Fr. Thomas Plassmann OFM

11th President

1920-49

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    Fr. Thomas was born in Avenwedde in the German province of Westphalia. He was the second of eight children, and at baptism was given the name Bernard. He was raised in Germany and attended elementary school there.  In 1894 he left Germany to join the Franciscan Friars in the American mission at Paterson, New Jersey. He entered the order September 11, 1898, receiving the name Thomas in religion.  After studying in Washington, New York, and New Jersey he was ordained a priest by the second president of  St. Bonaventure College Archbishop Diomede Falconio, OFM in 1906. He came to St. Bonaventure in 1910 as professor of Oriental Languages, Hermeneutics, Exegesis, Sacred Scripture, Dogmatic Theology and Patrology.  With the exception of the three years prior to coming to St. Bonaventure, and a term as Provincial, he spent his entire priestly life at the college and seminary.   

   When Fr. Tom, as he was affectionately called by the students, became president the college had already made significant advances in higher education under the presidencies of Fr. Fidelis Reynolds and Fr. Alexander Hickey and these advances continued under Fr. Tom. In 1921, upon Fr. Tom's request to the dean, Fr. Gerald tutored several daughters of college benefactors.  Several letters began arriving about more formal sessions for the summer of 1922, and thus began the introduction of women in the student body at St. Bonaventure.  The faculty was composed of seven teachers who taught seven subjects.   The fall semester of 1922 saw the first  women at St. Bonaventure who took night courses at St. Elizabeth's Convent and Academy. Also under Fr. Tom,  St. Bonaventure saw the publication of the first Bona Venture  in 1926.  In November of 1926 ground was broken for a new student dormitory to be called Devereux Hall in honor of Nicholas Devereux the benefactor of the college. 

    1930 marked the seventy-fifth anniversary of the Franciscan Fathers' arrival in western New York. On May 5 of that year, St. Bonaventure was victim to a fire that all but leveled the institution. Fire Departments from several neighboring areas responded to help extinguish the blaze. During the fire, Fr Tom was in Buffalo to deliver a radio address the night before. The fire began in the top floor of the monastery, most likely due to defective wiring. It spread through out the monastery, then to the church. The church at this time was under the process of being remodeled, and the paint and scaffolding only assisted in its destruction.  From there it spread to the seminary and for more than three hours burned uncontrollably. A strong southerly wind fanned the flames, but also aided considerably in keeping the fire from spreading to nearby Lynch Hall  and the Sisters Convent. The monastery, Church and seminary were completely lost along with more than half of the seminary library. Most offices and classrooms along with the post office and some dormitories were gone. Within twenty-four hours Fr. Tom established an office in Butler Gymnasium, and began to plan for the future. The damage that the college received was estimated to be over a million dollars, which was a tremendous loss, especially during the Depression. Six months after the fire St. Bonaventure saw another. This time it was a barn and silo. Students and faculty were able to save a herd of dairy cattle but lost about fifteen thousand dollars worth of farm equipment and grain. Again in April of 1932 the campus was plagued by fire. Lynch Hall which had survived the first two first was struck by lightning and its tower caught fire. Despite the fire being held to only the top floor, smoke and water rendered the building useless. Despite all of these disasters to the campus Fr. Tom was able to lead the college through it and eventually prevail to be a stronger institution. 

For more information: 
The Picture of Benevolence web site.
Biographies at Merton site.


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Biographical Information:

NAME: PLASSMANN, THOMAS (FR) (OFM)

OTHER NAMES/ SPELLINGS: NONE

DATE OF BIRTH: 1879-03-19

PLACE OF BIRTH: AVENWEDDE, GERMANY

RECEPTION INTO ORDER: 1898-09-11

ORDINATION DATE: 1906-06-09

WHERE ORDAINED: UNKNOWN-ORDAINED BY ARCHBISHOP DIOMEDE FALCONIO, OFM.

SERVED AT SBU: 1910-1949

SERVED/ PRES: 1920-1949

SERVED ELSEWHERE: 1949-PROVINCIAL OF THE PROVINCE OF THE MOST HOLY NAME"

ACCOMPLISHMENTS: DOCTORATE-PHIL CATHOLIC UNIV-1907\1909 DOCTORATE OF SACRED THEOLOGY\AS PRESIDENT-1)DEPARTMENTALIZED COLLEGE INTO ACADEMIC SUBDIVISIONS 2)DEVEL. BOARD OF STUDIES-1928 3)DEVEL. BOARD OF OPERATION 4)BOARD OF TRUSTEES DEVELOPMENT  IN 1929 5)STUDENT GOVT. ORIGINATED 1921 6)1926 1ST PUB. OF ST. BONAVENTURE 6)CHAIRMAN OF BOARD OF TRUSTEES-1949 7) PROF. SBU 1910-1920 8)1942 WOMEN ADMITTED AS UNDERGRADUATE DAY STUDENTS

DEATH DATE: 1959-02-13

BURIAL LOCATION: OLEAN N.Y.

BUILDINGS NAMED AFTER: THOMAS PLASSMANN HALL ( ACADEMIC BUILDING-ST. BONAVENTURE UNIVERSITY)"

BUILDINGS CONSTRUCTED WHILE PRES: 1928-DEVEREUX HALL\1931-HICKEY MEMORIAL DINING HALL\1933 LYNCH HALL\1933 MUSIC HALL"

BUILDINGS DEDICATED: BLESSED ALL WRITTEN ABOVE

LOCATION OF PHOTOS: ARCHIVES/FOUNDER'S ROOM

Bibliography:

Angelo,  Mark V., OFM. The History of St. Bonaventure University. St. Bonaventure, NY: Franciscan Institute, 1961. 

Hammon, Walter,  OFM. The First Bonaventure Men. Paterson, NJ: St. Anthony Guild Press, 1958. 

St. Bonaventure University Archives Presidents Files

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This page was created by Kevin Lawless as part of an internship during the Fall 2004 semester.  Any changes, other than minor editing, are noted at the bottom of the page.

For information about the Archives' collections contact:

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telephone: 716.375.2322

Created 08/30/04 by Kevin Lawless
Last updated:  01/30/07

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