Deaths in the family

Author: John Nagy ’00M.A.

Rev. James L. Riehle, CSC, ’49, ’78MSA, the longtime athletics chaplain who led the Notre Dame Monogram Club for a quarter century and was described by his close friend, President Emeritus Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, ’39 as “the greatest friend our athletes had,” died October 29, 2008, after an illness. He was 83.

Ordained to the priesthood in 1964 at age 39, Riehle soon made an impact on student life and the administration at the University, taking in 1967 the post of dean of students in which he served for six years. Riehle’s position took on a sharper profile as student protests of the Vietnam War escalated on campus, but Hesburgh credits his old lieutenant with helping Notre Dame through that “fairly rough time” with characteristic firmness and quiet dignity.

Such were the personal traits that Riehle brought with him in 1966 to the assignment for which he is most remembered, as chaplain of the athletics department — most visibly in his ministry to the football team.

“Jim had star power. His was a distinguished sideline presence,” Rev. Paul Doyle, CSC, ’65, ’75M.Div. remembered at Riehle’s wake at Moreau Seminary. Riehle played the role so persuasively that he led the team through a pre-game Hail Mary in the 1993 film Rudy. His acting career revived some years later when he appeared in an Adidas ad with Joe Montana ’79, reminiscing during a walk across campus about the 1979 Cotton Bowl win over Houston. The ad set up Riehle’s memorable deadpan, “Now what did you ever end up doing after you left college?”

Always, the behind-the-scenes work mattered more: the numberless holy medals of the Virgin Mary he passed out to athletes, the gameday Masses, his tireless efforts to bring teams to the Grotto. “He was quick to defend, to uphold the good name of Notre Dame,” Doyle said.

After earning a master’s degree in institutional administration in 1978, Riehle took on the leadership of the Monogram Club. His honorary membership in the club was something he especially treasured after his retirement in 2002.

All the while Riehle maintained a campus presence. He was the rector of Pangborn Hall from 1973 to ’85, and he joined in many lunches with the Algonquin Club, a legendary collection of faculty and administrators that met weekly at the old University Club.

Many of those whose names are most closely associated with Notre Dame in the national mind gathered to honor and mourn Father Jim in the days after he died. Ara Parseghian, Gerry Faust, Lou Holtz, Charlie Weis, Digger Phelps, Mike Brey and Muffet McGraw served as honorary pallbearers alongside former athletic directors Dick Rosenthal and Kevin White.

When former Irish coach Bob Davie sent his on-air greetings to Father Jim, “a great priest and friend,” during the broadcast of the Oct. 25 Washington game, Riehle was in the emergency room of South Bend’s Saint Joseph Regional Medical Center.

He is survived by his sister and stepbrother as well as several nieces and nephews.

Bernard J. Kilbride, professor emeritus of finance, died May 26, 2008, in San Antonio, Texas, following a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. He was 80.

Kilbride, always “Bernie” to his friends among faculty and former students, taught at the University from 1963 to 1985. He is remembered as a tough but fair professor with a quick wit. As chair of the finance department in the late 1960s and early ’70s, Kilbride helped lay the groundwork for a nascent business computing program. He led students to Britain, France and Germany to help them become familiar with European business practices.

Years after leaving Notre Dame to serve as chief financial officer for the Sisters of Charity of the Incarnate Word in San Antonio, Kilbride continued to receive cherished updates on the careers and families of former students. He enjoyed watching Fighting Irish football, but family members attest that, having been born and raised in Maine, Kilbride kept closest tabs on his first ND sporting love, the hockey team.

Kilbride received his undergraduate degree from Saint Francis Xavier College in Nova Scotia, a master’s degree in business at Columbia University and a Ph.D. from the University of Texas. He retired in 1994.

He is survived by his five children, who were with him when he died, and his 10 grandchildren. His wife, the former Avis Chamberlain of Old Town, Maine, an active member of the Notre Dame community during the family’s 20-plus years in South Bend, died in January 2008 in San Antonio after an automobile accident.