Death in the Family

Author: Notre Dame Magazine

Vt1k8426 Matt Cashore ’94

Jeffrey Kantor spent his boyhood years in northern Minnesota, growing up near Rainy Lake and Voyageurs National Park, environs that instilled in him a love of the natural world and an intellectual curiosity that lasted throughout his life. As an adult, he spent summers there with his family and volunteered his time and his knack for explaining complex concepts to help residents better understand water flow within the region.

Kantor’s natural gifts made him a rising star in his chosen discipline, chemical engineering, even as an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota and at Princeton, from which he joined the Notre Dame faculty after completing his doctorate in 1981. In his research, he was an early proponent of using real-time modeling, enabled by advances in computing power, to provide better control of chemical processes.

Kantor’s pioneering administrative career began in 1995 as chair of the Department of Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering. The following year he was appointed vice president and associate provost, a role in which he established the University’s web administration office and became Notre Dame’s first chief information officer.

In 2001, Kantor became dean of the Graduate School and vice president of research. He was an advocate for sharing discoveries in science and engineering among Indiana’s research universities and a leader in the effort to establish what became Innovation Park, the University’s entrepreneurial center on East Angela Boulevard.

“Knowledge is no good if you just sit on it,” Kantor said at the time. He had just been appointed to the board of the $50 million 21st Century Research and Technology Fund, designed to spur commercialization of advanced technologies.

Generous and humble by nature and an enthusiastic presence in the classroom, Kantor was a strong leader and devoted teacher. He had a habit of relentlessly studying a situation in search of better ways to approach it. In 2006, he stepped down from his administrative duties to return full time to teaching and research.

“Jeff was really devoted to Notre Dame and trying to make this place the best it could be,” said Alexander Dowling, an associate professor of chemical and biomolecular engineering. “He would get really excited about things. He’d dive right in.”

That devotion extended to Fighting Irish athletics; that enthusiasm inflected his relationships as husband, father, uncle, cousin and reliable friend. He was handy, a board game player, an avid fisherman, a gifted photographer who captured sunsets, wildlife and the changing ecosystems of Rainy Lake. His photographs appeared in USA Today, and he contributed many images of landscapes and the night sky to the Voyageurs Conservancy.

Kantor, 69, died July 12 at his home in Rainy Lake. He is survived by his wife of 46 years, Diane Bradley-Kantor, two sons and a granddaughter.