the De La Salle Christian Brothers' San Francisco District headquarters in Napa, California, on Sunday, Aug. 24, 2003. He was eighty-six years old.

Born in San Francisco on August 19, 1917, Brother Edmund entered the Christian Brothers novitiate in 1934. He received a bachelor of arts degree from Saint Mary's College in 1939 and taught high school at Saint Mary's College High School, in Berkeley, and at Christian Brothers High School in Sacramento. After earning a Ph.D. at Laval University in Quebec, Canada, in 1948, Brother Edmund returned to Moraga to teach philosophy at the College, which he continued to do for most of the next forty-four years. Brother Edmund retired in 1992, and at the time of his death, he held the title of professor emeritus.

Brother William Beatie, FSC, professor of philosophy at Saint Mary's College, said that Brother Edmund contributed significantly to the adoption by the College in 1941 of a seminar-based curriculum using the Great Books.

"Brother Edmund, along with Brother Sixtus Robert Smith, now retired in Annapolis, Maryland, and Professor James Hagerty, was one of the major players who was responsible for the educational changes of the College in the 1940s and '50s," explained Brother William, who studied under Brother Edmund as a student-Brother and later was his colleague in the philosophy department.

Brother Edmund always believed that Saint Mary's College was founded on an idea of the university. In 1982, he wrote to Brother William, then academic vice president of the College, "Since my association with the College (which began in my freshman year in the fall of 1935) there have always been those who believed that it was possible to found St. Mary's ‘on an idea,' rather than have to be satisfied with a St. Mary's that reflected the education in vogue in other colleges."

In an article published in Education Bulletin, a Saint Mary's College publication produced from 1945 to 1947, Brother Edmund wrote that the seminar was a "cooperative enterprise in which books, teachers and students have a contribution to make. It engages the best efforts of teachers and students jointly to grasp the meaning of books that have been formative of Western thought."

The seminar-based course of study continues today in the form of the Collegiate Seminar and the Integral program.

In his eulogy, Brother Michael Avila, FSC, recalled that Brother Edmund was known for his wit, humility, vast knowledge of the classics, and invaluable contributions to the formation of younger Brothers. Brother Michael called him "a revered and honored Brother, teacher, mentor and friend."

-- by Joseph Wakelee-Lynch
College Communications