A renowned Holy Cross priest, Father Richard William Timm, CSC, passed away at the Holy Cross House, on the campus of the University of Notre Dame, Indiana, USA on 11 September 2020 at the age of 97.
He was a legend of Bangladesh, an internationally renowned zoologist, discoverer of at least 250 nematodes, an educationist, a human development worker, a friend of Bangladesh, author of many books and publications, Magsaysay winner, and so on. Most importantly, he was a Catholic priest and member of the Congregation of Holy Cross.
Fr. Timm was born in Michigan City, Indiana, USA on 2 March 1923. He was ordained a priest on 8 June 1949. After completing all his studies including his PhD degree from Catholic University, Washington DC, USA, he came to Dhaka in November, 1952 and joined newly established Notre Dame College.
Right away he opened the Science department at the college and immediately after that the Debating Club for which he is called Father of the Debating Club. His purpose was to help students digest their knowledge through debates. Then he established the Science Club.
His textbook on biology was used all over the country for many years. He was given a special award for taking part in the Liberation War of Bangladesh. He was principal of Notre Dame College for the term 1970-71. During his time in the College he discovered more than 250 nematodes. Among them the Marine Nematode Timmia parva was named after Timm himself.
A zoologist who was spending most of his time in the laboratories and analyzing nematodes put aside everything to devote himself to the work of relief and rehabilitation after the great cyclone of 1970 and the Liberation War of 1971. He spent many months in Manpura Island in order to save and protect poor and destitute human lives by his own hands rather than looking at the bugs through microscope. That period totally changed his life. He returned to Dhaka but never had he gone back to the formal education in the College. He rather got involved in Caritas Bangladesh and simultaneously worked for Human Rights, and Justice & Peace. Realizing the need for non-government organizations (NGOs) he formed an association of them—Association of Development Agencies in Bangladesh (ADAB). Establishing human rights of the people was another important factor for him; so he organized Coordinating Council for Human Rights in Bangladesh (CCHRB). His opinions and articles were published in many places, both in Bangladesh and in other countries. For international understanding Fr. Timm was awarded Ramon Magsaysay Award in 1987, which is considered as Asia’s Nobel Prize.
As a strong believer and a faithful Catholic priest he served Bangladesh and the Church for 71 years. He edited and published the Dhaka Letter throughout his life in Bangladesh. He served as spiritual director, historian and chronicle writer of the Congregation of Holy Cross of which he was a member. One of the buildings at Notre Dame College has been named after Fr. Timm. He has written his own biography which works as a record of most of his life.