7/7/2017 8:52:00 AM WATCH: Here's to you, Fr. Robinson After 101 semesters at Jesuit High, and showing up for almost everything, the history teacher leaves his post
Ed Langlois/Catholic Sentinel Jesuit Fr. Larry Robinson works at his desk in early June, his last days at Jesuit High School. After a half century, the 85-year-old priest has moved to a California retirement community.
Courtesy Jesuit High School Jesuit Fr. Larry Robinson searches the Jesuit High library in the 1960s. A history teacher, he served at Jesuit fo r 101 semesters.
When Larry Robinson arrived at newly built Jesuit High School as a Jesuit-in-training in 1958, Beaverton-Hillsdale Highway was a two-lane country road.
Like the thoroughfare that’s now wide and bustling, the 85-year-old priest’s soul is full and flourishing.
When asked to come back to teach history at Jesuit in the late 1960s, Father Robinson fondly recalled his pioneer experience of a decade earlier. He consented.
“I didn’t realize then it would be for the rest of my life,” he says.
After 101 semesters, he has moved to Los Gatos, California, where West Coast Jesuits retire. Before he left Oregon, Father Robinson was honored at graduation for being “a man for others,” the highest goal to which Jesuit graduates aspire.
Several generations of Jesuit students learned from the priest, who is simultaneously low-key and passionate.
“He spoke with infectious enthusiasm about the events that have shaped our country,” says John Gorman, a 1984 Jesuit graduate who teaches math at the school. “It was a story familiar to him, yet he seemed to create it anew for us. We were in the presence of a master. Though we did not know what we would do with our futures, we
hoped to do it with as much heart as Father Larry Robinson taught us history.”
Young Lawrence Robinson grew up in Tacoma, Washington, with three brothers and one sister, the children of a city utilities worker and a faith-filled mother. He attended Bellarmine Prep, graduating in 1950, and went on to Seattle University for two years before discerning a call and heading to the Jesuit novitiate in Sheridan. His Jesuit teachers had impressed him and he was drawn to their life.
His novitiate mentors suggested that he was suited either to English or history. In 150 seconds of discernment, he chose history and soon was sent to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees. His historical speciality is the American Civil War.
Instead of spouting dates, he urged students to think and analyze. “The most important question in history is why, not when,” says Father Robinson, who was ordained in 1965.
Though history was his subject, he rigorously corrected papers for grammar and style. “Teaching them how to write is teaching them to think,” he explains.
Jesuits live on campus, an important setup, Father Robinson says. He showed up to almost everything, including games, plays, concerts and most of all, Masses in the gymnasium.
Father Robinson is not excitable. In the 1980s, when people feared Jesuit might founder, he didn’t panic. Without fuss one way or the other, he welcomed girls to the school in 1993.
Though a fixture when classes were in session, he spent summers taking courses himself or helping at parishes up and down the West Coast.
Few others have seen Jesuit High move from its fledgling stages through a period of uncertainty to its status as one of the most highly regarded prep schools in the West. “We are doing a great job and that’s what makes us attractive,” Father Robinson says.
He taught history until 2003, and Latin for a year. He served as athletic director, golf coach and assisted at many sports. In 2009, he published “Honoring the Tradition,” a book on the 50th anniversary of Jesuit High School.
No matter what he does, he thinks of himself first as a Jesuit priest who teaches history.
“This is what I work hard to do well,” he says, “and I just did it.”
Posted: Monday, July 17, 2017
Article comment by:
(Father Robinson will understand, as will all of his students.)
Congratulations to you, Father, and may you enjoy a long, happy retirement.