By Tracey Dillard, MA ’98
Throughout his award-winning photography career spanning more than five decades, Ron St. Angelo has felt God’s hand leading him photo by photo.
From photographing professional sporting events to religious celebrations, St. Angelo credits God’s guidance in directing him to capture moments perfectly in order to reveal His beauty.
St. Angelo is best known for his legendary career as the official photographer for the Dallas Cowboys for three decades. Since mostly retiring from football, his focus has been on thanking God for his talents by sharing his gifts with the Church, donating a portion of his collection of photographs to the University of Dallas and the Diocese of Dallas.
His generosity has elicited the attention of Catholic media, including, most recently, an appearance on the July 7 and 8 episodes of EWTN’s “At Home with Jim & Joy.” EWTN is the world’s largest Catholic television network, broadcasting in 140 countries.
He told the audience, “God doesn’t need me to do this for Him because He doesn’t need anything … but He’s allowing me and helping me … because He knows how much I enjoy it.”
As an example of how God guides St. Angelo, he explained how he captured the beauty of the Cathedral of Guadalupe’s historic bell tower in Dallas.
As Providence would have it, the man’s office was in the exact location and with the perfect light St. Angelo needed.
“I got up right on the glass, framed it, and photographed it quickly,” he said. “The man needed to get back to work!”
What amazes St. Angelo most about this picture is there are no people or cars in it on a busy weekday afternoon in Dallas.
“It was a gift,” he said. “It’s as if God said, ‘Clear the set, Ron is going to take this photograph.’”
St. Angelo has felt God clearing the set throughout his career.
St. Angelo’s “Diocese Collection” was inducted into the Dallas Historical Society in August 2020. He’s published four books with the Diocese of Dallas and recently gifted them his digital collection, “The Historical Collection of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Dallas.”
St. Angelo has generously gifted this online collection to the University of Dallas as well. Additionally, St. Angelo has become a member of UD’s Legacy Society, indicating that he has directed a gift to the university in his estate plan.
From Sept. 9 to Oct. 8, 2021, selected prints from the collection, including “Cathedral Guadalupe,” will be on display in “The Ron St. Angelo Print Exhibit” in the Braniff Graduate Building.
In addition to his artwork, you may actually see St. Angelo on campus as a student studying philosophy and theology in the Braniff Graduate School of Liberal Arts. UD has become a big part of his life.
“I plan to take classes for the rest of my life,” said St. Angelo. “The professors at UD have illuminated the majesty of the Triune God.”
St. Angelo started classes at the University of Dallas five years ago. His first time on campus, however, was on a Monday night in October 1992.
At the time, he was in the middle of his stellar career with America’s Team as their official photographer. He wanted to take an aerial, time-lapse photo of Texas Stadium with its famous hole in the roof. He noticed a tall tower across the way so he went to investigate.
For those too young to remember, Texas Stadium stood a stone’s throw away from UD from 1971 to 2008; the campus was even used for game-day parking.
UD’s administration said that if St. Angelo could climb the Braniff Memorial Tower’s stairs, he was welcome to take the picture, which resulted in this classic masterpiece. He returned to the same location in April 2010 to photograph the stadium’s implosion.
St. Angelo started photographing the Cowboys in the late 1970s when Tom Landry was still at the helm. The legend became a father figure to St. Angelo and helped him become the Cowboys’ storyteller.
From home games to away games; from championship games and three Super Bowls to the construction of a new stadium; through the rise of Roger Staubach, Jimmy Johnson, Jerry Jones and the “Triplets” (Emmit Smith, Troy Aikman and Michael Irvin), St. Angelo told every story with his camera.
Many of his close friends are football legends. Through it all, St. Angelo remains humble and gives all the glory to God.
St. Angelo’s story begins in Beaumont, Texas, where he developed a love of photography in high school. Upon graduation, he served two combat tours in Vietnam with the U.S. Navy, which has recently made him 100% disabled from exposure to Agent Orange.
After his service, a girl broke his heart. “I found myself in desperate straits. I was at the bottom, asking God to help me because I couldn’t escape the pain,” he said.
Through this heartache, he grew closer to God and His Church. In His timing, St. Angelo met his beautiful wife, Joanna, on her 24th birthday.
In the beginning of their marriage, Joanna worked full time to support St. Angelo’s dream of pursuing photography as a career.
“She’s more wonderful than I ever could have imagined. We have a covenant relationship,” explained St. Angelo. “Through her, God showed me He will always bring good out of evil.”
The couple are original founding members of Mater Dei in Irving, Texas, and are patrons of the Carmelite Monastery in Dallas. In October, the happy couple will celebrate 42 years of marriage.