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Thursday 22 March 2018

Aidan Lehane

Former Rockwell, Blackrock and St Michael's president was an educator without equal, writes Rory Egan

THERE are few enough brilliant people in this world and fewer still who would devote themselves utterly to a life of service to others. Fr Aidan Lehane, who died last Monday, was one such man. Fluent in five languages, he was to become the president of Rockwell College, Blackrock College and St Michael's College -- a remarkable feat.

As an educator he was without equal, and as a priest he positively encouraged philosophical debate rather than just doctrinal obedience for the sake of it, converting many by his enthusiasm and absolute belief.

Born in Dublin 85 years ago, Aidan was the eldest of three children and the only boy. He was 11 when his father died and he had to leave O'Connell's School to become a boarder at Willow Park.

He later went on to Blackrock College, where he captained the Junior Cup rugby team to victory in 1941. He played for Leinster against the great Jackie Kyle, who described him as "the best rugby player" he had ever played against.

However, early in life he knew that he had a vocation and in 1949 joined the Holy Ghost order, now the Spiritans. He obtained a Bachelor's, and later Master's, degree in English Literature from UCD and went on to study theology and philosophy in Rome where he was ordained in 1955. While in Rome, he was instrumental in organising rugby, a fact that the Italian Rugby Board was to recognise many years later.

He was sent to his beloved Rockwell College where he remained for 14 years, rising to become president of the college. In 1971, he was asked to take over the running of Blackrock College. In 1977, he took a sabbatical to study for his Doctorate of Education in Toronto. At Stanford University, where Condoleezza Rice was one of his fellow students, he encountered Rene Girard and became a devotee of his philosophy and educational ideas.

In 1982, he took over the running of St Michael's College after a short period teaching at St Mary's College. He transformed St Michael's, and many were sad to see him leave to join Templeogue when his six years as president were up.

Fr Lehane was a creature of habit. He played golf with his good friend, the late President Paddy Hillery, every week, had dinner with his sister Daire every Tuesday and his other sister, Leonie, on Sundays. Every morning he rose at five, went for a jog, said Mass and only then went to breakfast.

He loved literature, in particular Hopkins and PG Wodehouse. But most of all he loved being a priest and was the epitome of what a good priest should be -- kind, caring, considerate and wise.

He will be very sadly missed by those fortunate enough to have known him.

Sunday Independent

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