The Catholic University of America

May 9, 2008

CUA's Longtime Barber and Campus Institution Retires

Dominic Spadaro shares a laugh with seminarian Brother Miles Garrett.
After almost 48 years at Catholic University's seminary, Dominic Spadaro is finally hanging up his scissors May 9.

"He's the man," says customer Brother Miles Garrett, a seminarian at nearby Capuchin College, while getting a haircut in Spadaro's shop on the first floor of McCormick Pavilion at Theological College, the national seminary of CUA. "He always gets it right."

Garrett is just one of the many happy customers at Spadaro's shop. Over the years, they have included lay and religious faculty, staff and students. Spadaro has also cut the hair of some CUA presidents, as well as Most Rev. Donald W. Wuerl, archbishop of Washington and CUA chancellor, and Rev. Gilbert V. Hartke, who founded CUA's renowned drama program.

Spadaro, 76, started out hoping to be a fine arts painter. He earned a scholarship to study art at American University and after graduating in 1953, taught high school in Washington D.C.

He moved to Theological College part time in 1960 on the recommendation of his father, also a barber, who knew the outgoing owner.

"I found I could make a better living barbering than teaching," he says.

After marrying in 1963, he began running the barbershop full time at Theological College (renting space from the school).

Spadaro awaits a customer.
He also continued to paint and exhibit his work, finding similarity in the two different disciplines.

"I'm a craftsman and like to take my time in painting and in cutting hair," he says. "Each customer gets the full half hour."

Like art, he has also found the work expanding and challenging. "The atmosphere is scholarly and you have to keep up on all sorts of subjects," Spadaro notes.

He says he will miss such give-and-take with his clients, likening it to a confessional - appropriate for a shop that uses pews as benches.

"You make friends and there is a lot that is exchanged and shared [in the course of a haircut]," Spadaro says.

In appreciation of such friendship, a current CUA staff member and a former university employee once gave him an antique striped barber pole that now hangs on a wall of the shop.

The environment has provided a stress-free place to work, he says, allowing him time to paint and raise his three children. He has moved locations within Theological College a few times, and the cost of a hair cut has increased from about $2 to $15, but otherwise little has changed.

Spadaro hopes that Theological College's barbering tradition, which dates back to its founding, will continue. "In the beginning, seminarians could only leave campus for two half days a week," he says of the original need for a barber. The seminary is now actively looking for a new tenant.

As for himself, he plans to stop cutting hair for the first time since World War II, when he helped out at his father's Capitol Hill shop, pressed into service due to manpower shortages.

After his last day, Spadaro will spend the summer in Sicily with his wife, Marisa, and plans to continue his painting.

Otherwise, he isn't certain about his plans but will remain grateful to and close to Theological College.

"They have been very, very generous to me, and treated me as a member of the seminary family," he says. "Perhaps I have always aspired to this lifestyle."

MEDIA: For more information, contact Katie Lee or Mary McCarthy in CUA's Office of Public Affairs at 202-319-5600.