Connelly leaves long teaching, administrative legacy

By Priscilla Aguirre


For 45 years, Dr. Robert “Bob” J. Connelly served the Incarnate Word community through his teaching, involvement and wisdom he shared with faculty and students.

“When I think of UIW, I think of Dr. Bob,” said Dr. Ricardo Gonzalez, associate director of the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership. “His caring, generous and sincere personality embodied what UIW stands for. He had a great love for this institution and all it represents.”

Connelly died Sept. 27. He was 77. Memorial services for him were held Oct. 1 at the Chapel of the Incarnate Word.

Raised in Denver, Colo., Connelly completed his bachelor’s degree in philosophy in 1961 at Regis College in Weston, Mass. Taking his philosophy education further, Connelly obtained his master’s and Ph.D. at St. Louis University, where he later taught. He also taught at Fontbonne College, now a university in Clayton, Mo.

In 1972, Connelly started his career at UIW as an associate professor in philosophy.

“He fell in love with philosophy when he was an undergraduate,” Dr. Kathleen “Kathi” Light, the provost for UIW and Connelly’s wife, said. “His research was primarily in the world of ethics and bioethics.”

Also through his teaching, Connelly taught his students to learn and understand the meaning of service. To show his love for service, Connelly was an avid member to many civic organizations. He pushed for the 45 hours community service requirement that became part of the curriculum to graduate.

“He was a person committed to teaching, shared governments, sustainability, social justice and the success of students, the faculty and to the university,” Light said. “The love of service came from his beliefs as a man of faith and that we are responsible as Christians to care for the environment. It’s sacred and something we are given to protect.”

Connelly worked closely with Sister Dorothy Ettling as they gave birth to the Center for Civic Leadership, now known as the Ettling Center for Civic Leadership. At the Ettling Center, Connelly co-taught the social justice leadership course. He also helped develop and launch several programs such as Meet the Mission, UIW recycling program, and the Sustainability Committee.

He was also part of the development of the Headwaters at Incarnate Word and was co-chairman of the Headwaters Committee. Connelly served as president of the faculty association/senate twice and chaired most standing committees at least twice.

For all his leadership and dedication he put into the community, Connelly received many awards. UIW honored him by establishing The Robert J. Connelly Faculty Leadership Award, an annual award given to a professor who provides outstanding leadership within the faculty.

“Dr. Bob’s greatest contribution was his ability to mentor the faculty and staff on the act of caring and how that translates to developing our students’ perspective for each other and the earth,” said Dr. Barbara Aranda-Naranjo, associate vice provost for civic engagement.

At UIW, Connelly served one time as dean of the School of Math, Science and Engineering and dean of the College of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences. He also served as director of assessment and assistant to the associate provost for institutional effectiveness and assessment, Dr. Glenn James

Even when Connelly retired his presence remained on campus.

“We are all going to miss him mentoring and guiding us,” Aranda-Naranjo said. “His leadership capacity, his kind words and the love he had for everyone he met. We will miss him greatly.”

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