Brother Edward J. Sheehy, FSC, Ph.D., ’68, a faculty member and an on-campus Christian Brother at La Salle University who earned national spotlight in 2013 for his role as chaplain of the Explorers men’s basketball team, died on Dec. 22. He was 76.
Brother Ed had served as associate professor in the Department of History until November, when he transitioned to professor emeritus. A few weeks later, as his health declined, he stepped down from his duties on the University’s Board of Trustees as Vice President of the Corporation.
His contributions at La Salle span academic, administrative, and athletic arenas.
Brother Ed first arrived at La Salle in 1963, when he entered the novitiate. He majored in history and education, earning his bachelor’s degree in 1968. He received a master of liberal arts degree from Johns Hopkins University in 1973 and went on to complete his master of philosophy and Ph.D. studies in history at the George Washington University in 1983.
“(Brother) Ed taught the rest of us (Brothers) to refer to students as ‘young adults,’ another sign of his love and respect for them.”
—Brother Gerry Molyneaux, FSC, Ph.D., ’58, M.A. ’59
For decades, he served in La Salle’s Department of History, in the School of Arts and Sciences. His history courses, considered by students to be among the most rigorous at La Salle, centered on modern U.S. history, U.S. maritime and naval military history, and U.S. Presidential elections. His comprehensive approach and affable delivery of course material made Brother Ed a likeable faculty member among students. He received the Lindback Award for Distinguished Teaching in 1991 and the Holroyd Award in 1990 and 2012, recognizing his many contributions to the University community.
“To many people in the history department, Ed was the G.O.A.T.,” said Brother Gerry Molyneaux, FSC, Ph.D., ’58, M.A. ’59, using the popular acronym for greatest of all time.
Brother Ed knew how to connect with his students in unique ways, Molyneaux said. At the beginning of class, Molyneaux said, Brother Ed would tell his pupils about what holiday or national day fell on the calendar.
“Ed would take up 20 minutes doing that and finally get around to teaching the class,” Molyneaux said with a laugh, “but that was Ed. He taught the rest of us (Brothers) to refer to students as ‘young adults,’ another sign of his love and respect for them.”
“Quite simply, Brother Ed exemplifies what it means to be a Lasallian educator– he had a deep and enduring commitment to our students and an unbridled passion for teaching,” said Lynne Texter, Ph.D., associate provost and associate professor of communication. “He was a Lindback Award-winning teacher and Brother Ed has influenced several decades of students and colleagues. His influence will continue to live on in those he taught and those of us who were fortunate to learn as Ed taught us by example how to be Lasallian educators.”
Brother Ed prescribed to the Lasallian core value of association, through which collegiality, respect, and trust are present in an academic setting and the “horizontal relationship” of faculty and students. “The more you know students, the more you can interact with them as adults, and one of the strengths of this institution is that we know each other personally,” Sheehy said in a 2002 edition of La Salle Magazine.
He embraced opportunities to discuss life as a Brother of Christian Schools, whether in informal settings among students, or in gatherings with parents and graduates.
“Quite simply, Brother Ed exemplifies what it means to be a Lasallian educator– he had a deep and enduring commitment to our students and an unbridled passion for teaching. … His influence will continue to live on in those he taught and those of us who were fortunate to learn as Ed taught us by example how to be Lasallian educators.”
—Lynne Texter, Ph.D.
Associate provost and associate professor of communication
“A ‘Brothers’ education’ extends beyond the classroom,” Sheehy wrote in a story published in a 2007 edition of La Salle Magazine. “ … A Brother by vows, including ‘association,’ witnesses to the continuing presence of God and God-given values in our lives. For centuries then, Christian Brothers and their colleagues have helped older and younger adults advance their personal and professional lives through teaching with passion and compassion.”
Across nearly three decades, Brother Ed became a recognizable figure while serving as moderator and chaplain for the Explorers men’s basketball team. Colleagues recalled that he never traveled to road games if they coincided with his classroom commitments. His prayers before games—and in huddles during them—helped players collect their thoughts and settle their nerves. He became the focus of a New York Times feature story in 2013, when the team earned three upset victories and advanced to the Sweet 16 round of the NCAA Tournament.
“(Sheehy) calms me down all the time,” then-coach John Giannini told the Times. “He helps keep me in the right mind-set. I really think he helps me be a better coach.”
“I’m most proud of the fact that our kids are student-athletes, and we graduate a high percentage of students,” Sheehy said in a 2010 edition of a School of Arts and Sciences campus newsletter. “They’re just good people and it’s been a real joy.”
A year prior to the Explorers’ ascendent postseason run, the team recognized Brother Ed by capturing his likeness in the form of a bobblehead doll. He is believed to be the first Christian Brother ever immortalized as a bobblehead. The gameday promotion became a hot commodity, as it was available to only the first 750 students in attendance.
One of 10 siblings whose father was enlisted in the U.S. Navy, he moved around the country quite a bit in his youth—including settling in Rhode Island and California, among other places. He completed his high school education at La Salle High School in Cumberland, Md., where Molyneaux first crossed paths with Brother Ed. Molyneaux was one of his teachers, describing his student as “a curve-breaker” who outperformed his classmates on exams.
“Ed was always a sharp guy,” Molyneaux said. “I encouraged Ed to start speaking publicly and get involved in debate. He turned out to be very good. In our later years, I used to joke he never stopped talking. When the Brothers got together, Ed was a generator of good times. He would kid around and joke. He will be sorely missed for that reason. He enlivened the whole conversation among the Brothers here.”
“Ed is a consummate educator. He was always supportive and a strong member of our community, one who will be missed,” said Assistant Vice President of Ministry, Service, and Support Brother Bob Kinzler, FSC.
Details around memorial services for Sheehy are pending.
—Christopher A. Vito