Alumni Profile

Dr. Dan Dentino ’97

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Alumni Profile

Dr. Dan Dentino ’97

Franciscan’s vice president of Student Life helps students get involved at his alma mater.

Winter 2022 | Melissa Zifzal

In This Article

Class of 1997

Dan Dentino ’97 wound up at Franciscan University by accident—literally. Originally set to play college football, he broke his neck in the last game of his senior year, derailing his plans. A priest then gave Dan’s family a stark warning: If the young man didn’t attend Franciscan University, he would be in danger of losing his soul.

The family took the admonition seriously, and the first time Dan visited the University was when his father dropped him off. The vibrant Catholic environment shocked Dan, and he called home soon after, begging to leave.

“This place is nuts,” Dan recalls telling his father, who hung up on him.

The Catholic faith belonged to Dan’s parents, not him, and he had to embrace the faith on his own, he says. Joining Prince of Peace Household played an important role in his spiritual growth.

“My household brothers made an investment in me; they had my best interests at heart,” Dan explains, describing his semester in Austria as transformational as well.

Dan graduated from Franciscan with a bachelor’s degree in theology and followed that with a master’s degree in religious studies from Providence College and a PhD in systematic theology from Duquesne University. He then launched a successful career serving college students in several student life leadership positions, most recently working as vice president of Student Affairs and dean of Students at Canisius College. Happy there, Dan felt a tug at his heart to come home to his alma mater. In June 2021, he became Franciscan University’s vice president of Student Life, overseeing residence life, evangelization and household life, athletics, the Wellness Center, student activities and programming, and more.

“I have the best job on campus,” Dan proclaims, calling his work “a privilege and a blessing.”

He makes it a priority to encourage student engagement, and with his office located beside the Fireside Lounge in the J.C.Williams Center, he enjoys the busy atmosphere as he interacts with students, listening to their concerns and suggestions. “At the end of the day, when it comes to engaging the students, it’s about invitation, hospitality, and presence,” he says.

Dan and his wife, Mary (Helgeson ’02), have four children and live in Steubenville, Ohio. When he’s not working, he loves spending time with his family, coaching their sports teams, cooking, working out, and watching Notre Dame football. He also enjoys spending time on campus and often brings his family to sporting events and activities.

“I like to be around campus,” he says. “It’s not just a 9-to-5 job.”


Melissa Zifzal writes from Wintersville, Ohio.

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