Retiring St. John's professor leaves lasting legacy

COLLEGEVILLE, Minn - Comfortable as a Lazy Boy, Robert Dumonceaux strides into his math classroom at St. John's University.

He has candy for his students – and smiles. Always smiles. It is far from the way things began for Dumonceaux at St. John's.

57 years ago he arrived as a scared Benton County farm kid, his freshman year of tuition paid with the proceeds of a load of his father's hogs.

The family home had no indoor plumbing, but that wasn't the reason Dumonceaux could be found in the St. John's showers, morning, noon and night.

"In the shower I could cry," he revealed. "I was so lonesome for the animals and the farm."

Three years later, Dumonceaux's knees knocked so badly the first time he taught a St. John's math class, he stayed behind the desk.

He never could have imagined half a century later, Bob Hesse, chairman of the St. John's math department, would use the words like "institution" to describe his colleague.

On Friday, Dumonceaux's wife, Evie, picked out a splendid black and pink tie. The school newspaper sat on his desk with the headline: "Beloved Professor Retires After 5 Decades."

He reads from the opening paragraph, "In 1960 Eisenhower was president and gas was 30 cents a gallon." He looks up and smiles. "That's when I started teaching at St. John's. His smile widens. "I lasted longer than Eisenhower."

As the longtime head of the football chain gain, Dumonceaux even shared a Johnnies football field with his four sons.

But what will the mathematician miss the most? "There's nothing to compare to getting a smile on the face of a student and they kind of understand."

Bob Dumonceaux arrived at St. John's in tears. As he accepted hugs at his retirement party, it was clear he'll be leaving the same way.


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