Deaths in the Family

Author: Notre Dame Magazine staff

RUDOLPH S. “RUDYBOTTEI, a chemistry professor who taught generations of students that the environment is precious and so are human beings, died April 23 at age 73. Professor Bottei taught environmental chemistry and freshman chemistry classes through the first part of spring semester before succumbing to cancer. He joined the faculty in 1955 and was named assistant chair of the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry in 1964. He published numerous research articles, served as a research director and held several summer faculty research appointments at the Argonne National Laboratory. But he was known foremost as a teacher and won several awards for his expertise. At this year’s commencement it was announced that he would receive Frank O’Malley Undergraduate Teaching Award posthumously. Bottei enlivened lectures with demonstrations of chemistry principals and interspersed his talks with wit and such practical advice as “don’t procrastinate” and “use it or lose it.” He worked hard to keep labs and teaching facilities in top shape and was looking forward to teaching in the planned Science Learning Center, which colleagues thought of as “his baby.” He made students work hard but was also fair. Many considered their cheerful, likeable professor a friend. He was known for reminding others of the Gospel imperative to help the least of one’s brothers and sometimes took up collections for the less fortunate. Among his many extra activities, he served as a faculty member in the Balfour-Hesburgh Summer Program for Minority Students.

GEORGE L. KELLY ’53 didn’t spend his whole life at Notre Dame or even his whole coaching career, but he became a fixture in the athletic department in the manner of the ultimate lifer, Moose Krause. The beloved and widely respected former football coach died in March at age 75. Like Krause, Kelly was laid to rest in Cedar Grove Cemetery within sight of the campus he loved. Kelly worked in the athletic department for 34 years, half of them as an assistant under head football coaches Ara Parseghian, Dan Devine and Gerry Faust. In 1986 he began serving in administrative capacities. He came to Notre Dame as a football prospect from Rockford, Illinois, but injuries shortened his career and he turned to coaching immediately after graduation. His first job was as an assistant at South Bend’s Saint Joseph’s High School. Three years later a former Notre Dame assistant coach invited him to join the staff he was assembling at Marquette. When Marquette gave up football in 1960, Kelly landed at Nebraska, later serving as an assistant to legendary Cornhuskers coach Bob Devaney. After the 1968 season Parseghian invited Kelly home to his alma mater to fill an opening for a linebackers coach. He never left. During Kelly’s tenure the Irish defense ranked among the nation’s top 10 six times, including 1974, when the team ranked first. His star players included team captains Bob Olson (1969), Greg Collins (1974), Bob Golic (1978) and Bob Crable (1980–81). He kept in close contact with many former players and even their parents, often entertaining them at his home when they were in town. For hundreds of football alumni from different eras, his was the familiar face they sought out in the athletic department, the thread of continuity. His many honors included, in 1997, the Moose Krause Award, given by the Notre Dame National Monogram Club to its member of the year. “We have lost a great one,” Parseghian told a reporter.

JOHN JAMES FITZGERALD, who taught philosophy at Notre Dame over parts of six decades and in retirement overcame personal tragedy to become a fondly remembered director of the University’s study-abroad program in France, passed away in February at age 90. FitzGerald was hired by ND President (later Cardinal) John O’Hara, CSC, in 1937, when O’Hara was on a tour of European centers of learning and FitzGerald, 25, was finishing up his doctorate at the University of Louvain in Belgium. During World War II he left campus to train at Harvard en route to serving as an officer with the Navy at Pearl Harbor and in North Africa and southern France. He served as director of the philosophy graduate program from 1965-71 and later as assistant vice president for advanced studies and instruction before retiring in 1977. The proper New Englander married a classic Southern belle, the former Patricia LaSalle of Baton Rouge, a librarian at Notre Dame, and they had one child, a daughter, Aline Marie. Tragedy befell the couple in 1975, when their daughter was killed in a bicycle accident after returning home from studying abroad in Innsbruck. Colleagues hoodwinked the grief-stricken retired professor into adding his name to a roster of candidates to take on the two-year directorship of the study-abroad program in Angers, France. The Fitzgeralds ended up hosting the program from 1978-80. Many student in those groups stayed in contact with the couple over the years (Patricia died in 2000), and two years ago they established a scholarship fund in the FitzGeralds’ names. After returning to South Bend, the emeritus professor taught an Arts and Letters Core course for several more years. Friends remember FitzGerald as a master of feigned knowledge. Often people were unable to tell if what he was saying was true or if, as was often the case, he was making it up. A precise and proper gentleman, he also perpetually dressed in a coat and tie, even while gardening (he’d wear an old set) or when he was living in a nursing home in his final years.