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Legendary' professor Sweeney retires after 50 years

For half a century Professor John D. Sweeney has been a proud member of the Seton Hall faculty.

After over 50 years serving the Seton Hall community, Sweeney will be retiring.

On Tuesday, a small retirement celebration was held in the Walsh Library Rotunda. Speakers at the event included long time colleagues Chrysanthy Grieco, Dermot A Quinn and Seton Hall President Msgr. Sheeran.

The word used most often when asked to describe Sweeney was "legendary."

"I want to say thank you, for the great story you have been, may that story continue," Sheeran said. "We will miss everything about you."

Sweeney graduated from St. Josephs' Preparatory in Philadelphia. He then attended Georgetown and Columbia Universities before graduating from Loyola University in Chicago with a B.A and M.A.

After that he attended a Jesuit school but decided to leave clerical life and teach in higher education.

Sweeney first taught as a classics professor at the University of Scranton.

In the time Sweeney has been at Seton Hall he has taught almost every course in the English department. He also has taught Greek and Latin.

Additionally, Sweeney also taught in the honors program at Seton Hall.
Sweeney played an instrumental role in creating the honors program during the 1960s.

This is just one example of the indelible mark Sweeney has left on the university.

Quinn spoke very highly of Sweeney.

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"He is a legendary figure at Seton Hall, much beloved, everyone is delighted to know Professor Sweeney and consider him a friend," Quinn said. "He is polymathic in his knowledge of English literature and of the European humanities, he really knows the stuff inside out."

In Jan. 2006, Sweeney was critically injured when he was hit by a car on South Orange Ave. Even after the incident, he returned to teach part time.

When asked if he had ever thoughT that he would be at the same school after 50 years, Sweeney said, "Well I hoped it would be 80 or 90 years, it's just hard to avoid dangerous traffic on South Orange Ave."

Sweeney has worked as a freshmen advisor and has seen nine generations of college students move through Seton Hall.

Over the years, Sweeney has led many study abroad trips, primarily to Italy.

He is famous for the ability to quote long texts word for word from classical novels and poems, something he did several times at Tuesday's gathering.

"He can do that at the drop of a hat, he just knows so much poetry," Quinn said.

If that is not enough, Sweeney also plays the flute and tuba, but his favorite instrument is the bagpipes.

A series of books, "The Lives of Shakespearian Actors" was donated to the library in his name from his friends and colleagues.

"He always called this his second home… actually, he called it his home," Grieco said.

Frank Taylor can be reached at


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