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A photo of Len Swidler
  • Academic Division
A photo of Len Swidler

Dr. Leonard Swidler, Central Catholic High School 1946, has been the professor of Catholic Thought & Interreligious Dialogue at Temple University since 1966.

Swidler was born in Sioux City, Iowa, to Samuel and Josephine Swidler. His father was a Ukrainian Jew who had come to the U.S. at age 16 and his mother was an Irish-American Catholic. Eventually the family moved to Cumberland, Wisconsin, and then to Green Bay.

From 1942-1946, Swidler attended Central Catholic High School. He played varsity football for four years – center and right linebacker. "In those days we weren’t softies; we played both defense and offense," he said. Swidler was named honorable mention all-state for “blocking a punt, intercepting a pass and making multiple tackles in one weekend game against a team from Madison, whose name I have forgotten.” During his senior year at Central Catholic he was in ROTC and, “I was a crack shot of the rifle team, which the gizmo on my shoulder indicates.”

Swidler graduated from Central Catholic as salutatorian (he had also attained the equivalent when graduating from St. Willebrord’s Catholic Grade School) and then joined the Navy Air Force. World War II had just ended nine months before, but the draft was still operative, so he followed three of his cousins, who in 1942 joined the Navy and fought their way across the Pacific for three years. Tragically, five of his second cousins – the Sullivan brothers – went down with their destroyer.

He got a B.A. at St. Norbert College, “again, graduating as salutatorian – just didn’t seem to be able to make valedictorian. Upon graduation I joined the Norbertine Order. Two years later I was dismissed by the executive committee as being too intense for the Premonstratensian Order; though decades later, in 2001, St. Norbert’s College ‘balanced’ that action by bestowing on me an Honorary Doctorate (LL.D.).”

He was founder and editor with his wife, Arlene (Anderson) Swidler, in 1964 of the Journal of Ecumenical Studies. He is the founder and director of the Dialogue Institute (1978). He holds degrees in history, philosophy and theology from St. Norbert College (B.A.), Marquette University (M.A.), University of Wisconsin (Ph.D.) and Tübingen University, Germany (STL), He was visiting professor at Universities of Graz, Hamburg, Tübingen, Nankai University (Tianjin, China), Fudan University (Shanghai), Temple University Japan (Tokyo), University of Malaya (Kuala Lumpur), Chinese University of China (Hong Kong), and Khazar University (Baku, Azerbaijan).

“I am at present, fortunate to be able to still be teaching full time (60-plus years) at Temple University in Philadelphia. I have guided dozens of PhD’s over the decades, but since the beginning of my teaching career – started at Milwaukee School of Engineering in 1954 – I have most of all enjoyed teaching college freshmen, who are just like high school seniors – which they were just a few months before – reaching out to embrace enthusiastically the life of the mind and the spirit."

"I invite any and all who are still pursuing – or maybe later would like to somewhat belatedly would like to pursue – that life goal to write me at dialogue@temple.edu.”

  • 2021