September 16, 2016
Rev. Dennis Albert Casey, O.P. (1877-1940)
FIRST PRESIDENT, 1918-1921
Birth: June 24, 1877, in Killorglin, County Kerry, Ireland
Death: March 20, 1940, in Columbus, Ohio
THE CASEY YEARS AT PROVIDENCE
In March of 1916, Rev. James Raymond Meagher, O.P., provincial of the Dominican Province of St. Joseph, sent Rev. Dennis Albert Casey, O.P., president of Aquinas College High School in Columbus, Ohio, to be the on-site Dominican representative in meetings with the bishop of Providence and others on practical steps necessary to inaugurate a new college, including drawing up a charter, organization and curriculum. He was named temporary chaplain to the Sisters of the Good Shepherd, who operated a home for educating and reforming “wayward girls” on property close to that acquired for the proposed college. At the bishop’s suggestion, Father Casey moved into the sisters’ convent, where he stayed until the living quarters in the first building, Bishop Harkins Hall, were ready in the summer of 1918. He also served at St. Raymond Parish in Providence from 1916 to 1918.
At the first Corporation meeting, held on March 10, 1917, Father Casey was elected Corporation treasurer, one of the first three corporate officers. He became increasingly visible throughout the state by participating in the fund drive for the new venture. As a member of the executive committee, he was immediately involved in planning the first building and actively supervised construction, which began by the first week of June 1917. He kept the people of the diocese informed of plans and progress through parish visits, talks, and information for a 30-issue, March 1917 to May 1918, front-page series in The Visitor, the diocesan newspaper. Father Casey had been performing the duties of chief administrative officer well before July 22, 1918, when the Corporation elected him as the first president of Providence College.
Father Casey’s additional assignments as head of the Dominican Community and/or parish pastor were the usual pattern for PC presidents for many years to come. He became the first head of the College’s Dominican Community on July 22, 1918. The Dominicans accepted Bishop Harkins’ invitation to found a parish to care for the religious needs of the people in the area around the college, and Father Casey was named pastor on Oct. 16, 1918. The Harkins Hall Chapel, presently the executive office suite, served as St. Pius V Parish church from October 1918 to Spring 1929. The busy president also taught Latin.
By the beginning of the third academic year, the College lost two prime movers. Founder and benefactor Bishop Matthew Harkins died on May 25, 1921, the second anniversary of the dedication of the building named in his honor. And the resignation of the well-liked and capable first president, Rev. Dennis Albert Casey, O.P., was announced on Sept. 21, 1921. Father Casey remained a member of the Corporation until 1933.
Emigrating from Ireland with his parents, Martin and Ellen (Russell) Casey, and six older brothers and sisters, Albert Casey attended St. Patrick’s parochial school and Central High School in Columbus, Ohio. In 1897, he began his training as a Dominican novitiate and professed the following year at St. Rose Priory in Springfield, Ky. He pursued his education in philosophy and theology at St. Joseph’s Priory in Somerset, Ohio, from 1900 to 1905 and was ordained there on Aug. 2, 1903. He earned his S.T.Lr., the lectorate in sacred theology, at the Dominican House of Studies in Washington, D.C., in 1906 and did post-graduate work at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, from 1906 to 1908.
Father Casey’s first assignments were in the Washington, D.C., area as a philosophy professor at The Catholic University of America and as assistant master of studies at the Dominican House of Studies. In 1911. he began teaching mathematics and languages at Aquinas College High School in Columbus. He served as president of Aquinas from November 1911 until his departure for Providence.
Father Casey’s building and opening experiences were put to use again in his assignments after he left PC, as pastor of St. Pius Parish in Chicago from 1921 to 1925 and as prior and director of studies at the Dominican House of Studies in River Forest, Ill., from 1925 to 1927. He served as pastor of several parishes, St. Thomas Aquinas in Cincinnati (1927-1929), Holy Innocents’ in Pleasantville, N.Y. (1929-1935), and St. Thomas Aquinas in Cincinnati (1935-1939). He retired in 1939 and spent his last year at St. Thomas Parish in Zanesville, Ohio.
— Jane M. Jackson