Like a macabre line-up of dominoes, one after another the giants of Notre Dame fell. Dec. 9: Frederick Crosson, program of liberal studies. January 29: Ralph McInerny, medieval studies. February 4: Elizabeth Christman, American studies. February 5: Robert Burns, history.
Their service to their University stretched over decades. Their learned papers and books brought light to the shadows. Their gifts to students were immeasurable.
This dark surfeit of deaths reminded me of something amazing that happened as newspapers began losing their readers. The savvy ones found a rather morbid way to make a little money: Instead of the short, here’s-the-facts list of dates and survivors, many began, for a fee, allowing relatives and friends to write obituary copy.
Suddenly the death pages of newspapers came alive.
- Related articles
- Pondering the truth: A remembrance of Professor Crosson
- Ralph McInerny had our number
- Miss Christman, elegant and gracious
- Bob Burns: May his memory be cherished
Often, even recognizing the sadness and loss behind the words, these fond farewells can make me smile. Someone writes: “She enjoyed gardening, traveling and gambling.” Or “Les was a workaholic who loved his family dearly.” Another says, “Your education was limited but your heart was golden and I am so proud to be your son.”
So it seems only right that the passing of the giants of Notre Dame be best celebrated by those who knew them, those who go beyond the facts to the heart of memory.
Notre Dame Magazine cannot replace the loss of these much-loved professors. But we can offer the words of those who shared in the joy of their companionship, the sorrow of their departure. And we hope that you, too, will share your thoughts in a virtual world of comforting wakes.
Carol Schaal is managing editor of Notre Dame Magazine.