Robert Mullins was born December 5, 1913. He attended Providence College in Rhode Island from 1931 to 1932 before transferring to Marquette University in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. He graduated from Marquette with an A.B. in Philosophy and a minor in Latin in 1940. Between his studies at Marquette, he also attended St. Albert’s College in Oakland, California, for five years. He was ordained as a Catholic priest at St. Matthew’s Church in Milwaukee on September 29, 1945. That same year, he took an appointment as priest of the St. Thomas Aquinas Newman Center in Grand Forks, which included a position teaching religion at UND.
While in Grand Forks, he finished work on his M.A. in Philosophy from Marquette in 1949. He was promoted to assistant professor in 1972, associate professor in 1976, and professor in 1980. He also served as priest at St. Michael’s Parish in Grand Forks, and St. Jude’s in Thompson, North Dakota. He was chaplain at St. Michael’s Hospital and the Grand Forks Air Force Base. He retired from UND and his church appointments in 1984.
Mullins was much revered as an instructor of philosophy and religious studies. He was fluent in at least six languages and could read texts in three ancient languages. His students often kept in contact with him years after they had graduated. Former student Julie Imgrund referred to Mullins as her “spiritual grandfather” in a Grand Forks Herald article following his death. “He would always be available to people, far and wide, who would come to him for help,” she said. He offered “guidance with such intelligence, humor and humility.”
Mullins died March 4, 2004, in St. Cloud, Minnesota.