Please remember in your prayers Donald Conway, a longtime member of the University of St. Thomas community. He died at age 92 with family by his side Tuesday, Oct. 28, at the Little Sisters of the Poor nursing home in St. Paul.
A St. Paul native and longtime Edina resident, Conway was a St. Thomas student, faculty member and administrator. And, as noted in an obituary in the Star Tribune, he “will be missed by all for his unparalleled sense of humor, love of an occasionally ribald joke and his unique talent for spinning a lengthy tale.”
“When Don started to tell one of his stories, the room would fall silent. Everyone knew they were in for a real treat,” recalled Jim Winterer, whom Conway hired in 1980 as St. Thomas’ news director. “Don loved the Catholic and liberal arts mission of St. Thomas as much as anyone I know. And when I hear people talk about the ‘Greatest Generation,’ Don always comes to mind.”
Arlene Leyden, a retired St. Thomas special events director whose late husband, Donald Leyden, was a former vice president of St. Thomas, recalled that Conway “was the heart and soul” of a St. Thomas dinner group that met regularly for nearly 30 years, starting in the early 1960s.
“We were a group of husbands and wives who all were connected through St. Thomas,” Leyden said. “We’d get together at our homes, and at first we called ourselves the ‘cazzerole’ club, but then we started getting fancy and called it the dinner club.”
In addition to Don Conway and Don Leyden, members of the club included Dr. Fred Flynn, Dr. Joseph Connors, Jack Farley and Dan Fiedler.
“We all had our talents,” Arlene Leyden said, “my Don played the banjo, Fred Flynn could dance an Irish jig and Don Conway would sing a terrible rendition of ‘Mother Machree.’”
Conway started at St. Thomas as a freshman in 1940 but left in the middle of his sophomore year to serve in the Army. He returned in fall 1946 and graduated in 1948 with a degree in English. He also did graduate studies in English at the University of Minnesota.
Shortly after earning his bachelor’s degree, Conway became St. Thomas’ director of public relations and a member of the English faculty. He left St. Thomas after five years and went on to serve in executive roles at Prudential Insurance, Pillsbury, St. John’s University, Catholic University of America and St. Mary’s Hospital in Minneapolis. He spent 1964 in Washington, D.C., as a fellow at the Brookings Institution. There, he worked on a number of task force projects and as a speechwriter for the secretary of health, education and welfare. He also wrote some short, ceremonial speeches for President Lyndon Johnson.
Conway returned to St. Thomas in 1974 as director of public affairs, a position he held until his retirement in December 1986. Among his responsibilities was coordinating the many observances of St. Thomas’ centennial in 1985.
Conway was preceded in death by his wife, Dorothy Anne (D.A.), and two sons, Christopher and Peter. He is survived by children Marnie, Mark, Tricia and John, his brother, Roger, and his sister, Sally.
Visitation was held from 3 to 6 p.m. Friday, Oct. 31, at O’Halloran and Murphy, 575 S. Snelling Ave., and one hour prior to the Mass of Christian Burial, which was held at 10 a.m. Saturday, Nov. 1, at Assumption Catholic Church, 51 W. Seventh St. in downtown St. Paul.