Deaths in the family

Author: Notre Dame Magazine staff

They thrived on the four-year cycle of students — the excitement and fears of freshmen, the bittersweet farewells of seniors. This past winter, Notre Dame had to bid farewell to six who helped lead students through that cycle of intellectual and personal growth; six who helped mold the university; six who could call Notre Dame “home.”

While here we present only highlights of their careers at the University, see the related articles for more personal remembrances: the words of those who shared in the joy of their companionship, the sorrow of their departure.

Frederick J. Crosson ’56Ph.D., the John J. Cavanaugh professor emeritus of humanities, died December 9 at age 83. A member of the faculty since 1953, Crosson directed the Program of Liberal Studies from 1964 to ’68, when he became the first lay dean of the College of Arts and Letters. In 1975 he returned to full-time teaching. He led Notre Dame’s Center for Philosophy of Religion from its founding in 1976 to ’84, and from 1976 to ’82 he also served as editor of Notre Dame’s Review of Politics.

Retired Air Force Colonel Frank A. Yeandel ’66Ph.D. died January 9 at age 90. Yeandel taught ROTC at Notre Dame from 1963 to ’66 and was then stationed in Germany for two years. He returned to campus in 1969, where he served as assistant dean in the College of Business Administration, helped establish the MBA program and taught business management classes. From 1977 until his retirement in 1989, he taught business classes at Saint Mary’s College. For 10 years he served as a docent at the Basilica of Sacred Heart.

Ralph McInerny, the Michael P. Grace professor of medieval studies and professor of philosophy emeritus, died January 29 at age 80. He was a member of the University’s faculty from 1955 to 2009. McInerny directed the University’s Medieval Institute from 1978 to ’85 and its Jacques Maritain Center from 1979 to 2006. The founder of Crisis magazine, he also wrote numerous scholarly books and papers and was an internationally known Thomist scholar. McInerny also wrote poetry and mystery novels, including the popular Father Dowling series.

Elizabeth Christman, an associate professor emerita of American studies, died February 4 at age 96. She worked at a literary agency for 23 years, until at midlife she switched directions to teaching. In 1968 she began to teach English and creative writing at DePauw University. For six summers between semesters at DePauw, she taught writing to Notre Dame graduate students, finally joining the Notre Dame faculty full time in 1976. Christman wrote numerous short stories and novels, including Ruined for Life and A Nice Italian Girl.

Robert E. Burns, professor emeritus of history, died February 5 at age 82. A member of the faculty from 1957 to ’95, he also served in a variety of administrative roles: acting editor of Review of Politics from 1967 to ’68; dean of the summer session from 1969 to ’71; associate dean of the College of Arts and Letters from 1971 to ’81, and acting dean from 1981 to ’83. As a dean, he initiated the London program for juniors in arts and letters. He was the author of the two-volume Being Catholic, Being American: The Notre Dame Story.

Gail Walton, director of music at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, died February 24 at age 55. She had served as director of music in the basilica since 1988, directing the Notre Dame Liturgical Choir as well as the Basilica Schola, which she founded in 1989. She also taught organ at Goshen College. Walton performed throughout the midwestern United States and frequently played dual recitals with her husband, organist and ND music Professor Craig Cramer.