In Memoriam

Dr. Bob Doyle

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In Memoriam

Dr. Bob Doyle

Remembering a beloved history professor.

Summer 2024

In This Article

Dr. Robert C. Doyle

By the time he arrived to teach history at Franciscan University in 2000, Dr. Robert Doyle had already lived a life larger than most: Vietnam War veteran, accomplished musician, Fulbright recipient, and a nationally recognized expert on the POW experience, to name a few credits.

So, it was fitting that following his death on January 24, 2024, at age 78, the memorial Mass in Christ the King Chapel was attended by Vietnam war veterans, education and community leaders, as well as students, friars, and faculty.

In his homily, Father Patrick Whittle, TOR ’06, said Doyle personified Christ the Teacher.

“Whether in the classroom or his ‘outdoor office,’ a park bench outside Egan Hall, Dr. Doyle helped his students become better scholars and better human beings.”

Doyle’s life arc began in an orphanage run by Catholic nuns, from which he was adopted as an infant.

He grew up in southwest Philadelphia and attended Catholic grade school and high school, then enrolled in Penn State University’s Naval Reserve Officer Training Corps. Doyle did two tours of duty in Vietnam, first on a destroyer, the USS Steinaker, then on a high-risk assignment as a river and warfare naval intelligence liaison officer where he went on patrols and traced the movements of the Viet Cong.

Following discharge, he pursued his love of all things historical with two degrees from Penn State and a doctorate from Bowling Green State University. He supported himself then, in part, as a musician with the Buffalo Chip Kickers, a bluegrass band for which Bob sang and played banjo, guitar, fiddle, and penny whistle.

Following a Fulbright year in Germany and teaching at the University of Strasbourg in the 1990s, Doyle began his teaching career at Franciscan University in 2000.

In a tribute booklet prepared when he achieved the rank of professor emeritus in 2022, his students poured out their love for the teacher they called “Doc,” the one who would serenade them with historical-based songs and would start class with the rallying cry, “OK. Let’s go to war!”

“Doc pulled you into history so you could almost reach out and touch it,” said Cristina (Lawrence ’16) Chew.

“From Doc, I discovered a whole world beyond the basic ‘what’ of history and learned to ask the ‘why?’ and ‘how,’” said Hillary (Senour ’11) Mast.

For Father Paul Marich, OP ’08: “What stays with me most is the life lessons he taught outside the classroom; most memorable was his talk on Christian manhood.”

Doyle’s ongoing interest in the POW experience led to his fourth and last book on the subject, Men of God, Men of War, which details the role of chaplains who became prisoners. It was released just days after he died and is dedicated to his wife, Franciscan University German language professor Beate Engel-Doyle, who died in 2021.

The dedication reads in part:

“Her faith in God and faithfulness to his will caught fire and brought me back to the faith I nearly abandoned.”

Bob is interred alongside Beate at Fort Indiantown Gap National Cemetery in Pennsylvania.

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