Rev. Patrick Durkin, one of St. Viator’s founders, passes

One of the faculty members who helped launch St. Viator High School 50 years ago next month has died.

The Rev. Patrick Durkin passed away Sunday at the age of 85. Fr. Durkin will be buried Thursday, the day before the Arlington Heights school begins its 50th year of classes.

Fr. Durkin was among 15 Viatorians and three lay teachers who opened the school in 1961. He taught biology during the high school’s initial years and later became the dean of discipline.

“He was a qualified educator who brought a level of professionalism to the school,” said the Rev. Patrick Render, an early administrator at the school. “He was among a number of Viatorians who set the bar for the school and its faculty.”

Fr. Durkin earned his undergraduate degree in biology from St. Ambrose College in Davenport, Iowa, and a master’s degree in physiology from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.

His early teaching career took him to Spalding Institute in Peoria, St. Philip High School in Chicago, and Cathedral Boys/Griffin High School in Springfield.

The Rev. Robert M. Egan, current president of St. Viator, remembers having Fr. Durkin as a biology instructor.

“He was intense and very disciplined,” Egan said. “There was no nonsense in the classroom, while at the same time he was a good teacher who clearly cared about his students and wanted them to succeed.”

Within five years of arriving at the school, Fr. Durkin was tapped to serve as its dean of discipline, taking over midyear for a coach who had become ill.

“That was a job that required a unique and strong personality in a school of over 1,000 boys,” Egan said. “But he was up to the task, and he helped to assure a well-ordered and disciplined school.”

In a 1967 edition of the Voyageur, the St. Viator newspaper, staff members wrote an editorial about their dean of discipline, commending him for his measured approach.

“Fr. Durkin has approached a difficult role with the quiet determination that does the job,” they wrote. “He spends minimal time expounding on regulations, while at the same time remaining behind the scenes and seeing that they are maintained.”

By 1970, Fr. Durkin left secondary education to become trained as a chaplain. He would spend the next 25 years in hospital chaplaincy before retiring in 1995. But his Viatorian colleagues say he always took pride in being among the founding faculty of the high school.

“Those earliest priests and brothers were the pioneers who helped to establish a tradition of excellence that has lasted 50 years,” Egan said. “They left a wonderful legacy to our high school community.”

Fr. Durkin was preceded in death by his parents, Michael and Anna Durkin, and his sister, Norine Accettura. He is survived by his brother, William Cerjak of Glendale, Ariz.

Visitation will take place from 9 to 10:30 a.m. Thursday, followed by a 10:30 a.m. funeral Mass at St. Joseph Home for the Elderly, 80 W. Northwest Highway, in Palatine.