Deaths in the family

Author: The editors

Many knew James A. Roemer ’51, ’55J.D. as the dean of students, depicted in a campus comic strip as a helmet-wearing enforcer of rules and regulations, the authoritarian who dispensed creative penalties for various transgressions and who in 1984 confronted a mob that had stormed the Main Building to protest new alcohol policies. Others knew him as a South Bend attorney who would serve Notre Dame as its general counsel from 1972 to 1975. Still others knew him as the University’s director of community relations, actively engaged at the grassroots level to ensure that Notre Dame practiced in South Bend what it pronounced on campus.

But those who knew Jim Roemer — from those who broke rules to those striving to uphold God’s kingdom in urban neighborhoods — also understood him to be a man of compassion and humor, of justice and mercy. His imposing stature was betrayed by a friendly and humble heart; his life of action was softened by his gentle, amiable ways. For 10 years in the 1960s he served on the board of the Neighborhood Study Help Program (sending Notre Dame students to tutor in area schools). He was later involved at the Center for Social Concerns and the Robinson Community Learning Center, was president of the Northeast Neighborhood Center, initiated the local National Sports program (bringing hundreds of inner-city kids to campus for summer athletic and academic activities), helped start a South Bend Dismas House, and helped found the local Christmas in April program (now Rebuilding Together), a program he took to 33 U.S. cities. As liaison between Notre Dame and the local community from 1984 until his retirement in 2002, he made friends across old divides and forged bonds across class and culture.

Romer died in August at age 83 in California and, despite the time devoted to his community and alma mater, may have been best known for his love and devotion to family. Survivors include his wife, Mary Ann, five children and 13 grandchildren.

An internationally recognized pioneer in electrical engineering, James Massey ’56 served his alma mater from 1962 until 1977 and became its first endowed faculty chair. He died on June 16 at the age of 79 in Copenhagen, Denmark, after a fight with colon cancer.

Upon graduation from Notre Dame, Massey was named valedictorian of his class, topping his salutatorian twin brother, Gerald ’56, by .4 percentage points. He went on to serve as a communications officer in the U.S. Marine Corps for three years before earning his doctorate in electrical engineering from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. At the time, his field of information theory was relatively new and was viewed as a dead end. Advisers encouraged him to study something else because “all the interesting problems had either been solved or were too difficult to ever be solved,” Massey said in a speech in 1972 when he was named as the Frank M. Freimann Professor of Electrical Engineering. But he tackled those challenging problems in the fields of coding theory and cryptography for groups such as NASA and the National Science Foundation and was given substantial grants to look for codes that would improve the accuracy and efficiency of communications from as far away as outer space.

While honored for his research, which included the development of the Berlekamp-Massey algorithm and the invention of block ciphers IDEA and SAFER, his teaching also earned notice. In his 15 years at Notre Dame he received awards for the distinguished teaching of freshmen, for service to the University and an award from the American Society for Engineering Education for “excellence in the instruction of engineering students.” He left ND in 1977 for a brief stint at UCLA before accepting a position at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich, Switzerland, where he remained until retirement. He is survived by his wife, Lis, four sons, two stepsons and several grandchildren.

While watching the Notre Dame soccer teams run sprints, Dennis Grace would yell, “Life’s a battle, and then you die.” What he meant, says friend and former player Dan Coughlin ’85, who wrote the eulogy for Grace’s funeral, is that you must work hard through the last minute. Years later, the saying was fitting for Grace, as he spent the end of his life battling stomach cancer. He died on July 5 at his home in Elkhart, Indiana, at the age of 60.

Grace served as Notre Dame’s second varsity men’s soccer coach from 1984 until ’89 and was the first women’s coach during the 1988 and 1989 seasons. During his tenure, the 1987 men’s team took down Indiana, a consistent powerhouse, for the first time, while the 1988 squad made the program’s first NCAA Championship appearance. He continually bulked up the schedule to challenge his players. His career record at ND is 101-54-15 (.638).

He began his own college career at Penn State Behrend before transferring to Indiana University, where he would earn two letters as a striker. After graduation, he coached at Bloomsburg State, Indiana State-Evansville and Tri-State University before he landed his position at Notre Dame, where he remained until 1989.

He is survived by his sons, Christopher and Michael.