Eileen Selmi Masterson, 78, of Wayne, the one-time "Voice of Villanova" who greeted callers to the university, died of heart disease May 20 at Bryn Mawr Hospital.

For almost two decades, Mrs. Masterson worked at Villanova University, most recently as an assistant manager in telecommunications until she retired in 2000.

It was her distinctive voice - deep and sultry, like a "Lauren Bacall voice," said her son, Thomas A. Masterson - that was heard on the voice mail system and that was how she got the nickname.

She also worked as a secretary in the psychology department and an administrator responsible for dormitory assignments, he said.

Born on Jan. 11, 1930, she grew up in Overbrook, the second of three children of William and Eleanor Selmi. After graduating from Friends Central School in 1947, she attended Stetson University in DeLand, Fla.

In 1953, she married Thomas A. Masterson, who served as a judge in U.S. District Court in Philadelphia from 1967 to 1973. They had five children. Mrs. Masterson was a Cub Scout den mother, PTA president for the Rosemont School of the Holy Child, a volunteer at Lankenau Hospital and a Democratic committeewoman.

Later, she got a real-estate license and sold houses for many years. She also earned a practical nurse certificate and an associate degree in psychology from Villanova.

Mrs. Masterson was known for her sense of humor, meticulous penmanship and stylish dress. "She was tall and thin and just had an eye for things that looked very elegant on her," her son said. "When we were growing up, she made sure the five of us looked well put together as a family."

She also sewed, making Christmas stockings for many of her grandchildren.

Besides her son, Mrs. Masterson is survived by daughters Lisa Hobson of Malvern, Victoria Magagna of Worcester, Pa., Eva Sanchez of San Diego and Claudia Kiernan of Phoenixville; a brother; a sister; 17 grandchildren and one greatgrandchild.

A viewing will be held from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. today at Alleva Funeral Home, 1724 E. Lancaster Ave. in Paoli. A funeral Mass will be said at 10 a.m. tomorrow at St. Thomas of Villanova Church on Villanova's campus. Interment is private.

Contact staff writer Lini S. Kadaba at 215-854-5606 or Lkadaba@phillynews.com.