Saint Martin's monk and emeritus faculty member Father Richard Cebula dies
Wednesday, May 12, 2004
Lacey - Father Richard Cebula, Order of
St. Benedict, priest, professional engineer and “father” of the Saint
Martin’s College School of Engineering, died May 11, 2004, at Mother
Joseph Care Center of multiple causes. He was 87.
of the Saint Martin’s College community join Saint Martin’s Abbey, where
Father Richard had been a member since 1935, in honoring his life and
A vigil service will be at 7:30 p.m.
Friday, May 14, at Saint Martin’s Abbey Church, 5300 Pacific Ave.,
Lacey. Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated for him at 10 a.m.
Saturday, May 15, also at the church. Burial will follow at Saint
Martin’s Abbey Cemetery.
Father Richard was born Sigmund “Sig”
Cebula May 16, 1916, in Tacoma, Wash. He was the first of seven children
born to Polish immigrants Jan Michal Cebula and Radzislawa Ciszewski. He
was baptized June 14, 1916, at St. Joseph Church, Tacoma, and was
confirmed April 15, 1929, at Holy Rosary Church, also in Tacoma.
After attending school at Tacoma’s John
R. Rogers School and Holy Rosary School, Father Richard came to Saint
Martin’s High School as a 13-year-old freshman. He graduated in 1932,
then completed studies in 1934 at what was then Saint Martin’s Junior
College. He entered the Benedictine Order at Saint Martin’s Abbey as a
novice July 11, 1935, and in 1938, took his lifetime solemn vows.
In fall 1935, Father Richard traveled to
Oregon’s Mount Angel College (now Mount Angel Seminary), where he
completed a bachelor of arts degree in philosophy and mathematics, as
well as four years of seminary training in theology. He was ordained to
the priesthood on May 22, 1941, at St. James Cathedral in Seattle.
Two months later, he was appointed
principal of Saint Martin’s High School. His other duties included
teaching one college and three high school math courses. The talents of
the gifted high school and college football player were also tapped for
During the academic lull caused by World
War II, Father Richard was sent to the University of Michigan, where he
earned his master of science degree in mathematics and completed
coursework for a doctorate in 1947.
A four-year liberal arts college by that
time, Saint Martin’s was planning to expand its curriculum into civil
engineering, a move delayed by the war. When Father Richard returned, he
taught math and engineering courses for the next five years while
completing a master of science degree in structural engineering during
summers at Iowa State College (now Iowa State University) in Ames.
In 1953, he became head of the college’s
fledgling engineering department. During the next years, he used his
characteristic ingenuity to devise solutions for the department’s many
needs: laboratories, equipment, faculty, accreditation, student
engineering chapters and more. At one point, he taught fallout shelter
analysis courses for the Office of Civil Defense, using his paychecks
for the college’s engineering needs.
An energetic self-starter with something
of a reputation for intimidation, Father Richard’s gentler nature was
soon discovered by generations of Saint Martin’s students. He was fierce
in his dedication to them, and worked for their academic success by
pushing, prodding and preaching at them, said Father John Scott, O.S.B.,
then a Saint Martin’s undergraduate student and later a faculty member.
“He was the barking dog who turned out to
be a nice pet,” he laughed. “Behind that bark, there was a very
brilliant and caring man.”
The engineering program continued to
grow, as did Father Richard’s engineering education. The latter was done
each summer at various universities at the expense of the National
Science Foundation, whose worries about Russian supremacy after the
launch of the Sputnik satellite spurred a series of educational programs
for science, math and engineering educators. His achievements in
establishing the engineering department were honored in 1969, when he
was chosen as the college’s outstanding teacher of the year and in 1983,
when the engineering building was named for him.
Father Richard was named academic vice
president of the college in 1969, a position he held until 1974, when he
officially retired from academia. A believer in the value of continuing
education, he brought military students to the Lacey campus for a degree
completion program and set up the college’s successful extension
programs at Fort Lewis and McChord Air Force Base for military personnel
and their families.
A longtime member of the American Society
of Civil Engineers, Father Richard became a fellow in 1960 and a life
member in 1983. He also was a longtime member of the American Society
for Engineering Education and served for three years on the National
Society of Professional Engineers’ Student Professional Development
Committee. When the City of Lacey was incorporated in the mid-1960s, he
was appointed to the city’s planning commission, serving until 1973 and
acting as chairman in 1968. His greatest relaxation and joy was playing
golf, said Father John.
In 1992, Father Richard became pastor of
Holy Rosary Parish in Tacoma, where he served until 2003.
Father Richard is survived by two
sisters, Leona Kerilla and Helen Evans, both of Tacoma, a brother,
Walter Cebula of Las Vegas, Nev., and numerous nieces and nephews. He
was preceded in death by a sister, Wanda Foss, of Tacoma, and by two
brothers, Stanley Cebula of Tacoma and Anthony “Tony” Cebula of Yelm.
Memorial gifts can be made to the Father
Richard Cebula Engineering Endowment Fund, Saint Martin's College Office
of Development, 5300 Pacific Ave. SE, Lacey WA 98503-1297.
For more information:
Deanna Partlow, media relations coordinator
Saint Martin’s Office of Communication
360-438-4541 or firstname.lastname@example.org