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In Memory

Fr. Robert J. Madden C.S.B., 1928~2013

A Celebration

Fr. Bob Madden was born in Detroit, MI, the son of Patrick Madden and Mary Agnes McKnight on June 18, 1928. He met the Basilian Community at Catholic Central High School. Read more »

He followed his brother the late Fr. John Madden C.S.B. to St. Michael’s as a student in 1940, and was professed in the Congregation of St. Basil in 1947. He received his undergraduate degree ('52), his Master's degree ('55) in English at the University of St. Michael's College and e was granted his Ph.D. in English from the University of London, England ('63). After Ordination (1955) he was a professor of English in Windsor, ON (Assumption University), Vancouver, BC (St. Mark's College) and for most of his life in Toronto, ON (University of St. Michael's College), where he also served as Chaplain at the Newman Centre (University of Toronto). In the Congregation, he served for years in the Formation Program and was Superior/Rector of St. Basil's College for six years.

The years that Fr. Bob Madden spent in the classroom were some of the happiest of his life. He was a beloved teacher and very popular, the students on campus nicknamed him the “Pied Piper”. His joy of teaching stemmed from his belief that teaching was the art of sharing knowledge, and that he had as much to learn from his students as they did from him. In a 1999 interview he said “I wanted to create an atmosphere in the classroom where the students would know they were respected. As I would tell them and this would be true, that many of them were more intellectually gifted than I was, but at that particular moment in our relationship I knew more than they did.”

After leaving formal teaching, Fr. Madden devoted the rest of his life to serving the University of St. Michael's College as the Director of Alumni Affairs and then as the Director Emeritus. His daily trips into the office extended into his 80’s and when he was no longer able to climb the stairs the office went to him. In the days before his hospitalization, he was busy at the computer answering alumni mail, writing the Bulletin and giving wise counsel to his many followers.

He was devoted to his sister Patricia Syring and her children, Patrick, Joseph, Julia, John, Mary and Paul. His trips home to visit were a source of great joy to him and he loved nothing better than to share stories of his wonderful family. He is predeceased by his parents, his brother, Fr. John Madden C.S.B. and his brother-in-law, William Syring.

The University of St. Michael’s College will accept donations to the Father Robert J. Madden Scholarship Fund which was established in celebration of his eightieth year, to support students in need at St. Michaels.

  • Father Madden came into my life in 1969. He married my husband and I at St. Basil’s church on March 8th of that year. He was always telling the story of how he performed the Cook-Dinner wedding. It always got a laugh. Our relationship was never supposed to happen. We were to be married by another priest but phoned in Jan/69 to let me know that he was leaving St. Basils to get married, but Father Madden was stepping in for our special day! How lucky we were as he was the perfect person to encourage my husband (agnostic) that marrying this catholic girl would be a wonderful thing. His banter and his wit were life-long with both of us. I had three children Jodi, Rob and Brennan—all of them so Irish in nature—all baptized by Father Madden. I have just had my daughter married on March 8th 2013. She had asked as she knew that my marriage to Rob had been so happy until he died July 2000 at a very young age.CARONE COOK

  • Father Madden had an amazing ‘M.O!’ He was able and willing to stay connected with all his students – so much so, that each of us concluded we were his favourites…. However, I firmly believe I was his favourite… even though he only gave me a 72 (B).JANE LAVERLY

  • Father Madden’s influence reaches far beyond his tenure at St. Michael’s. Jon Galama, an alumnus, with whom I live, always speaks of him with a wistful humour; that probably says more about Father Madden than it does about Jon. That wistful humour has made an imprint on my heart, though Father Madden and I never met. There is no question that his reach moves Jon beyond his life and the lives of those whom he actually knew. It’s very fitting that a scholarship has been established in his name, and that his hall at St. Mike’s in used for gatherings and celebrations.Kay Wilson for JON GALAMA

  • Bob supported me in my entrance with Dominican Order in 1966. He remained a great friend and source of inspiration in my life!SR. DONNA MARKHAM O.P

  • For me, it is hard to remember a major milestone in my life or the lives of my friends that did not include Father Bob Madden. Bob was a far better friend to all of us than we could ever repay or return. Emails, notes, prayers on every holiday or just because…. I was also surprised to learn of Bob’s influence on his family members and on the lives of SMC support staff. These are large shoes to fill and I feel the responsibility to try in some small measure to be a better friend to all.BILL EVANS, 6T8

  • One of Father Robert Madden’s most endearing qualities was how he often saw himself in an amusing light. He so often had a twinkle in his eyes and you knew he was thinking of something funny. He was such a devout priest, but he was never pious. I worked with him for almost 20 years on the Alumni Board. It was never a chore.MARCELLA TANZOLA

  • Father Madden officiated at my Cousin Carole and Robert’s wedding. At the age of 19, not being a Catholic and never having been inside a Catholic church, I knew not about the confessionals. I did remember the swimming pool cabanas for changing at my cousin Robert’s parent’s home. However as the wedding party walked towards the front of the church, I said, ‘how wonderful they’ve got little changing rooms here!’ Father Madden had a chuckle over that.DEIRDRE MALONE

  • Father Bob was a legendary teacher in and out of the classroom. Although I never had the privilege of being one of his students in the classroom, I learned a great deal from his example of faith, friendship and mentorship outside the classroom—in the campus of life. We will miss him.ED KERWIN 6T8

  • Father Bob was the face of St. Mike’s, always remembering, always inclusive of new people, i.e. non St. Mike’s spouses, and adding them to the family.MIKE DOBMEIER 6T8

  • When I needed a reference from a priest, Bob kindly wrote that I was ‘resolving the challenges of my life in a Christian manner,’ which was a very generous interpretation at the time.CATHY SCHULER

  • In the fall of 1965, I arrived at St. Mike’s from Timmins, Ontario and found myself on the 4th floor of Elmsley Hall with Father ‘Bob’ as my floor Don. I would discover the following week that he was also my English teacher. Father Madden took a lot of interest in us as people and as students and quickly made us feel at home. I can remember him personally spending time with me marking my essays with me sitting across the table from him. I can still remember his English classes—this was the first time I had met someone who was so intelligent but could communicate so well and motivate his students. I don’t know how he kept track of all of us. I loved his sense of humour and there was a great relationship between Father Bob and all the students in our class. I strongly believe that he influenced me in becoming a teacher myself and served as a great role model.Mr. LON DARBY ‘68

  • I met Fr. Madden when he was registrar at SMC. He made my day and my university careers when he announced I would be receiving a scholarship starting in my 2nd year (I never had expected that!) Every year he would call me in to tell me it would be renewed. After I graduated he always sent me a personal thank you note for my donation to the scholarship fund. His personal touch with undergrads and alumni was much appreciated.PIA KARRER O’LEARY 6T2

  • I knew Bob Madden in the novitiate in 1946. Later I knew him when he worked with the Alumni. As for Fr. (Jack) John Madden I knew him at U of T (St. Michael’s). He was a distinguish scholar and kind and gentle man with a great sense of humour.DANIEL McGARITY

  • Father Madden was a dear friend of mine who offered support to me when few others did. I was under difficulty of work as a result of taking a stand for patient safety and the protection of patients in clinical trials at The Hospital for Sick Children. Of course Bob recognized the truth in my story when the right wing press tried to alter it to imply that I, not a prominent hospital, was at fault. Ultimately resolved in my favour, the struggle went on for 18 years—still continues. I miss Bob dearly and his intergrity, sense of fairness, loyalty, brains and charm. The world has lost a great man”. DR. NANCY OLIVIERI 7T5

  • I was at SMC from 1969-72. Being from Chatham, ON I was always looking for free transportation. One weekend Father Madden was driving past Chatham on his way to Windsor and he very kindly offered me a ride. He talked the whole way of course. Arriving at my parents’ home, he came in for tea and homemade cookies. Perhaps he would’ve appreciated a stronger libation.JULIA MASTERSON 7T2

  • Having been taught by Father John Madden, I always thought of Father Bob as “the young Father Madden,” even when he was in his eighties! I do not have a memory of particular ‘incidents’ with Father Bob, only a wonderful general sense of his constant kindness, interest and care.ANITA SHEA DIGNAN

  • Father Bob delighted his English 2B class by advising us not to bother ploughing through Moll Flanders, but to read Cole’s Notes instead. (We read it anyways for the juicy bits). How he remembered all our names decades later was another revelation of his many gifts. Many thanks and blessings for organizing this celebration!NORA (LANDRIAN) MARTYN 5T6

  • Tim O’Brien and I travelled to Detroit with Bob one weekend to visit his mother – Mary Agnes! He celebrated mass in her dining room, which was very special. It was a tiny peek into his family life which we cherish. MARE O’BRIEN (Mary Agnes Schlueter)

  • This picture says it all. Most of his comments to me were delivered with that look: humour, sarcasm, wisdom. He made a huge difference in my life and the lives of all the class of ’68. Conducted great seminars and actually got me to read Waiting for Godot. I will miss him a lot.DEAN HIGGINS

  • Father Madden would drop into my office every morning on his way to his office in the floor above. He always listened and gave wise advice and he never left without making me laugh. When I retired he kept in touch by email and his prayers were a great comfort. I miss him as he was a dear friend and I’m grateful to have had him in my life.VICKI GARNETT

  • Father Madden was always an extremely popular man at St. Mike’s when I was a student in the late ‘90’s. When I was getting married in 2008, he was instrumental, helping my husband to be and I make the arrangements for our wedding at St. Basil’s. My husband is Anglican and had the normal pre-wedding jitters, but as a seasonal pro, Father Madden stepped over to my husband to be and started cracking jokes. He made Jeff laugh and he never stopped smiling through the entire wedding mass. We’ve been married for almost five years now, have a baby son together and couldn’t be happier. We are forever grateful for his help and will always cherish the memories.KAREN VOLPE, OTI and JEFF LUMSDEN

  • Back in 1973, my husband and I were planning our wedding. I was at St. Michael’s and my husband Andy was at the Faculty of Education. I was from Oshawa and the local priest in my home parish gave us problems in having the wedding. My husband was not Catholic at the time. Fr. Madden took the time from his busy schedule and performed our full wedding mass at St. Gertrude’s Church in Oshawa on Aug 11/73. A year ago we met him here at another event, and he remembered us and coming to Oshawa. We are celebrating our 40th this year and thank Fr. Madden for blessing us with a wonderful marriage.NIJOLE and ANDY CHERKAS

  • He always knew our names and we always knew that we (the class of 68) were his favourites.ANONYMOUS

  • Father Madden was our ‘personal pastor.’ My late husband, Barry McGee, and I were great friends. He married us, baptized all our children, and officiated at Barry’s funeral—not to mention being with us on many other momentous occasions, especially parties. He loved to join his students at parties and continued to be a wonderful friend for years after their student days. He was a wonderful, loving friend, counsellor and teacher. PAT (KELLY) MCGEE

  • I spent many years working on alumni affairs and came to know Fr. Bob pretty well—a wonderful man in the fun times and the tough times. When I spent time around the office I would bring him home-cooked chocolate brownies. I don’t think they even made it to the priest refectory table and he would hand back the empty box with an “Oliver” look! A wonderful man—I miss him.CAROL HOOSON 6T9 Class rep for 6T9

  • Father Madden and my husband met at Assumption University. They were re-united when he taught our oldest daughter Rose Marie. They celebrated the same birthday date June 18, so for many years we celebrated their birthdays at dinners at our home and later when he didn’t drive any more we came downtown and went out for lunch. I knew Fr. Madden from my time at St. Mike’s where I graduated in 1957. My husband Don Sbrolla and Bobby Madden had a very special relationship. Don considered him one of his best friends. My husband died March 8 of this year less than three weeks after Fr. Madden. May they both rest in peace!CATHY SBROLLA 5T7