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Honoring the legacy of the Rev. John T. Richardson, C.M.

Fr. Richardson speaking at the Richardson Library dedication, 1992.
The Rev. John T. Richardson, C.M., speaking at the DePaul University Library dedication in 1992. (Image courtesy of Special Collections and Archives)
As the university community prepares for the April 27 services honoring the life of the Rev. John T. Richardson, C.M., DePaul Special Collections and Archives commemorates his life and work through the records held in University Archives and the Vincentian Archives. These collections—housed in the John T. Richardson Library named in his honor—document Richardson's 60-year career at DePaul, as well as his early life and work as a Vincentian priest.

The Collection on the Very Rev. John T. Richardson, C.M., is the most extensive collection available on Richardson and documents his time as DePaul's president (1981-93). Richardson's many other administrative and faculty roles at DePaul—chancellor, executive vice president of faculties, law professor and dean of the Graduate School—also are documented among a variety of University Archives collections. His imprint on many seminal events at the university is clear in these records, whether it was weighing in on the switch to the quarter system or negotiating the challenges of asserting Vincentian values in the secular world of higher education.

Critical elements in the records Richardson transferred to Special Collections and Archives relate to DePaul's expansion in the 1980s and the refinement of a cohesive university mission. Richardson's reports and communications highlight his efforts to balance a Catholic and service-oriented mission with rapid growth in enrollment and infrastructure as DePaul expanded its Loop Campus. After he stepped down as president and assumed the role of chancellor in 1991, he continued to advocate for social justice as a fundamental DePaul value. His records detail the great lengths he took to help reshape the vision statement for the university.

“DePaul's future depends on the quality of its learning, moral force and public service," he stressed.

Essential to his vision were programs designed to extend educational and employment opportunities to traditionally underserved groups, including the School for New Learning, now the School of Continuing and Professional Studies, and the Egan Urban Center, now the Egan Office of Urban Education and Community Partnerships.

Richardson's dedication to a wide network of colleagues, friends and members of the Vincentian family also is evident in his records. His correspondence and personal notes of recommendation attest to Richardson's active role in support of his friends' and associates' wider endeavors. At the same time, his participation in DePaul legacy events, such as the Centennial Oral History audio and video interview project, demonstrates his sustained enthusiasm for the university community. 

Fr. Richardson and staff from DePaul’s Radio and Television department, preparing a program at NBC Studios, 1960
Richardson and staff from DePaul’s Radio and Television department preparing a program at NBC Studios in 1960. (Image courtesy of Special Collections and Archives)

Richardson also was a patron of the library and Special Collections and Archives. In addition to regularly transferring his own records, he utilized departmental resources to research DePaul's academic and organizational history. Some of this research supported the 2011 publication of his memoirs, “The Playful Hand of God," which touches upon challenges and accomplishments of his years as a DePaul administrator.

During his 1981 presidential inauguration ceremony, Richardson described DePaul University as “resourceful, more than a little feisty, complex, never dull, inquiring, enthusiastic, never lacking courage, open, always determined." These collections demonstrate how Richardson mirrored these values over the six decades of service he dedicated to the university as a dynamic advocate and leader.

All members of the campus community are welcome to attend an April 27 Mass at 5:30 p.m. in St. Vincent de Paul Church at 1010 W. Webster Ave. Registration also is available for the reception following the memorial Mass.​ A streaming link for the Mass​ is available for those unable to attend in person.