BY ROSE MCEACHERN
“Your travel schedule doesn’t matter,” he said. “If you have a deadline, you make it happen.”
When I had approached the old man sitting on a bench out back of Egan, his hand rolled cigarette twirling between his fingers and mustache bristling in the breeze, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Dr. Robert Doyle is something of a legend in the History department of Franciscan University. With three books, numerous essays, and even a position as a historical consultant for the film “Hart’s War”– it’s no wonder. Every time you go to the University’s web page, there is a good chance that you will be greeted with his smiling face.
I wanted to dig a little deeper than the introduction, however, and find out just how he got to Franciscan in the first place. Dr. Doyle wasn’t always “The” Dr. Doyle. Before arriving at Franciscan, he studied German at Pennsylvania State University on an ROTC scholarship that also saw him to two tours of duty in Vietnam. After which, on the GI Bill, he earned his MA at Penn State, and his Doctorate in American Cultural Studies at Bowling Green University.
He met his wife, Steubenville’s own Professor Beate Engel-Doyle, at orientation there. “I turned around and saw this beautiful lady from Germany and I asked her what she was doing for lunch,” he recalls. Two years later they were married at Our Lady Queen of Victory Church in State College, PA. The reception was held in his own backyard, and he and his band played for it themselves. That same band played at Franciscan in 1977, 23 years before professor Doyle came back to teach there. Should students wish to know the name of said musical group, they are invited to ask Dr. Doyle themselves.
Well after that “great show” and a while after his marriage, Dr. Doyle was presented the Fulbright Award to teach at the University of Münster in Germany. He returned to work at Penn State. His wife was already teaching at Franciscan and loved it. In the fall of 2000, Dr. Doyle was teaching History 207 and 208 part-time when a tragedy struck the school. The beloved Professor Jack Boyde died unexpectedly. In a day, Dr. Doyle went from teaching two courses to five. “That was a hard day” he said. He later applied for the full-time position and was granted it. “It just worked out for the right,” Doyle said, thoughtful. “I loved it.”
Dr. Doyle is the type of man who does as much of his teaching in a classroom as he does in his outdoor office: a bench behind Egan with a view of the walkway. You’re likely to find him there, just as I did—bushy moustache, hand-rolled cigarette, and his trademark leather vest. If you see him, walk up and ask him what the strangest thing he ever ate was. It might surprise you.