Long-time St. Joseph’s University professor and former University of Pennsylvania football player, Dr. Nicholas “Nick” Robak has died. He was 80 years old.
Born an only child on August 7, 1942, Nick grew up in Drexel Hill and attended St. Charles Borromeo Catholic school. There he forged the foundation of his life in faith, family, friends, and sports.
Nick exhibited superior football skills from an early age. He went on to play for his beloved alma mater, Monsignor Bonner High School. His 1959 senior year team, coached by former Philadelphia Eagle Jack Ferrante, won the Philadelphia City Championship at sold-out Franklin Field.
Nick continued playing football over the next 4 years while attending the University of Pennsylvania. In his curriculum vitae, he wryly listed the distinguished accomplishment of being named to the same Ukrainian all-American football team that featured first-team player, Mike Ditka.
After graduating from Penn, Nick launched a long and proud career as a teacher, coach, and mentor. He taught and coached football at Monsignor Bonner High School, Archmere Academy, Malvern Prep, and St. Thomas Moore. He also coached women’s track at Cardinal O’Hara. In 1972, he earned a Ph.D from the University of Pennsylvania, then started his 40-year career as a St. Joseph’s University professor.
At St. Joe’s, Dr. Robak began teaching in the Sociology department where he was the first professor known to teach a class on sports and society. In 1986, he pivoted his professorial endeavors to a new academic discipline, Management Information Systems. He started the university’s women’s cross country and track programs. In 1993 he was given the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback award for distinguished teaching. He taught there full-time until 2012.
With a no-nonsense, straight-forward, “old-school”, yet caring approach, Nick drew countless protégées. He genuinely cared about the lives and the potential of his students. He challenged them to be their best, to continue learning, and to be open to spirituality.
Nick was an avid Phillies fan and a St. Joseph’s men’s basketball season ticket holder. He accompanied the Hawks on multiple trips around the country during NCAA tournament runs. Whether at a Hawks game or enjoying time in Ocean City NJ, he delighted in running into former students – people whose lives he had changed forever. He will be remembered as man of faith, principal, and learning, with a heart that matched his full and purposeful life.
Nick passed away peacefully on Dec. 27th at Lankenau hospital surrounded by his loving family. He is survived by his wife Mary (Masciantonio), his children Mary Roney (Steve), Nick (Tricia), and Michael (Patti), and his grandchildren Marissa and Conor Roney, and Dylan, Nico, Matthew, and Michael Robak.
Friends and relatives are invited to attend his viewing on Wednesday, January 4th from 6:00 PM to 8:00 PM, and on Thursday, January 5th from 9:15 AM to 10:15 AM at St. Dorothy’s Church in Drexel Hill. A mass of Christian burial will follow on January 5th at 10:30 AM. Interment at SS. Peter & Paul Cemetery. In lieu of flowers, contributions may be made to Monsignor Bonner & Archbishop Prendergast High School and/or St. Joseph’s University.
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