Palladino was born and raised in Albuquerque, New Mexico. He joined the Trappist order at 17 and deepened his knowledge of letter forms at the Abbey of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Lafayette, Oregon, where he served as scribe, choirmaster, and bookbinder. Leaving the order in 1968 he joined Professor Lloyd Reynolds at Reed College a year later, instructing students in calligraphy.
It was at Reed College that he met and influenced Steve Jobs. The soon to be Apple co-founder had dropped out but hung around campus popping in on Palladino's class.
“I learned about serif and sans serif typefaces, about varying the amount of space between different letter combinations, about what makes great typography great,” Mr. Jobs said in a 2005 commencement address at Stanford. “It was beautiful, historical, artistically subtle in a way that science can’t capture, and I found it fascinating.”
“Ten years later, when we were designing the first Macintosh computer, it all came back to me. And we designed it all into the Mac. It was the first computer with beautiful typography. If I had never dropped in on that single course in college, the Mac would have never had multiple typefaces or proportionally spaced fonts. And since Windows just copied the Mac, it’s likely that no personal computer would have them.”
When asked about Jobs in a 2013 interview with The Catholic Sentinel, Palladino recalled, “He was most pleasant.”
Despite his influence on the personal computer, Father Palladino never owned, or even once used, a computer.
"Robert understood the importance of silence, of slowing down and paying close attention; values that often get drowned out in the din of contemporary American culture," said Calligraphy Initiative Coordinator Gregory MacNaughton ’89, who now leads a weekly scriptorium on campus. "He found it amusing that he would be remembered primarily as the calligraphy teacher of Steve Jobs, especially since Robert did not own and never used a computer ('The letters are so ugly on the screen.') However, Robert was a prolific correspondent and a handwritten letter from him was always a testament to his immense kindness and generosity as well as a transcendent example of what can be accomplished when the human mind and the human hand are united in the making of beautiful, ordinary things."
A funeral mass for Father Palladino is scheduled for 11 a.m., Friday, March 11, at St Mary's Cathedral, 1716 NW Davis Street, Portland.