Archmere Academy's Headmaster Dies Suddenly at Age 56

By Michele Besso
News Journal (Wilmington, DE)
January 30, 2004

The Rev. Timothy F. Mullen, headmaster at Archmere Academy in Claymont, died Thursday after collapsing outside his office. He was 56.

The cause of death had not been determined Thursday evening. School officials said they believe he died of a heart attack or stroke.

Mullen, a native of Brookhaven, Pa., was a 1965 Archmere graduate who returned to the private Catholic high school to teach English in the early 1980s, said Thomas Mallon, director of development.

He came back in the 1990s and was named dean of finance. In the interim, he was assigned to other Catholic institutions. Mullen became headmaster in 1997.

"We're all numb," Mallon said. "He taught me freshman English. He baptized all three of my kids, and he became just an integral part of my family. He's going to be sorely missed by the entire Archmere community."

Mullen's family could not be reached for comment.

Mullen had just returned to his office about 9:30 a.m. after a meeting in another building, Mallon said. He was sitting in a chair in the reception area outside his office talking with staff members when he lost consciousness. They called 911 and the school nurse tried to revive him. New Castle County paramedics arrived about 10 minutes later and took him to Wilmington Hospital, where he was pronounced dead, Mallon said.

The Rev. Michael Collins, dean of students, told faculty and students of Mullen's death and led them in prayer. Students held a prayer vigil at the school Thursday night.

Carly Ciarrocchi, 17, a senior who helped organize the vigil, said she worked with Mullen when she was president of student council.

"He was always joking around with the students," she said. "He would sit at the end of the hallway in his chair behind glass doors and he'd watch everyone walking around. You always knew he'd be there. It's kind of sad now. The chair is empty."

Friends remembered Mullen as a kind and gentle man with an unwavering commitment to the school and community.

"Father Mullen represented everything that is good and honorable about Catholic education," said Delaware's Sen. Joe Biden, a 1961 Archmere graduate. "While headmaster, he shepherded Archmere through an extremely difficult period, putting the welfare of the students and the sanctity of the institution before all else. He was a quiet leader and a close friend and I will miss him."

Mullen was one of four Archmere administrators who were reinstated in April 2001, five days after they were fired from their jobs. The reversal capped a tumultuous week in which hundreds of parents, alumni and students joined to fight the dismissals. The firings stemmed from a struggle over who would control the 69-year-old school.

Since its opening, the co-ed academy of about 500 students in grades nine through 12 has been operated by the Norbertine order of Catholic priests. The school is not part of the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington.

Mullen is survived by his mother and sister in Pennsylvania.


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