Derby History Quiz

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Very Reverend John Jordan Dillon, O.P.

Fourth President of Providence College

The Reverend John Jordan Dillon, fourth president of Providence College, was born in Derby on September 2, 1898. He was the second of five children of David J. and Mary J. (Houlihan) Dillon. The Chapel Street native received his early education at Franklin School and was a graduate of Derby High School. He worked at the R. N. Bassett company in Shelton for several years before serving on a submarine tender in the navy during World War I.

His journey to the presidency of Providence actually started when he attended a mission conducted at St. Mary's Church by members of the Dominican ordered. That provided the inspiration for him to join the Dominican order and become a priest. He received an undergraduate degree from Providence College (1924) and a master of arts  (M.A.) degree from The Catholic University of America and lectorate in sacred theology (S.T.Lr.) from Immaculate Conception College in Washington, D.C.  He was ordained a priest on June 17, 1929 at the National Shrine of the Blessed Virgin in Washington, D.C. He celebrated his first high mass as a priest at St. Mary's in Derby which was also the church where he was baptized and confirmed. He was a frequent visitor to his native Derby throughout his life and often preached at St. Mary's while here. An article in the Evening Sentinel following his death described him as being "well known and very popular in his native city."

Ten years after leaving PC, Father Dillon returned as a philosophy professor and soon also became an assistant dean.  On September 11, 1936, the Corporation elected John Jordan Dillon, O.P. as Corporation treasurer and confirmed the appointment of PC’s first alumnus president.

Father Dillon was stricken while visiting his sister who lived on Chapel Street on Thanksgiving Day, 1944. Taken to St. Raphael's hospital in New Haven, he died on December 1, 1944.

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