Deaths in the family

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Author: John Nagy ’00M.A.

REX J. RAKOW ’82M.S., whose 22 years of service as the director of the Notre Dame Security Police were marked by the same humility and grace with which he fought his 18-month battle with cancer, died in March at his home in Granger, Indiana, surrounded by friends and family. He was 55.

Rakow, a Mishawaka, Indiana, native, served under three presidents of the University, having joined the campus security staff as assistant director in 1979. He coordinated security details for the visits of nine U.S. presidents and 11 foreign heads of state, building a wealth of experience that he shared generously with colleagues as a leader of local and international professional organizations, as an instructor and as a friend. Phillip Johnson ’81, ’99MBA, Rakow’s successor at NDSP who remembers first meeting Rakow when Johnson was an undergraduate, spoke of carrying on his mentor’s example of “servant leadership.”

That example earned Rakow numerous awards and honors, including the Sagamore of the Wabash, the highest bestowed by the governor of Indiana, a 2006 outstanding campus service award from student government and honorary induction into the Monogram Club. Some honors were informal. When in 2005 campus security moved its headquarters into the brand new Hammes Mowbray Hall, a building designed in a revival of the familiar Collegiate Gothic style, students affectionately dubbed it “Castle Rex.”

NAOMI M. MEARA, the Nancy R. Dreux professor of psychology emerita, died in February at South Bend’s Saint Joseph Medical Center after a brief illness. She was 70. A native of Columbus, Ohio, Meara taught nearly 20 years at Notre Dame before her retirement, having joined the faculty in 1986 and served as chair of the psychology department from 1988 to 1991. Throughout her tenure, Meara mentored countless undergraduate and graduate students as the still-young department, founded in the mid-1960s, established itself within the campus community.

Meara’s soft-spoken and selfless leadership style, widely admired by colleagues at Notre Dame and across her discipline, flowed from her nature as well as her scholarship. A specialist in counseling language and the application of virtue ethics in the training of psychologists, Meara was according to friends especially proud of her role in supporting the advancement of women in the profession.

LAWRENCE H.N. LEE, professor emeritus of aerospace and mechanical engineering, died in March at his home in South Bend after a long illness. He was 84. A native of Shanghai, China, Lee joined the Notre Dame faculty in 1950. A specialist in research design and metal manufacture, he is remembered as an innovative and brilliant researcher and teacher. He retired from the University in 1993 to enjoy his family and such hobbies as the cultivation of orchids, photography, golf and watching Notre Dame football.

Notre Dame’s president emeritus, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, was a friend and frequent visitor at Lee’s home and bedside during his final days. “It’s a long way from Professor Lee’s birth in Shanghai to his death at Notre Dame,” Father Hesburgh said. “His life included 43 wonderful years during which he blessed this University and its students with dedicated service, and the field of engineering with research breakthroughs. We’re all grateful for the heritage he left and confident that he now rests in peace.”

WILLIAM B. LAWLESS JR. ’44J.D., dean of the Law School from 1968 to 1971, died April 23 in San Francisco from complications related to diabetes. He was 84. His distinguished and energetic career in law, politics and academia began at Notre Dame during the Second World War when he served as the editor-in-chief of the Notre Dame Lawyer while completing his law degree. Naval service took him to the South Pacific before he returned home to Buffalo, New York, where he entered private practice, joined the Democratic Party and, in 1956, was elected to the City Council. He served eight years as a New York State Supreme Court Justice, leaving to take the post at Notre Dame.

As dean, Lawless supported the launch of the popular London Law Program, which is the only study abroad program for law students accredited by both the Association of American Law Schools and the American Bar Association. The school doubled in size and celebrated its centennial during his tenure.

Family members remembered him as a witty and compassionate storyteller who carried a love for teaching into subsequent academic appointments in California and Nevada.

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