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Meet the Jesuits: Bob O'Toole, S.J.

by Molly Daily on 02/20/2018

Get to know the Jesuits of Saint Louis University in this occasional series. Bob O'Toole, S.J., holds four SLU degrees and considers the University home after a long career that's taken him to from St. Louis to Rome, Italy, and back again.

Bob O'Toole, S.J.

Bob O'Toole, S.J., has worn many hats in his years as a member of the Society of Jesus, including teaching theology and working as a fundraiser for Jesuit higher education in Rome, Italy. Photo by Molly Daily

Bob O’Toole, S.J. has worn many hats in his years as a Jesuit. After receiving four degrees from Saint Louis University - including a bachelor’s degree, a Master of Arts in classical languages and advanced degrees in philosophy and theology, he considers SLU his home.

O’Toole did his doctorate at the Pontifical Biblical Institute in Rome under the then Father Carlo Maria Martini, S.J., who later became Cardinal Archbishop of Milan.

For seventeen years O’Toole taught at SLU in the department of theological studies, serving as chair for five of those years.  In 1991 O’Toole was called back to the Biblical Institute to teach Luke’s Gospel and Acts of the Apostles, be superior of the community and rector of the Institute.  When he became professor emeritus, he moved to New York and was a fundraiser for the Jesuit institutions of higher education in Rome.

Currently, at age 81, he serves as an adjunct as needed in the Department of Theological Studies. O’Toole has also recently joined the Division of Enrollment and Retention Management?  He will focus on the outreach and enrollment of prospective students from Jesuit high schools.

Throughout O’Toole’s many positions, his role as a Jesuit has remained front and center. O’Toole credits his mother for encouraging him to become a Jesuit priest.

“She always went to confession to Jesuits - and so she liked Jesuits,” recalled O’Toole.

When he visited SLU High as the possible site of his secondary education, O’Toole was delighted to meet a Jesuit priest who entertained the potential students with magic tricks. That sold him on the school – and after spending those years surrounded by Jesuits, he decided to become one himself.

These days, O’Toole is back on campus and helping out in any way he can - from serving on the Bicentennial Steering Committee and Pre-Health Studies Committee to hearing confessions and serving in local parishes to simply being present for the students - who happen to be his favorite part of SLU.

“I walk on campus every morning, and if a person looks like they’re willing to talk - they’re not on their phone or concentrating on something - I always say ‘hi’ or ‘good morning. I’m usually walking and praying, and the students are all very friendly. Sometimes I cheer them up, and sometimes they cheer me up.”