Letters to the Editor

Colleagues and friends bid farewell to the retiring Kerry Temple ’74, a quiet man of many words.

Author: Notre Dame Magazine

Former Notre Dame Magazine editor Kerry Temple sits at his desk surrounded by papers. Barbara Johnston

Kerry Temple ’74 retired as editor in January after 28 years sitting in this magazine’s top chair and 43 as a member of its staff.

Succeeding his great friend and mentor Walt Collins ’51, Kerry inherited a legacy stretching back to the likes of Dick Conklin ’59M.A., and founding editor Ron Parent ’74M.A. — and, from the days before Notre Dame Magazine, such gifted and undersung progenitors as Tom Stritch ’34, ’35M.A., Richard Sullivan ’30 and Ed Fischer ’37. As editor, Kerry extended a great Notre Dame tradition: a deep belief in the alchemical power of the word to address the world’s mysteries, failures and hopes, and to prompt new resolve in reader’s hearts and minds. He also produced several volumes’ worth of world-class nonfiction writing — expressions of his poetic heart and a probative mind given to curiosity without judgment.

No doubt Kerry, the antithesis of the rah-rah Notre Dame man, is rolling his eyes at being placed upon a pedestal. The fact remains he was a champion of what he took to be the highest ideals of Notre Dame and its people: authentic humility, service to the downtrodden, hope for humanity and the planet, devotion to justice and hunger for peace.

To understand how well Kerry himself embodied those traits, read these tributes — a representative but only partial sample — from magazine contributors, colleagues and other longtime friends. Find the full outpouring at magazine.nd.edu/kerrytemple.

The cumulative impact of Kerry’s counsel and craftsmanship chronicled here celebrates a humble man who spent his life’s work hunkered over words — and in that painstaking labor forged a legacy that will long resonate from these pages.

— the editors


Paths of discovery

As a writer still learning the ropes at age 69, I treasure the example Kerry has provided. In his own writings, he maintains a tone of discovering, not judging. This is what he saw. This is what it may mean. What do I think about that?

A current mood in our world wants us to memorize and repeat doctrine, to avoid other paths that are open wide. Instead, Kerry leaves space for a reader like me to find my own footing.

This is a tone I see throughout the magazine he has guided. Writers of all sorts encounter eyewitnesses to life’s mysteries, near and far. Their testimonies are clearly stated, often nudging me to think about them long after my reading is done. The book doesn’t close.

His example reminds us writers that we all start with a blank page. Every word we put on it has kinfolk worth knowing as well.

Ken Bradford ’76 is a former reporter and editor at the South Bend Tribune.


A human touch at the keyboard

Writing allows mediocre people who are patient and industrious to revise their stupidity, to edit themselves into something like intelligence. Paraphrased, that’s a Kurt Vonnegut quote that Kerry Temple shared with me on the first day of my internship at Notre Dame Magazine.

I don’t think Kerry was suggesting I was mediocre. Maybe I was, but he hardly knew me. I hadn’t even interviewed me for the role, as I lived in Europe until a few weeks before he shared that quote. But the insight helped me figure out what I would do at the magazine. And I think it’s a good way to look at Kerry, too. Not that he’s mediocre, either!

Kerry is, however, unassuming. His kindness shines through immediately, as is true of all the people with whom he has surrounded himself on the magazine staff. He doesn’t make you feel like he’s smarter than you, even though that may well be true. But when Kerry writes, I am completely enveloped (though sometimes I don’t automatically know what to take away from what he said — at least not consciously).

One story that comes to mind from time to time concerns foxes and a childhood friend who died much too young. On the surface, there was no connection between these two subjects, and the piece was really two stories under one headline. Seven years after it was published, I think about how Kerry ended a paragraph — and really, the story — with a one-word sentence: “Fox.” (You can’t do that, Kerry.) Yet, in doing so, he somehow pulled the two stories together.

Before I met Kerry, I wouldn’t have seen the point of writing like that. Or even on such topics. I wouldn’t have worried about what Kurt Vonnegut had to say, because I was a facts-first reporter who happened to use writing as a medium. Kerry wrote about seeing a fox he can’t say for sure wasn’t make-believe.

He taught me that, if I give it enough time — it also helps to have a good editor, which Kerry is — even I can write something that may not matter in the fast-paced news cycle but matters to being human. Or, as is often true for Kerry’s writing, to the soul of a university.

Rasmus S. Jorgensen is a reporter for Missouri Lawyers Media.


The maestro

Not to get too grand about this or anything, but I owe my professional life to Kerry Temple.

As a writing teacher, he turned a nascent interest into a full-blown ambition, embodying the fun and fulfillment — and never denying the frustrations — of working with words and ideas.

As a mentor, he heard me out over hand-wringing and venting lunches, offering wise reassurance, and he put in a good word on my behalf whenever I needed it.

As an editor, he nurtured my work and tolerated my hang-ups with compassion, even commiseration, as if our conversations about this maddening craft were between equals.

I can tell you that he did all these things and much more as maestro of Notre Dame Magazine for more than half of its existence. The weird thing is, I can’t tell you how.

Not one for trendy jargon or — shudder — branding, Kerry espouses no philosophy, attaches no particular significance to his way of doing things. His easygoing modesty belies his stature in the eyes of his staff, colleagues across campus, and fellow writers and editors. If he were forced to absorb all this praise out loud, he would literally start sweating from embarrassment.

Since I started working here, witnessing Kerry’s deft assembly of each issue has not cleared up the mystery of how he does it. As I write this, the editors are reviewing proofs, the last chance to catch any mistakes before they’re printed for posterity. For me, proofing also offers an opportunity to marvel at Kerry the composer, arranger and conductor.

The three-month production process can be cacophonous. Some ideas develop; some dissipate. A few writers meet deadlines; others are deadbeats (guilty). Each story undergoes fine-tuning to hit just the right tone and harmonize with the others. And every feature includes grace notes in Kerry’s own (uncredited) words, such as a headline that evokes and elevates, a masterful use of the form that another editor once described as a cross between poetry and a crossword puzzle.

With the lightest touch on the baton, he brings melodious order to the commotion of magazine-making. When it’s all printed and bound and mailed, and he should take a bow, he instead sweeps his hands toward the orchestra.

Kerry kept his impending retirement as quiet as he could, but he had to endure a few rounds of applause. At the official farewell reception that he needed goading to agree to, he asked to turn down the heat in the room to stop the sweat trickling at his temples.

Tributes are not his thing. He believes, in all sincerity, that the compliments are hyperbolic and, anyway, beside the point. What’s on the page is what matters to him. That, and fantasy baseball.

I haven’t even talked about his writing. Most Notre Dame Magazine readers recognize that aspect of his work, if not the behind-the-scenes subtleties of editing.

In one recent literary magic trick, Kerry wrote about . . . things, which sounds like a parody of a story idea. To do it in earnest is the writing equivalent of that guy who walked a tightrope between the World Trade Center towers.

The inspiration was this thing: a paper-mache sculpture of a man impaled on a fountain pen, Kerry’s thoughts unspooling from there into a mediation on the meaning of objects and the memories they conjure. A friend of mine told me that essay made him cry.

I’ve known Kerry for more than 30 years. He’s taught me more than I could quantify. But that? There are, ironically enough, no words to describe that.

Jason Kelly ’95 is editor of this magazine.


About people at heart

As I set out to write this, on a gray morning in late September, the days winding down toward something I really don’t want to think about, Kerry Temple is still within my field of vision. He’s sitting right over there — maybe 50 feet away? — huddled over his keyboard, tapping out a message to someone, or maybe savoring a story idea about which he hasn’t let on yet.

People walk in and out of his small, glass-walled office maybe a dozen times a day. A joke floated around a few years ago about Kerry needing to make himself more approachable. Some joke. I see a man who readily sets things aside for the personal encounter, who considers quickly but carefully whether to take a phone call that would interrupt your conversation before picking up. Whatever he’s thinking about — and what hasn’t he thought about? — whatever’s on his mind, light or heavy, some wonderment or some tedious administrative obligation, his eyes brighten in the presence of other human beings. Near-always with warmth and welcome, often with humor, often with a fleet meditation he might or might not share, unfailingly with respect, with genuine consideration. Even when you’re not exactly the first person he’d hoped to see.

See, as much as he loves the words and ideas, the stories and memories, this work of writing and editing Notre Dame Magazine has for Kerry always been about people. I’m pretty sure that’s his secret.

It’s reassuring to see him in that office, to expect his next editor’s column, to anticipate a promised Kerry Temple feature that might nominally contemplate the sun or the earth or baseball cards or his students, but which is always, always about the workings of the human heart. It’s reassuring to watch that creative vision unfold from one issue to the next, to climb aboard the toy train of some iridescent idea he’s announced with boyish awe and curiosity, banging the drums of his staff’s enthusiasms, and to see where the fool thing is chugging off to, certain it’ll be more than worth the trip.

Never once in my 17 years working for Kerry has the coalbox of that creative engine gone cold. Quite the contrary. Throw a global pandemic and lockdown at him and you’d get the South Bend issue: more writers, more reporting, more stories, more pages, more moving pieces, more fun and more good writing than we’d ever offered readers before. I thought he was crazy — and he was — but he was also clear-eyed from Day 1. And he was right.

The world needs hope? Goodness? Silver linings threading upward through the gloom? How many times did Kerry feel it six months ahead of time, delivering just as the rest of us needed it most?

Above all, it's reassuring to know Kerry will read your flailing prose before anyone else does, to know he’ll know how to help you catch the wind just right so your kite can fly, worthy now of the eyes and time of everyone else.

If you’ve met him, if you’ve talked to him, if you’ve written for him, if you’ve read him, you know what I mean. But if you still think it’s about the words, I understand. He doesn’t write beautifully. He writes beauty. He writes like he’s talking to you and never hits a wrong note. Just incredible. He wrote, about foxes, to take one instance from a thousand:

I stood there for a while, knowing they were gone, said a prayer of gratitude, and turned to head back home. Then noticed, under the streetlamp down the hill and maybe 20 yards away, one of the two had stopped and looked back at me. It was a mere silhouette in the light-glow, but it stood there for a while, sort of taking me in — a pause in the cosmos, a moment in time, a look across borders between this world and that. Fox.

But now read what he wrote about Dick Conklin ’59M.A. or Jim Frick ’51, ’72Ph.D. or Tom Suddes ’71 or Jim Gibbons ’53 — each one a Notre Dame giant for whom Kerry felt immense gratitude and to whom he has bid farewell in these pages. Read one of his Thanksgiving thank-yous to his Notre Dame professors or his basketball coach in Shreveport, or to Mr. Burke, the high school English teacher who, in a moment most of us would have mistakenly brushed over, gave Kerry a gift of soul he never forgot.

Read Kerry’s story about being Father Ted Hesburgh’s driver on a daytrip into Amish country, a tribute that soars above all the others. Then you tell me what Kerry is about.

Now, as he retires, Kerry deserves a Kerry Temple to write about him. He gets all of us, doing our best, groping in search of words that capture one facet or another of this quiet, good-hearted, generous man who yet has so much to say, ever a story to tell. And every word speaks gratitude, gratitude, gratitude.

John Nagy ’00M.A. is managing editor of this magazine.


He made you wonder

Sleep on the hard ground. Pee in the woods. Haul a heavy backpack wherever you go. Swat those pesky mosquitoes. And always keep watch for nature’s less friendly fauna.

Backcountry hiking — Kerry Temple’s dream vacation.

I am not averse to outdoor fun, and except for being swarmed by black flies at a campsite in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, I’ve enjoyed tent camping at several state parks. But days of trekking on nature’s pathways, despite the majesty waiting to be discovered, isn’t for me.

When Kerry writes about his travels through the natural world, however, I shake my head in wonder. An impeccable wordsmith, he can turn a glimpse of a patch of poison ivy or an algae-encrusted pond or a sneaky slithering snake into a lyrical musing on God’s sometimes peculiar glory.

One walk through the woods by Saint Mary’s College, for instance, evoked this remembrance:

In the quiet here I have listened to the air rushing through the wings of geese, have watched the stilt-legged blue herons sniping fish in the shallows along the riverbank, and have learned that each twilight sky is a singular expression of light and life, of cloudscape and sun. I’ve come to appreciate the little things here — the blaze of a cardinal against the blue-white of a winter day, the smell of the earth after a summer rain, the nervous irascibility of opossums.

Through his years at Notre Dame Magazine, when he returned to his workaday cubicle after a trip to the Southwest, Kerry continued to mine his trailside wanderings for essays about how the lure and lore of nature called forth such disparate recollections as a pickup basketball game, a march across the Arctic, or a childhood afternoon playing with plastic soldiers.

It’s difficult to predict where the paths he traverses might lead, but it is always a joy to roam with him. Although Kerry’s speech patterns don’t reveal his Shreveport, Louisiana, roots, his essays announce a person rooted in nature, a man who cherishes what God has provided.

And sometimes, his philosophical reflections can elicit a quiet tear, a reminder of life’s bittersweet promises, a sigh of acceptance:

I would like to die outdoors. I would like to die with the sun on my face — the way it feels at the moment its warmth takes you by surprise, coming from far away, and you shut your eyes and lift your face to catch the sunbeams finding you. A touch of gentle heat, a warm wash of sunlight on your upturned face. A cosmic anointing.

Kerry and I are both of an age when that cosmic anointing no longer seems remote. And yet, his gentle writings soothe my soul.

Carol Schaal ’91M.A. wrote and edited at this magazine from 1986 to 2017.


A talented and steady hand

I’ve often said over the past three decades that Kerry is arguably the very best writer at Notre Dame. I say “arguably,” because I also have worked closely with Denny Moore ’70 and Mike Garvey ’74, superb writers in their own right. All three have combined a wonderful way with words, a careful editing eye, and deep knowledge of and appreciation for Notre Dame.

I also have often said that Notre Dame Magazine is — no argument — the very best publication in higher education. That speaks to not just Kerry’s editorial prowess but to his managing skills as well.

We have been fortunate to have such a talented and steady hand on what I consider our finest communications channel, and we will miss all he has brought to his alma mater.

Dennis Brown is assistant vice president for issues management at Notre Dame

An illustration of a boy in a t-shirt and shorts lying on the grass on a summer day
‘I first learned of the passing of time from summer. The jubilation of bounteous freedom stretched from the final days of May across an infinite expanse of joyous play and doing nothing.’ — A Summer Night, Summer 2011. Illustration by Andrew R. Wright

A publisher of writers

Kerry Temple was not just the great editor of Notre Dame Magazine, but its publisher. And, as was said of the great publisher A.S. Frere, Kerry didn’t publish articles, he published writers. They became his friends and rigorous intellectual compatriots.

In his dedication to The Comedians, Graham Greene wrote of Frere as many thought of Kerry: “When you were the head of a great publishing firm I was one of your most devoted authors, and, when you ceased to be a publisher, I, like many other writers on your list, felt it was time to find another home. This is the first novel I have written since then, and I want to offer it to you after more than thirty years of association — a cold word to represent all the advice (which you never expected me to take), all the encouragement (which you never realized I needed), all the affection and fun of the years we shared.”

Paul Browne retired in 2021 as vice president for public affairs and communications at Notre Dame.


Heartfelt gratitude

Dear Kerry,

I join my sincere and heartfelt gratitude to many other people’s to thank you and to wish you the very best as you begin a new chapter of your life.

You have and will always have my utmost gratitude for encouraging me to write. I am grateful to you beyond words.

I want to wish you the very best as you prepare for this next chapter in your life. Who knows where God will take you and what God will do with you? One thing for sure: God will accompany you every step of the way. The same God who brought you to Notre Dame Magazine many years ago will accompany you in the next stage of your life.

You have helped to make Notre Dame known all over the world. I constantly run into people who reference this article or that story that they read in the magazine. You have truly advanced the mission of Notre Dame.

My encounters with you over the years have been filled with grace. Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Kerry.

May God bless you and keep you today and always.

Rev. Joseph V. Corpora, CSC, ’76, ’83 M.Div., is associate director of the Transformational Leaders Program at Notre Dame and a frequent contributor to this magazine.


Intelligence, curiosity, warmth, wit, humanity

A few years back, one of my students wrote a beautiful essay for my University Seminar class. On a whim, I sent it to Notre Dame Magazine. I had no expectations it would be published, or even that I would hear back. I had received enough rejections of my own writing to know that editors were busy people — and not always the nurturing type.

To my surprise, I heard back from the editor, a man named Kerry Temple, that same day. Even more surprising, he wrote a wonderfully gracious note saying how much he liked the essay and that he wished to publish it. (“After some editing.” He is an editor, after all.) I was delighted, and my student was even more so.

What I eventually learned about Kerry was how committed he is not only to good writing, but how committed he is to supporting student writers. I’ve since sent many students’ essays to Kerry, and while he hasn’t published them all, I know he’s read them carefully and generously.

Kerry’s commitment to student voices is evident in pieces he has published such as “The Personal Essay: In which Gen Z students reveal what’s on their minds” and “What Gen Z Students Want Us to Know About their Lives.” Although I have been teaching at Notre Dame for more than two decades, I was surprised by how much I learned about young people from the pieces Kerry published.

But it’s not only his support of student writing that has made Notre Dame Magazine such a special publication. Essays, articles and interviews over the years on such diverse topics as the virtue of hope, the future of Ukraine and the history of women at Notre Dame tell us about the University today, its values and commitments, and where it might lead in the years ahead.

Since that first email years ago, I’ve had the pleasure of meeting Kerry several times. The man I’ve met demonstrates the same qualities consistently found in the pages of Notre Dame Magazine: intelligence, curiosity, warmth, wit and humanity.

Thank you, Kerry Temple, for all your good work. I am a better person for what I’ve read in Notre Dame Magazine, and I know I’m not alone.

John Duffy is the William T. and Helen Kuhn Carey professor of modern communication in the Department of English.


Love in the writer, love in the reader

Dear Kerry,

Please allow me to join your many colleagues, friends and admirers in thanking you for your leadership and dedication over 28 years as editor of Notre Dame Magazine.

I am deeply grateful to you for sharing your extraordinary gifts as a writer to tell the stories of the Notre Dame family so beautifully, and for making it possible through the magazine for countless other writers to do the same. Like any family, our stories bind us together, and I thank you for what you have done to connect us. To paraphrase Robert Frost, no love in the writer, no love in the reader — as a leader and as a writer, your love and devotion to Notre Dame have always been evident. Thanks for sharing your passion for Notre Dame with the rest of us, and for being such an important part of the place over these many years. You’ve been a great colleague to me and many others.

I wish you the very best as you begin what I hope will be a wonderful new chapter, Kerry. Know that you and your family are always in my prayers.

Rev. John I. Jenkins, CSC,’76,’78M.A., is the 17th president of the University of Notre Dame.


Thanks for the adventures

Full Circle Organic Farm in Howell, Michigan, on a bitterly cold day in February. I was tasked to photograph the owner, SuzAnne Akhavan-Tafti ’91M.A., performing some of her daily tasks at the farm where she raises grass-fed lambs. Typically, when a photographer wants to include an animal in a portrait, the animals never cooperate, but in this case, Baby, a 5-year-old wether that had earned permanent residency at the farm, looked directly at the camera right on cue in the first frame with SuzAnne. The portrait appeared on the cover of the spring issue of 2017.

Kerry, thank you for all the wonderful adventures and interesting people I met over the years while on assignment for your incredible magazine. Enjoy retirement!

Barbara Johnston is a University photographer.


Delight in ideas

Twenty-eight years. Four issues a year plus two more thrown in. That’s 114 issues. Each issue composed of an editor’s column, dozens of news items, detailed alumni notes from almost every class, short essays, long essays and photography. The digital era meant new forms: a website, a blog (when those were a thing), a Twitter feed (still sort of a thing) and a Facebook presence (a thing for more, ahem, seasoned alumni.)

To do this writing and editing is a vocational choice. Kerry would not put it that way; he suspects easy certainties. But he delights in big ideas, even, as he put it occasionally, “juicy” controversies. He recruited the best authors he could find. He persuaded them to tackle in an unhurried and beautifully illustrated way topics such as the existence of God (good luck finding that theme in another alumni publication), the meaning of one’s hometown and polarization in the United States. When the magazine pondered the fate of the Catholic Church, as it often did, Kerry knew the letters to the editor in the next issue would reveal fissures within Notre Dame’s community that benefited from scrutiny. When he commissioned a lighthearted fashion issue, he understood that he would thrill and amuse many readers while infuriating a few others.

In part, Kerry’s achievement is to have elevated the genre of the alumni magazine. This is not a controversial claim. It is a consensus view, as indicated by the many awards received by Kerry, his colleagues and the magazine’s writers.

The more subtle achievement is to have enriched the community that he made his own. It’s not an achievement he could have imagined when he showed up in South Bend from Louisiana in the fall of 1970 with a hazy idea that he might study literature. Or even when he returned to work at Notre Dame Magazine. Over time, though, he made Notre Dame and its 150,000 alumni more cognizant of their evolving alma mater and more informed about the lives their classmates led and the world they inhabited. How lucky we are that he committed himself to this work, and that he did it so long and so well.

— John McGreevy ’86 is the Charles and Jill Fischer provost and Francis A. McAnaney professor of history at Notre Dame


A Godsend to Notre Dame

Kerry, you have been nothing short of a Godsend to Notre Dame. Your leadership of Notre Dame Magazine for almost three decades has been a ton of work made to look effortless. You have managed brilliantly the delicate balance of editing a University publication while welcoming a free, dynamic range of discussion around important issues.

Thank you for being such a good friend and wonderful colleague over the years. Proud to have labored in the trenches with you along the way. Prayers and best wishes for you and your family as you move on to this next stage in your life. I look forward to reading new works from you in the years ahead.

Lou Nanni ’84, ’88M.A., is vice president of University relations at Notre Dame.


The editorial diplomat

On the too-rare occasions when I saw Kerry Temple on campus, my soul felt a little more settled. Kerry invariably exudes collegial warmth, graciousness and optimism, his humor is dry and sometimes delightfully subversive. Perhaps because he’s a writer himself — a fine, lyrical writer — he has a wonderful feel for other writers’ doubts and insecurities. Crossing his path over the years sometimes felt like an affirmation of the choice to teach at Notre Dame and sometimes like an affirmation of writing itself.

Kerry was kind enough to invite me out to lunch when I arrived at Notre Dame. I told him I was impressed with his magazine, especially with the way it balanced what sometimes looked like dueling objectives: raising communal spirits, celebrating success and gently pricking consciences. Notre Dame Magazine covered controversies and paid attention to student voices, past and present, not necessarily in the mainstream. I wondered if that ever brought him grief. This might have been the most gauche question ever posed at a campus lunch, but Kerry laughed. He allowed that he’d been called into certain administrative offices to explain himself, but said this with the kind of rueful good humor that helps explain why he’s been so successful for so many years at a job requiring the diplomatic skills of a papal nuncio.

Kerry wondered whether I’d be interested in being on an advisory board that could offer counsel about the tough editorial calls he had to make, but, recognizing my own tendency to run headlong into controversy, I declined, genuinely concerned that I’d land him in more administrative offices. When he suggested story ideas, I turned him down, too, though my reasons for that were more selfish. Kerry never pushed. He doubtless recognized a writer who, like many other writers, dreads writing. He took my excuses about having my hands full with student manuscripts and book reviews and a graduate program with his usual good grace.

It moved me that Kerry simply overlooked all the times I said no, that he kept coming at me with more ideas until one clicked. He revealed himself to be a dream editor: the one who reads the essay the day it’s submitted and sends a note so appreciative, so tuned in to what the piece is attempting, that the essayist’s characteristic pessimism fades away in favor of delight in a written conversation with a much-admired fellow writer.

Kerry’s own writing, after all, does the kind of deep soul-searching that all serious writers go for. His book, Back to Earth: A Backpacker’s Journey into Self and Soul, is written in the kind of lucid, limpid prose that eases a reader into the toughest existential questions. His appreciations of the natural world are as detailed and as particular as his magazine’s descriptions of the intellectual and social worlds of a university. That he is a practicing essayist who elevates the genre, who takes delight in pattern and wit and musical language — even when he’s simply writing the introduction to the current issue — makes him a joy to work with.

Time now for a backpacker’s journey into retirement — though, as every editor knows, there’s no such thing for a writer. May this time away from the office offer Kerry Temple as many hours as he’s inclined to fill writing his own beautiful prose. It’s hard to imagine Notre Dame or NDM without him, but here’s hoping that, like so many other alumni, he comes back often, especially in the pages of the magazine.

Valerie Sayers, author of six novels and a collection of stories, is professor emerita of English at Notre Dame.


A literary triple threat

Now that Kerry Temple is removing his green eyeshade and retiring his blue editing pencil, he’ll no doubt be red-hot to devote more time to doing what he does so well. No, not competing in Ironman triathlons, but composing essays that bear the unmistakable hallmarks of experience recollected with sensitivity and style.

As his Notre Dame years have proven, Kerry is a rarity: a literary triple threat. He’s an exacting editor with astute suggestions for improving a story, a compelling writer adept at making sentences sing and dance, and a committed teacher instructing young wordsmiths in the classroom and during internships.

Who among contributors to Notre Dame Magazine since 1995 isn’t in Kerry’s debt? Who among his readers hasn’t finished one of his essays with uncommon appreciation for his prose and personal perspective?

For many people, retirement can be similar to an academic commencement. New doors open as older ones close. Let’s hope for Kerry that future doors lead to places he wants to go and to subjects he wants to probe — as only he can.

Robert Schmuhl ’70 is the Walter H. Annenberg-Edmund P. Joyce professor emeritus of American studies and journalism whose many books include The Glory and the Burden: The American Presidency from the New Deal to the Present.


A photograph of a sculpture depicting a man impaled on the tip of a fountain pen
‘Gratitude gathers over the years as the gifts pile up, and you come to see how much of your life is made by the generosity of others. All the things to be grateful for. And all the ways to be a giver, too.’ — The Thing Is, Autumn 2023. Sculpture by Stephen Hansen

Tuesdays with Kerry

The last thing in the world Kerry Temple would do is call attention to himself. At a meeting with his division colleagues in 2002, where folks were asked to introduce themselves to a new boss, Kerry simply said, “I’m Kerry. I do the magazine.”

And oh, how he has done it. Notre Dame Magazine is a gem, an eclectic and elegant quarterly that says, “We’re not just about university news and personnel, we’re a window into the diversity of thought and experience that represents a community of excellence.”

Then there’s Kerry the writer. There are undoubtedly other university magazine editors who oversee great publications, but I doubt there’s one who’s a more thoughtful, even lyrical, writer. He writes about nature, his great love and solace, and he writes about values and people he admires. And here’s an irony: Though privately he can complain about some of his Notre Dame experiences — typical of almost any employee or student — no one has written more evocatively of the place. His books with photographer Matt Cashore ’94 (Celebrating Notre Dame, 2007 and This Place Called Notre Dame, 2018) are brilliant keepsakes.

Writing in a commemorative issue after the death of Father Ted Hesburgh, Kerry said, “Hesburgh left his mark on the world, Our Lady’s University, the people whose lives he touched in big and little ways. We’ll all miss him. But we’re also now obligated to carry on, to move forward in the ways he showed.”

His writing and editing are his public face. I also had the pleasure, during the dozen years I worked at Notre Dame, of knowing the very personal side of this quite private man. He would probably prefer to be alone with his thoughts most of the time, maybe while backpacking in the Bighorns of Wyoming, and he is even reluctant to shake hands. (I never tried.) But to my good fortune, we had a standing date for lunch every Tuesday. Those were some of the best conversations I’ve ever had. I honored him with my most personal thoughts, and he did likewise. Tuesdays with Kerry were the best of times.

As important as the magazine is to his life, and as much as he loves solitude, nothing compares to the time he can spend with family. A lot of those intimate conversations were about those most important people in his life. So, while the triplets are now off to college, I know the coming years will be centered around those relationships. A child could hardly do better than having Kerry Temple for a dad. And anyone would be hard pressed to find a better friend, handshakes or not.

Building on the work of predecessors Ron Parent ’74M.A. and Walt Collins ’51, Kerry shepherded a delightful and serious magazine. It brilliantly provides Notre Dame’s face to the outside world (other than football). He has fought vigorously to prevent its becoming a house organ or public relations vehicle, and by that very effort has brought more credit to Notre Dame.

After writing an story for the magazine in 2006, I was surprised to find that David Broder of The Washington Post, the late dean of American political writers, was a faithful reader. And it is not unusual to hear from someone who never set foot on campus that they love the magazine.

I’m sure his colleagues will miss his leadership. To paraphrase Kerry, they’re now obligated to carry on, to move forward in the ways he showed.

Matthew V. Storin ’64 was editor of The Boston Globe from 1993 to 2001, then taught journalism at Notre Dame and served two stints as associate vice president for communications.


A quarterly reminder of our family connection

Receiving Notre Dame Magazine each season elicits in me a bit of pride as well as a sense of obligation I feel as a Notre Dame alumna. The magazine’s conversations can be challenging, and the letters to the editor are sometimes contentious. But just as the content is interspersed with photographs of a beloved place, so the discussions seem ones that might occur over a dining hall meal and the disagreements like those between dormmates. I usually find the most inspiring stories to be ones highlighting unsung heroes who use their gifts in service to others. Thank you, Kerry, for providing a magazine that sings their songs. Thank you for using your gifts to serve Notre Dame and for the quarterly, tangible reminders that each one of us is part of this family.

Erin Buckley ’08 has written the back-page essays in each issue of Notre Dame Magazine since Winter 2021-22.


From contention to conversation

The fact that my writing ever graced the pages of Notre Dame Magazine is something of a miracle, as my first contributions came when I was 22 years old and wanted to tell the editor he was WRONG.

I was a senior in college then — confident in my opinions, it goes without saying. So, I thought I was furthering the conversation when I read a given issue, fired up a computer in the Fitzpatrick lab, and complained via sloppy emails which articles were too doctrinaire, too safe, too committed to the status quo.

Looking back, it was a perfect recipe for getting relegated to the spam bin. But Kerry took my ungracious criticism and somehow transmuted it into encouragement. “It’s interesting you think that,” he’d say. “Have you considered this? Why don’t you think some more about it, see if you want to write something?”

I’m so grateful he didn’t just blow me off. I’m sure it helped that we knew each other slightly. I grew up in the same neighborhood as his older sons; I was his paperboy when I was younger. We competed in fantasy baseball and basketball, which introduced me to Kerry’s workhorse ethic and unassuming drive to do things at their best. At Notre Dame, I did well in school but wasn’t sure what I wanted to do in life. I thought, vaguely, I might want to be a writer, and Kerry’s kindness was a lifeline.

That gentle support is the backbone of Notre Dame Magazine. A writer has to feel safe to reveal something true about himself and the world around him. Think of the stories that have stuck with you. Parents losing children. Children losing parents. Near-saints caring for orphans in tragedy-stricken Haiti. Watching a game of pick-up basketball with your brother, knowing it might be the last time you get to do so.

Kerry’s grace made that happen. It made things happen for me, too, even if my contributions tended toward the lighter end of the spectrum: hearing live music or buying a skateboard to push my way through the pandemic and the onset of middle age.

With the magazine, Kerry created a refuge for people to thoughtfully explore what’s happened to them, what they value and how they’ve chosen to live their lives. Sadly, spaces like these are increasingly rare. It’s to the credit of the University that it has supported the magazine as well as it has. The stories we’ve seen in these pages — deep reflection blended with higher purpose — embody the values of Notre Dame. Each issue offers a little boost for our community, inoculating us with the feeling of being on campus, especially if it’s been too long since we last visited.

As Kerry heads into retirement, I imagine he’ll be happy not to get any more letters telling him everything he’s doing wrong. (I do worry this unburdening might turbocharge his fantasy sports prep.) But he might miss those letters, too. The feedback — the good stuff, at least — is part of a grand conversation he’s guided artfully for decades now. I only hope he continues to contribute, even as he moves to a different space at the table.

James Seidler ’02 lives and writes in Munster, Indiana.


We reaped what he sowed

Into a dancer you have grown

From a seed somebody else has thrown

Go on ahead and throw some seeds of your own

These are Jackson Browne’s lyrics, recently shared in Notre Dame Magazine by Kerry Temple — a man who for decades has thrown us seeds to pick up, plant, nurture and harvest in our own lives and the lives of others.

Years ago, I contacted Kerry to consider a follow-up to a short piece the magazine had published chronicling an alumnus who was working with HIV/AIDS-impacted children in southern Africa. Kerry demurred, as follow-up stories were not routinely in the mission of the magazine. However, a seed sprouted in Kerry’s abundant spirit, and soon Notre Dame’s exceptional photographer, Matt Cashore ’94, traveled to Lesotho to create a spectacular photo essay that nurtured the growth of the Tiny Lives Foundation. Today over 5,000 infants, children and mothers have received lifesaving nutrition, medication, housing and education from Tiny Lives. That seed, thrown by Kerry, continues to grow.

In 2010, a massive earthquake struck Haiti, and in those days of devastation Kerry planted another seed by asking then-associate editor John Nagy ’00M.A. and Matt Cashore to join a group of alumni who were flying to Haiti to create a mobile surgery unit. John and Matt dove into their work, inspired to capture the moments of pain, hope, fortitude, loss and resilience among the Haitian people. Their articles and photos planted more seeds leading to additional surgical and medical aid, to faculty and students researching the damage and designing affordable, quake-proof housing, to enhanced medical care for patients with lymphatic filariasis, and more. All “from a seed somebody else has thrown.”

And somewhere between the time you arrive

And the time you go

May lie a reason you were alive

That you’ll never know

We do know some of the reasons Kerry has blessed our lives over these years, reasons that extend far beyond being an eloquent writer and visionary editor: To nurture our insight into the diverse lives of others. To stimulate serious and compassionate thought. To discover our own enlightened, balanced perspectives in a polarized world. To be a humanitarian and plant the seeds in our world that can make a difference.

Kerry, we are all deeply grateful for your transcendent leadership of the magazine So much more than you’ll ever know.

Keep a fire burning in your eye

Pay attention to the open sky

You never know what will be coming down

Thank you for keeping that fire burning in my eyes as I took each new issue out to the porch, coffee in hand, ready for its challenge to pay attention to my open sky — that expanse of heartaches, blessings and mysteries. Indeed, while none of us know what’s to come, I thank you for the fire that always burnt in your eyes and inspired all the writers and readers you enriched. And for all the seeds you threw.

— Daniel J. Towle ’77 is a retired pediatric anesthesiologist who lives in Kansas.

An illustration of a fox in the woods.
‘I can still see in my mind’s eye that arctic fox, white as light, sitting atop that little rise, perched there looking down at me. As if in a children’s book. As if to say, “So here I am, what do you want?”’ — A Riddle of Foxes, Spring 2017. Illustration by Stan Fellows

A beneficiary of his personal gifts

Whenever I’m confronted with some petty work grievance — which is, in short, often — I think of how lucky I was to have had Kerry Temple as one of my first bosses. Kerry’s gifts as a writer and editor were among the blessings of working for the magazine: getting to hone my craft under the guidance of such a master of it. But I feel most fortunate to have been a beneficiary of Kerry’s personal gifts.

I was told repeatedly at The New York Times that the best journalists are good at journalism but bad at managing people, and that employees should simply expect bad management because of that. This dictum could not have been further from the situation at Notre Dame Magazine. Kerry not only helped me improve my writing, he not only gave me generous freedom to pursue new and interesting projects, but he treated me as a person first, rather than an employee or even as a journalist. When my boyfriend moved to Chicago, Kerry let me leave early on Fridays to catch the train to the city for weekend visits. When sad or exciting or quirky things happened in my family life, Kerry opened his office door to let me talk through them for as long as I wished. When I asked if I could use some vacation days to be with a friend after her mother’s death, Kerry insisted I simply go, no vacation days required.

For these reasons and countless others, I am deeply grateful to have worked for Kerry Temple, and I can only hope that the next leader of the magazine has a fraction of the skills that Kerry does for both editing and humanity. I wish you the best of luck in retirement, Kerry — congratulations on an incredible career.

Sarah Cahalan ’14 is a freelance writer (tk) and was an associate editor of this magazine from 2017 to 2019


Glad he did what he did

I first met Kerry Temple several decades ago when I was a student journalist looking to expand my experience into magazine writing. I landed a Notre Dame Magazine internship as a college senior. I couldn’t have asked for a more formative experience.

At the time, Kerry was the newest editor on the staff — responsible for writing and editing the campus news section. We talked about campus issues, discussed writing styles and exchanged Notre Dame history facts. He trusted me, a rookie, with several important reporting assignments. The magazine office — then located on the creaky fourth floor of the unrenovated Main Building — became a welcoming “third place” on my daily travels around campus.

I freelanced occasionally for the magazine during my subsequent years in newspaper journalism. Kerry knew my interests and recognized what topics were ideal assignments for me.

Fast forward a few decades, and I had come full circle. I was back at Notre Dame Magazine as an associate editor, planning and writing the campus news section — and continuing to learn lessons from Kerry Temple.

What will the magazine be like without Kerry’s daily presence? It’s difficult to fathom. My co-workers and I have never known the place without Kerry’s self-deprecating humor, deft talent with his editor’s pencil and regularly expressed thanks and appreciation. The quality content and reputation of the magazine are largely due to Kerry, the steady hand on the tiller all these years.

Kerry as a writer is gifted and eloquent. He makes it look easy. Kerry as an editor and a person is patient, thoughtful and encouraging. “I’m glad we do what we do,” he is fond of saying to the staff.

We’re glad, too. We’ll take all we’ve learned from Kerry over the years and continue to reach for the high standards he’s set as an editor, a mentor and a friend.

Margaret Fosmoe ’85, a longtime reporter for the South Bend Tribune, has served as an associate editor of this magazine since she joined the staff in 2019.


Opening doors

I met Kerry Temple while still a sleep-deprived, overly caffeinated, sweatpants-clad undergrad at Notre Dame. He taught Magazine Writing in the journalism program, and it’s not an exaggeration to say it was by far the most pivotal class in my Notre Dame education.

Where many professors lectured or dictated, Kerry shared. He invited us into a world not just of writing, but of noticing, of pondering, of reading. That was lesson one: To be a great writer, one must read great writing. And that writing knew no bounds. He assigned Annie Dillard’s “The Death of a Moth.” Other weeks, he’d bring in a stack of magazines: Esquire, The Atlantic, Time, Vanity Fair. We crossed genres and media, reading things that interested us — or that didn’t but still offered lessons in prose, in poetry, in rhythm, in style. And while his classes were rife with lessons, Kerry didn’t instruct. He didn’t push for output or participation. He just opened doors and waited to see if we walked through them.

In my case, he opened a door to an internship at Notre Dame Magazine, and then, unusually, a door to a position as an associate editor at the magazine. My predecessor retired after 38 years there. I had a fresh Notre Dame diploma that hadn’t yet been framed. There were not-so-quiet whispers that I might not be old enough, mature enough, for the role. Kerry shushed them all. It was but one of the times that Kerry saw potential before anyone else did.

He did the same with the many unsolicited manuscripts we’d receive. Many of us were quick to wave them off. Kerry encouraged us to give the stories a first edit. Brush off some dust. Rework a little here or there. He was patient and optimistic and encouraging, and could often see a nugget of potential, of truth, of resonance, even those buried under poor grammar or haphazard storytelling, or yes, under inexperience and naivete. He championed those stories. And he championed the staff, too.

I got an itch to write about a chef, he told me to find one. I got an invitation to join a pilgrimage, he told me to pack a bag. I wrote about cowboys and cocktails, Shakespearean scholars and social media, brain injuries, the Chilean revolution. It was all not just approved but fueled by Kerry. Anytime I mentioned even a fledgling interest, he pushed me to follow the breadcrumbs and see where they led. There was no story too big or small, as long as wonder and curiosity was there.

I imagine that’s why Notre Dame Magazine has been so successful under his tenure. While other university magazines have shrunk, become pure institutional fodder, or disappeared entirely, Notre Dame Magazine remains a place of curiosity, even, or perhaps especially, when the stories aren’t overtly Notre Dame. Yes, some stories are meant to stir the nostalgia we love to feel, some are meant to update readers on the status of things at their beloved University, some feature fellow alumni taking unusual roads, but by and large the stories are meant to reawaken the curiosity we all felt at age 17 when the world was ours to be explored. The stories force us out of our silos and subject expertise, stretch our now rigid brains into seeing things from a new perspective, and make us pause, reflect, truly think. The stories encourage empathy, love, neighborliness, justice, fun, joy — sometimes all in one issue.

That’s because of Kerry.

In his years at the helm, Kerry embodied not just what Notre Dame was or what it is, but what it was meant to be, and then he pushed the writers at the magazine to convey that in their own ways. Those writers, me included, are beyond fortunate to have had a place where we could write creatively, unabashedly, truthfully and freely. Kerry gave us those opportunities, even going to bat for us, and for the magazine, when necessary.

Kerry once told me many essays get stronger if you take off the last paragraph or two when the author drones on. But he’s not editor anymore, so I’ll keep this one intact. Kerry has championed me as a writer, as an artist and as a person for more than a decade. He gave me tools. He gave me mentorship. He gave me confidence. Then he gave me wings to go write elsewhere. And he has done the same for hundreds of others. He’ll never take credit for any of it, but I hope he sees this open door to thanks, to admiration, to appreciation, and walks through it.

Tara Hunt McMullen ’12 was an associate editor of this magazine from 2012 to 2015.

A comic by Michael Molinelli depicting Kerry Temple's return to campus a few years after graduating
Michael Molinelli ’82

He won . . . eventually

On March 24, 2023, I received an email from Kerry that others might have found troubling, even worrying.

“Anytime ever in my life I felt optimistic, the reality sent me reeling,” he wrote to me morosely. “Again, thanks for paying attention.”

While others might have been tempted to call Kerry or someone close to him, I just smiled. Because I’d seen Kerry wrestle with this feeling that the universe is against him. It had been happening at about this same time of year for almost as long as I’ve known him. Which is getting close to 30 years.

He felt comfortable sharing his dread with me because Kerry is, like me, an idiot.

My friend was wallowing in pessimism because it was playoffs time in our fantasy basketball league, the South Bend League, and he was certain some cruel twist of fate was about to strike.

In his defense, this was not pessimism. This was realism.

Our league began in 2001, and pretty much every year Kerry’s team — Beans and Rice (a favorite meal) — had one of the best records heading into the playoffs. And every year he lost.

Three years previous, his team was undefeated, close to a lock for the rather ugly traveling trophy that is the only reward for our league’s champion. Then COVID-19 hit, forcing the cancellation of the rest of the NBA regular season. Because fantasy leagues are based on player statistics generated during the season when all players are in action, the termination put an end to the South Bend League season — and Kerry’s hopes.

Maybe in 2023 his luck would change. I hoped so. Eventually.

I say “eventually,” because I had my own hopes heading into the 2023 playoffs.

I’d won the championship several times, and that year I had the league’s best regular-season record. I am, if I may brag, something of a genius at snapping up emergent free-agent talent in the first days of a season. For years Kerry coveted my Gilbert Arenas.

I knew I could count on getting past the first round of the playoffs. By virtue of having the best regular-season record, I was matched against the team with the eighth-best record.

I was facing a statistically inferior team with an absentee owner. My opponent had stopped participating. His lineup included Cade Cunningham, who had been out with an injury since November. November. So, it would be my seven players against his six. I couldn’t lose.

I lost.

I lost because he had Nikola Jokić, the league’s reigning Most Valuable Player and the fantasy basketball equivalent of the sun. A 6-foot-11, 284-pound, Serbian-made scoring, rebounding and assisting machine, Jokić in a given week can have the statistical production of up to four ordinary players.

I still should have won. In fact, I would have won had Draymond Green, a good, playmaking center and hotheaded nitwit, not been assessed his 16th technical foul of the season, resulting in an immediate one-game suspension.

After being eliminated, I transferred my rooting interest to my star-crossed friend. But he was having none of it.

“I’ve given up on ever winning the playoffs — however strong my regular season is,” he wrote after I wished him luck and said maybe this would finally be his year.

In the next round Kerry avenged my loss to the Jokić leviathan. That put him into the finals, where he faced a perennial powerhouse, the team of our league commissioner.

The score was tight all week and it came down to the final minutes of the last day.

Kerry lost again.

I’m kidding. I wouldn’t have written all this without a happy ending, would I? He won by a score of 883.75-870.75.

I live in the Pacific time zone and before going to bed sent Kerry an email with the subject line, “Yay!” I wrote, “Wow, it was close, but you did it! Congratulations, champ.”

He replied the next morning.

“I looked just now and am totally stunned. I checked last night before the games were done — but it sure looked like Beans was totally done. And I felt like I sure deserved to lose — because of bad lineup decisions. I went to bed thinking I would have won had I stuck with the guys who got me there.

“I have been looking, double-checking . . . there must be some mistake. But your email confirms it. Hey, thanks for being supportive and talking with me through the past couple of weeks.”

Happy to do so, my friend. And happy to keep doing so. Because old fantasy team owners never die, they just keep searching for sleepers and wishing they had Jokić.

Ed Cohen was an associate editor of this magazine from 1995 to 2006. He is director of communications and marketing at The National Judicial College.


Notes to a cherished friend

Dear Kerry,

I’ve done the math. We’ve been friends for 31 years. I tried crafting a story that eloquently captured the seasons of our friendship and the appreciation I have for you as a friend and a writer, but random, nonsequential memories of you kept popping into my head. So instead of an orderly essay, I decided to write a list of reasons I cherish our friendship — in no specific order:

1. One of the first times we met for coffee in the Huddle to discuss something I had written for your class, it was a steamy August day. You sat down, drenched, and started the conversation with “Hi. I sweat a lot. Don’t be offended,” and I responded, “I laugh a lot. Don’t be offended.” So, we had coffee, you sweated, I laughed. And neither of us was offended.

2. Back in the mid-’90s, you took my dog to be put down since I was too sad to do it and my husband was out of town and my then-toddler son didn’t understand. (Remember Kramer, the crazy, inbred Dalmatian?)

3. We had been friends for a decade before I started working at Notre Dame in 2003, and the first few times we ran into one another in the hall or the office kitchen, all either of us could do was laugh. I loved that.

4. The first time you asked me to write for the magazine, I was really excited. And really afraid to let you down. When we discussed the assignment, you remarked that I had “good instincts for writing profiles,” and that’s all it took for me to feel like a real writer. I’ll never forget the power of those words or your confidence in me.

5. When we first became friends, we both were in the midst of painful life transitions. But we laughed anyway and grew and learned. I’ll always remember that time in my life with deep appreciation for you.

6. When I was offered the job at the University of Chicago, I walked over to your office to tell you that I’d be leaving Notre Dame. You hugged me, congratulated me, and said it was a great move and the right thing to do. You knew by my demeanor that I was really sad about leaving my colleagues and the University I loved, so you added, “and we’ll still go to lunch.” That meant so much.

7. We still meet for lunch on occasion and are able to pick up as if no time has passed. Last time we had lunch, you mentioned that you were thinking about retirement. It didn’t seem real to me then, and I still have difficulty imagining Notre Dame Magazine without Kerry Temple. But I know it will continue to flourish, just as you will, my friend.

Susan Mullen Guibert ’87, ’93MCA is managing director of marketing communications at Indiana University’s Lilly Family School of Philanthropy.


A name to remember

I remember it like yesterday: Dick Conklin ’59M.A., Notre Dame’s public relations director, my boss, told me that the University had just hired a new writer — and that he was good, very good!

The new writer’s name was Carey Kimble, and he would start working in about a month. I was ecstatic because I knew Carey Kimble. He was my classmate at Marquette University’s College of Journalism, and Carey was indeed very, very good. Not only that, he was a really great person, smart, funny in a soft-spoken way. In short, he was someone you’d enjoy working with, or working for. You’d want him as a friend because he’s fun and loyal and caring. Then, a month later, I met the new writer, Kerry Temple.

Fast forward to today. With the benefit of more than 40 years (yikes!) of hindsight knowing him, of working with him and for him, I can say Kerry exceeded my Carey expectations. He has been a great colleague, great boss and, above all, great friend. In my book, he deserves a statue on campus as much as any football or basketball coach. As editor of Notre Dame Magazine, he has been that important for the University. Although, knowing Kerry, he would never want that, and so I offer only heartfelt congratulations and thanks, my friend.

John Monczunski was an associate editor of this magazine from 1973 to 2012.


Our navigator finally charts his own course

Soar free now, Kerry. You’ve fulfilled so many responsibilities for so long, and even while doing all that was required of you, you found a way between deadlines to inspire us with ideas heartfelt and mind-expanding, poignant and memorable.

What better team could one find themselves a part of? What better navigator to guide it through the years?

Thanks for being sensitive to our egos and for keeping the magazine a project where creativity was recognized and the fine craft of publishing an important magazine was always practiced.

There are other seasons ahead and good things on the horizon. When the winter thaw arrives in a few months, embrace the coming spring and savor the sunshine, anyplace you want to be. You’ll have much more time to hike a mountain trail, to read or write a good book.

Don Nelson ’91MCA was the art director of this magazine from 1973 to 2010.


Lunches with a legend

In February 2012, a few weeks after I took the job at Notre Dame, I received a phone call from Kerry Temple, editor of Notre Dame Magazine.

We met a week later, and I learned that Kerry grew up in Shreveport, Louisiana — which happens to be the place of my birth. I had never met anyone else from Shreveport, and then I learned we were born in the same hospital. How crazy is that?

Before that meeting ended, we agreed to meet every Thursday for lunch — and we did.

Now, there have been some holidays when we didn’t meet for our Thursday lunch, and a few Thursdays when one of us was out of town or had a meeting he could not get out of, but we’ve had nearly 500 Thursday lunches over these past 12 years.

Our Thursday lunch location bounced from Legend’s to the Linebacker to Waka Dog Cafe to Taphouse on the Edge. What didn’t change was the wide range of our conversations. They always included stories about our wives, kids and grandkids, some stories about Notre Dame football, baseball, some former colleagues, et cetera.

And we shared our favorite Notre Dame stories — with me asking to use some of his for Notre Dame Day and Kerry asking to do the same with a few of mine for Notre Dame Magazine.

I learned that Kerry is a huge baseball fan, that Roberto Clemente is his favorite player and the Pittsburgh Pirates his favorite team. He even convinced me to join his fantasy baseball league.

I admit my favorite conversations with Kerry were about family: the baseball exploits of his sons Pike and Finn and how he shared in their highs and lows. And his daughter Kinsey’s decision to attend Indiana University, and the trips to Bloomington to drop off Kinsey and Finn and to Missouri to drop off Pike for their first days of college. Not a dry eye with Kerry.

We’ve had some great conversations about health issues, life after Notre Dame, the environment, some politics, Hesburgh, Brian Kelly, Marcus Freeman and so on. And we talked plenty about his love and passion for the magazine.

Kerry and his colleagues’ work is legendary. There’s not a better university magazine on the planet. In a world where censorship and being politically correct rules the day, Kerry has been able to keep Notre Dame Magazine out of that fray. It’s one of his greatest contributions to the University — and it’s a power he’s earned.

It’s sad to know that Kerry is walking away from a calling that has consumed his life for 30-plus years. We talked about it at lunch today — how much he’s going to miss working with his teammates putting out that next issue.

The University is going to miss the mind, passion and all that is Kerry Temple. If we had a Mount Irishmore for storytellers, his face would be out front, no debate. Kerry Temple is a Notre Dame legend.

I can never thank the Lady on the Dome enough for bringing Kerry into my life. I always look forward to Thursdays because it means I will spend time with my friend.

Jim Small was associate vice president, storytelling and engagement, for University relations from 2012 to 2023.


What grew from our encounters

The chance to reflect on my collaboration with Kerry Temple tempers my sadness over his retirement just a tiny bit.

I first met Kerry in 2002, at the old Greenfields Café in Hesburgh Center. Professor Vincent DeSantis, the legendary history professor, had connected us. Vince had taken a proprietary interest in my writing about Catholic sisters and had called Kerry to tell him he should publish an essay of mine on the subject. Kerry, ever-obliging, invited me for coffee to talk it over. I was very pregnant, so I helped myself to decaf. But I was also very, very tired, so I snuck in a splash of the real stuff, figuring it couldn’t hurt the baby too much. Kerry got a kick out of that, and we laughed. We became friends right then, and became better friends over the next 20 years, through that first article and many others since.

I didn’t write for the magazine as often as either of us would have liked, but Kerry was always gracious and understanding when a book deadline or another baby prompted me to say no to whatever he was pitching. In 2007, I published a short piece on the canonization of Mother Theodore Guerin, and I became so interested in that subject that when Brother Andre Bessette’s canonization was announced for October 2010, I had the idea that Notre Dame Magazine should send me to cover it. When I called Kerry, he explained that the magazine couldn’t exactly finance a trip for an aspiring Vatican correspondent. But, he said, maybe I could travel there on my own and write about it. (He reminded me that the magazine paid handsomely and that I could surely write enough words to break even.) I had the most wonderful experience at that canonization as a pilgrim and a historian, and I poured my heart into the article. It’s still a favorite of my publications. I remember how thrilled I was when that winter issue arrived and I saw that my essay was the cover story. (Full disclosure: It was on the back cover, which had a beautiful photograph of the canonization. But still).

My Brother Andre article contained the seeds of a book I would publish nine years later, and I am again using my most recent contribution to conceptualize a book project. The way that article came to into being says a lot about why I loved writing for Kerry. In early 2021, we ran into each other in between Grace and Flanner halls, where we often met, and he asked if I’d consider contributing an essay to the issue on the 50th anniversary of coeducation, scheduled for the following summer.

He got an earful from me. I told him it was my pet peeve that the branding around the 1972 anniversary focused erroneously on the “arrival” of women on Notre Dame’s campus. “You know what I’d really like to write an article about? The women who arrived on campus in 1843, who we don’t remember any more,” I said. He shrugged and said, “OK. Do that. I’ll put it in the issue before that one.” So I did, and I learned so much from writing the story and was proud to have it featured in the issue that celebrated the magazine’s 50th anniversary.

Kerry wasn’t the editor for all of those 50 years maybe, but he’s the only editor I have known, and I have trouble picturing the magazine without him. Come to think of it, I am having a hard time picturing Notre Dame without him on campus. Kerry and I talked often about Notre Dame, what we love about it and what we find maddening. He is a big part of what I love about Notre Dame. And I am going to miss him immensely.

Kathleen Sprows Cummings ’99Ph.D., is the Rev. John A. O’Brien collegiate professor of American studies and history.

An illustration of a boy on a swinging hanging from an orange sun over a mountain range
‘A relationship with the sun is different when there are no walls, no thermostats or light switches between you and it. Just you and nature. Starry nights and the ceremony of sunrise.’ — The Sun in Our Midst, Spring 2015

Words with friends

It wasn’t planned that way, but over the two decades that I’ve worked with Kerry Temple we’ve spent an inordinate amount of time juggling ideas about trees and books and the everlasting struggle with words.

I met Kerry in 2003. At first, over a table at the Hesburgh Center, we chatted in the way that writers, and editors who are writers, often do, skipping from one idea to the next, whisked along by the magic of words and the intractable process of writing. Notre Dame itself was most often the starting point, and our working relationship began with him giving me the nod to go ahead with an article about the soul of the University.

Those few meals were the only face-to-face meetings we ever shared. Since I left the Kellogg Institute for International Studies in 2004, our exchanges have been by phone or, more often, the digital smoke signals of email. It didn’t matter, because we came to communicate more effectively without using words at all. I read Kerry’s Back to Earth: A Backpacker’s Journey into Self and Soul in 2005 and realized that the connection between us ran much deeper than Notre Dame, deeper than journalism and publishing. We shared the journey along miles of backcountry trails the way military veterans share deployments. Trees and the world they inhabit had become the portal through which we discovered our true identities, and the path we followed as we took the measure of our souls.

Kerry made Notre Dame Magazine into The New Yorker of college publications. He showcased the achievements of the University, its faculty and its students. More than that, he strived to make the magazine interesting and relevant, setting it apart from most university-themed publications, which are rarely read. His handiwork was evident in the eclectic selection of stories in every issue — even those that were not about the University itself explored the concepts and beliefs that have made Notre Dame what it is. Readers couldn’t anticipate what the next issue would bring any more than reading a trail guide could offer the satisfaction of being outdoors. The next issue had to be opened, it had to be read for its treasures to be enjoyed, just as trails must be walked.

Though he lived for a time in a cabin in the backwoods, Kerry was no hermit. His gift was to relate what he experienced in nature to the wider world. As he wrote in Back to Earth, “It is one thing to revel in the beauty and order of creation; it is another to find it here among the people, the many nations with whom I live.” He did that, beautifully.

In each issue, Kerry set the tone in his editor’s note, artistically weaving his own experiences and outlooks with the reality being expressed in that issue. For the issue that carried my article about the awesome bristlecone pine trees of California, Kerry tackled the elephant in the room head on. “Yes, this issue’s cover story is about a kind of tree. But it is not just about a tree, not even really about what may be the oldest living thing on earth, which the bristlecone pine is believed to be. The cover story is about life.”

My experience with the bristlecone pines as a young man destined to write, and then, decades later, as a man who’d lived his life in the employment of words, had led me to an ongoing exploration of resilience, of how some species like the bristlecones can survive for 5,000 years, just as some collections of words can become immortal. The bristlecones survive in the harshest conditions of high sierra California, and the adversity they face only makes them more resilient. Kerry’s long tenure at the magazine, through many changes in his own life and the life of a major university, expresses that same resilience.

In Back to Earth, Kerry wrote about personal struggles and the way he had temporarily lost the trail. He found his way back, and for that we all are thankful. In the last article about trees and trails that we worked on together for the autumn 2023 issue, Kerry challenged me to dig deeper, to think harder, to write more directly from the heart. He apologized for sending the article back to me for a rewrite, but it was absolutely the right thing to do. There was a lot of good in the original, and he particularly liked the connection I had made between books and the trees they are made from because they both provide what we, at times, need most.

A good editor makes a writer and his words better. In the world of words, there’s no greater judgment. In his editor’s note, Kerry encouraged readers to think of the magazine as a gift, and to consider my essay about books, trees and trails, along with all the others in that issue, and by extension all issues of all magazines and all books, as gifts from writers sharing themselves with strangers.

Kerry made all his writers better. And Notre Dame is better for that.

Thanks for the gift, Kerry Temple.


Anthony DePalma is a former correspondent for The New York Times and the author of several books, most recently The Cubans: Ordinary Lives in Extraordinary Times.


Inviting opportunities 

Kerry, it has been more than a pleasure — really a joy — to work with you. And your suggestion that I should write for the magazine has been truly consequential in my life as a writer. You opened a door I couldn’t find, much less open, on my own.

A few years ago, I read from my work at the University of Portland, then went to supper with Brian Doyle ’78, the essayist who was also editor of the university magazine. Up the street from the restaurant, a theater marquee indicated that Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds were playing at that very moment, and I regretted not knowing about the show in advance: It would have been something to see and hear Nick Cave in Doyle’s company.

Then Brian died. I regretted not getting to know him better and not keeping up with his essays as steadily as they were published: They were so full of vitality, so radiant with the author’s character, that I’d assumed we could count on them coming out more or less endlessly. His work appeared to me as a road not taken — a road I hadn’t taken myself and may have avoided taking, in writing two long books rooted only obliquely in my own character and experience.

Out of my regret emerged a kind of resolution. I resolved I would find a way to write some work of that kind. For one thing, Brian’s death was a reminder that time’s-a-wastin’, and we shouldn't miss the chance to enter what we have seen and heard into the record. For another, my first book — where the “I” appears only in an epilogue — was grounded in the premise that the four writers it depicted gained their authority precisely because of the emphasis they gave to their own character and experience.

Years passed. I wrote long nonfiction pieces about Pope Francis and about the clerical sexual-abuse crisis. I started a third book, making my own character more present than in the first two — but wound up scaling it back on a trusted editor’s advice.

Then came your invitation to write for Notre Dame Magazine. It was open-ended. Three years in a row, you asked me what I might like to write. I suggested topics. You said yes, and yes, and yes. So I wrote the pieces; you, and John Nagy ’00M.A., edited them, lightly and expertly, and arranged for illustrations and typography, and they appeared in the magazine — more vivid and etched than I could have imagined them. An essay about Rome, rooted in my experience of the place; an essay about Notre-Dame de Paris, rooted in my experience of the Gothic in Paris, in New York, in literature and history; an essay about St. Paul, rooted in my long experience of uneasy identification with him. Those pieces have been crucial to my life as a writer, and now that they are written I can’t imagine the writer I’d be if I hadn’t written them. Through them, my own experience has been joined to that of the writers whose pilgrimage I’ve written about, and some half-understood obligation to make sense of the life that is mine only has been met partway.

I suspect that some of the gratitude I have felt comes through in the pieces. I hope so. And I hope to keep walking through the door you opened. Many, many thanks.

Paul Elie is a senior fellow in Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs and a regular contributor to The New Yorker.


The heart of the place

It’s a running joke in my family that no matter how many formative years I spent at Notre Dame, every time I return to campus, I manage to get lost. Buildings rise and fall, roads appear and disappear, landmarks are moved and modified, and I’m forced to turn the car around or stop and retrace my (and everyone else’s) steps.

But no matter how much my mental geography may need a revision when Juniper Road disappears or new dorms are plopped next to Knott, I still know the location of Notre Dame’s heart. It’s wherever Kerry Temple is.

Editors come in all varieties, from the lackadaisical to the puritanical; Kerry, however, stands as his own unique vintage. He has great faith in writers but is not shy in letting you know if you missed the mark. He gives you room to breathe with choices of word, detail, reporting and structure, but will call a foul if you lose the opportunity to explore how a passing story can be illustrative of more eternal truths. And he understands how the artistic freedom of one person needs to interact and overlap with that of another within the confines of the increasingly archaic but ever more sacred confines of a physical magazine.

As the steward of what he always called “Notre Dame stories,” Kerry has indeed been the faithful curator of the Notre Dame story, in all its successes and failures, its aspirations and its heartbreaks, its contradictions and its beauty. He knows that a university is ultimately just an institution, and institutions are destined to be as fallible as humans and to evolve just the same, sometimes in directions we don’t like. But he also knows that a university like Notre Dame is home to a messy confluence of ideas and efforts that, at their best, can also be our surest vessel for considering our lives here on earth, and what they may — and should — mean beyond ourselves and the limited time we have to make them matter.

I think that’s the source of his fundamental decency and his appreciation of how picayune, pastoral and even normal are the glimpses of blessed eternity we get. I think it’s why he has such an appreciation for the world and its smallest creatures. I think’s it’s why he loves baseball in its unhurried perambulations. And I think it’s why he writes so eloquently about memory, time, childhood and a thousand other things.

I owe him a lot as a writer, in that he gave me the space and trust necessary at an early stage in my career to explore everything from the meaning of personal style to the legacy of family and national origin. I owe him more as a person, in that he showed how to question and interrogate one’s perspective in the way of water — gently but persistently. During one editorial meeting in a context long forgotten, I remember making some youthful crack about the absurdity of fish having souls. His direct and soft response was, “They do. You can see it in their eyes.”

I think about that every time I walk through the woods behind my house and come face to face with deer, foxes, squirrels and occasionally snakes. It’s a shame we can only gesture toward the wisdom that may be discovered in the quiet and the natural, but that is no reason to stop trying.

So in the future when I return to Notre Dame and inevitably get lost, it will be a shame that the school’s heart will no longer always beat within the confines of campus. But I take comfort from the fact that everyone Kerry has edited, worked with, befriended, mentored and spent time with surely also has a heart that tries to beat, even if only once in a while — be it at a baseball game, during a late summer sunset or when writing a final sentence — in the same rhythm.

Liam Farrell ’04 is a former senior alumni editor of this magazine.


An editor who edited

I’ve always gotten a kick out of the correspondence between editors and writers — Maxwell Perkins, editor at Scribner, who wrote lengthy editorial letters to F. Scott Fitzgerald, or Katharine White, fiction editor of The New Yorker, who had so many exchanges with the poet Elizabeth Bishop over the decades that an entire fat volume of their correspondence has been published.

Such a book could never be compiled now — the world of publishing has changed too much. Print journalism has contracted, beloved magazines have folded. Remaining outlets have shrunken budgets and insufficient staff, so editors are burned out.

At the risk of sounding ancient and cranky, I’ll say these market pressures have robbed journalism of some of its fun and much of its courtesy. Now when writers submit to a magazine where they’ve published before, they’re usually writing to an unknown editor, as their previous one has left. And instead of their submission instigating a correspondence that develops into a friendship, many outlets don’t even give writers a response.

Even when a magazine does accept your piece, most editors don’t edit anymore. They acquire the piece with a boilerplate acceptance letter. The piece will undergo proofreading, sure, but editors no longer can afford the luxury of shaping the piece, asking the right questions to deepen and expand the range of the writer’s thinking.

I offer this background to stress just how much Kerry Temple will be missed by the writers who worked with him. He was a magnificent throwback to an earlier age when editors edited.

Kerry’s thoughtfulness was apparent in everything he did. A few examples: If he had an idea for an issue’s theme and reached out to see if I’d like to contribute, he wasn’t attempting to assign me a stance or tone. He approached his writers as working artists and gave us the freedom to take the topic in whatever direction was needed. One time he asked if I’d be interested in writing about empathy. How did he know that empathy had been my obsession for the previous year? Specifically, I’d been researching how reading literature makes people more empathetic. I wrote him back telling him this and asking how many words he’d want me to write. He gave me a general sense of guidelines, then closed his email with, “But I really like that you resonate with the idea and have thought about it and feel like you have something to say. So write the piece and say what you want to say.” For those who’ve never written for a magazine, let me tell you, this never happens approximately never.

Also radical: In 2014, Notre Dame Magazine was doing an issue of lists, and I agreed to write a list of strategies for combating loneliness. I love a good list, its tonal shifts, non sequiturs and pithy zingers. That’s what I started out writing. But somewhere along the way, my list meandered. Malingered. I found, when I turned my attention to loneliness, that I actually had a lot to reflect on. I sheepishly turned in a piece that was three times as long as we’d agreed on and not very listy — exactly the type of surprise editors hate. I wrote what I wanted to write, not what I’d been invited to write. I was prepared to have the piece axed. But Kerry liked it and found space for it.

Yet the story’s not done. He’d originally suggested a fair fee for the list’s short word count. When in I turned in my three-times-too-long piece, Kerry, unprompted, paid me three times my original fee. It was an incredibly decent gesture, and unique in my 25 years of magazine writing.

Kerry was invested in the writer’s process from gestation to post-publication. When you turned in a piece, he’d take the time to tell you why he liked it. Once he told me he was trying to get his 15-year-old daughter to share an essay I’d written with her English teacher because he thought she’d enjoy it. Another time I wrote a feature on my yearly gatherings with my Notre Dame roommates, and it generated more fun feedback than almost anything I’ve ever published. I could of course read the remarks in the online comments section, and read the emails sent directly to me, but many emails were sent directly to Kerry, and he forwarded them along, sometimes explaining who a certain letter writer was.

One more story: Kerry asked me to write for the issue commemorating the 50th anniversary of coeducation. I wrote a piece that tied that anniversary to the 50th anniversary of the Equal Rights Amendment and the idea that the ERA should have passed 50 years ago, when the necessary two-thirds vote was achieved in the House and Senate but was frustrated by the required ratification of three-fourths of the states. I tied in some reflection, as I’d also turned 50 that year.

And Kerry didn’t like it. I’d framed my piece as a letter to Mary, and it felt tonally off to him, almost flippant, I think. Maybe I needed more space to make my argument, I’m not sure. Anyway, Kerry wrote me a thoughtful email expressing his reservations. After I read it, I didn’t feel like revising my piece or withdrawing it to send to another magazine. I so value his opinion that if he didn’t think it was my best work, I didn’t want it out in the world. I know writing that email must have cost him a good deal of distress. But he did it, because it was the right thing to do for the magazine he stewarded with such care.

Kerry, thank you for the pleasure of having your eyes on my sentences all these years. I don’t think our correspondence is going to be published in a book, but it’s brought me a lot of pleasure. I hope it’s brought you some, too. You’re leaving your role as editor of Notre Dame Magazine behind, but you have a different pleasure ahead of you — the role of being its reader. It’s a role we’ve been relishing, thanks to you, for many years now.

Beth Ann Fennelly ’93, a former poet laureate of Mississippi, is distinguished professor of English at the University of Mississippi and the author of six books.


An intellectual legacy

The legacy of Kerry Temple and his staff is that they have made Notre Dame Magazine a truly intellectual publication. While almost all other journals intended primarily for alumni deal with the usual — campus news tidbits, changes in administrative positions and policies, listings of deceased graduates, sports gossip and the like — the magazine for several decades has published essays and articles of genuine intellectual importance by prominent authors. Alumni concerns are not ignored, but they do not give the magazine its unique character as a journal that values prose that all university-educated men and women should find challenging and enlightening. This makes Notre Dame Magazine one of a kind, and I, as an alumnus — and one whose essays have been chosen by Kerry Temple to appear from time to time — have been proud to be part of this tradition and hope it will continue in even more creative ways.

Samuel Hazo ’49 is a former poet laureate of Pennsylvania, National Book Award finalist and founder of the Pittsburgh-based International Poetry Forum. He is the author, editor or translator of more than 50 books, most recently Becoming Done, a collection of new poems.


A champion of writers

I’ve been lucky enough to work with many fine editors at prestigious magazines and at one of the “Big Five” book publishers. I’ve never worked with a better editor than Kerry Temple.

Kerry was willing to take risks to publish interesting pieces. He was a champion of writers, helping them to make their work better without making it bland, and he believed in paying them for their work. Kerry always had a kind word, even when I pitched something that wasn’t a fit. He is the kind of person who takes the time to send handwritten thank you notes. He made Notre Dame Magazine so much more than an outlet for University news. It was and is literary, publishing great writers like Brian Doyle ’78, Michael Garvey ’74 and Paul Elie, and is handsomely designed.

I will forever be thankful to Kerry for his role in my career and for his friendship.

Anna Keating ’06 is author of The Catholic Catalogue and owner of Keating Woodworks and Kempt Kitchens in Colorado Springs.


The University’s conscience

Notre Dame Magazine has functioned as the University’s conscience for decades. Its success in defining what binds Domers eternally is above all owed to one individual: Kerry Temple.

My interactions with Kerry repeatedly demonstrated how carefully he cultivated the magazine’s identity and content. Over a 20-year history, I penned articles ranging from the global financial crisis, marriage and family, and COVID-19 to, most recently, medically assisted suicide. Time and again, Kerry allowed me to skate up to the line of heresy before pulling me back on course. In our years of collaboration, we shared more than a love of the University’s Catholic identity. Inspired by Father Ted Hesburgh, we recognized that an essential role of Our Lady’s University is to help the Church think through some of the toughest issues of our day.

Because of Kerry Temple, Notre Dame Magazine has been the brightest candle of faith, hope and love in our University’s extended Grotto. Thank you, dear friend. You played like a champion and shook more than your fair share of thunder from the sky. Yours is a literary legacy that will never end.

Terrence Keeley ’81, one of the University’s first young trustees, sponsors the annual Keeley Vatican Lecture hosted by the Nanovic Institute for European Studies.


The magazine’s animating intelligence

If they’re around long enough, magazines go through quality cycles. For years they may be on what amounts to editorial cruise control, always professional grade but rarely memorable. Good enough but unremarkable. Then, one day, they seem to catch fire and for years, sometimes decades, they attain a level of inspired excellence that shows what can be done with a periodical.

A magazine lights up when creative energy and craft and dedication converge — and when it’s in the hands of an editor who has a distinctive vision, the ability to convey and rally people to that vision, and the will to overcome resistance from those who command the resources and always seem more comfortable with the pedestrian and mediocre. Some of these editors cultivate a vivid public profile as publishing stars: Tina Brown, Jann Wenner, Anna Wintour. Others go about their work in a quieter fashion: William Shawn, Anne Fadiman, David Remnick, Brian Doyle ’78. And Kerry Temple.

Kerry has been a friend for more than two decades. I had admired his work for a few years before I met him, and when I did meet him, he was about what I’d expected from reading his magazine — quiet, unassuming, acutely observant, dry in his wit and deeply intelligent. He is a thoughtful man who pays attention, and there are damned few of those around today, or at least so it seems when I’m in a crabby mood.

Under Kerry’s guidance, Notre Dame Magazine has been close to perfection in embodying the University’s best qualities. Year after year, it has been a smart, incisive, quietly provocative purveyor of vital stories and commentary on science, scholarship, spirituality, Catholicism — and Notre Dame. The editor and his staff have always understood that it’s vastly more important to be engaging and stimulating than merely entertaining. Time and again Notre Dame Magazine has published work that is comprehensive and deep without being plodding or tedious, and boy is that hard to do. Smart, serious magazines can slide into a conspicuous earnestness that becomes hard to take. Notre Dame Magazine under Kerry has always had a nose for when it was time to lighten up.

Being a good editor is, in part, a work of curation. You need to gather excellent stories and understand how they go together in the short arc of a single issue and the long arc of years as you tell the big story, in this case, the big story of Notre Dame. You have to know how they stand alone and how they fit together to form deeper understanding and open new paths. It’s a big job. Kerry was good at it. Not many are.

Let us give credit where it is due: Notre Dame Magazine has never been a one-man show but the creation of an excellent editorial staff and a slew of talented outside contributors. But the animating intelligence and sure direction that has made the magazine so good for so long has come from Kerry Temple. Fine editors attract fine talent who want to work for them. One sure judge of an editor’s quality is the quality of the other people around the table. Enough said.

Well done, my friend. I wish you many rich days to come. Now go write something. This world has never had too much wisdom.

Dale Keiger is a former editor of Johns Hopkins Magazine. He writes The Joggled Mind at dalekeiger.net.


Heart to heart

For 12 years I have been fond of telling people how I met Kerry Temple. One Monday morning in January 2012, I finished editing a personal essay that was very close to my heart, and I didn’t know where to send it. As I was rummaging through possibilities, I remembered that my friend Joe Epstein had published two essays with Notre Dame Magazine, so on nothing more than that, I decided to give it a try.

Online, I saw no way to submit my piece, but since the odds of acceptance for unknown writers are slim to the point of vanishing, I decided to do something no writer without an established relationship is ever allowed to do: I sent my piece directly to its editor via email.

Somewhere between noon and 1 p.m. that day, I hit the send button. Two hours later, as I was leaving for my daily mile swim, I checked my email. When I saw “Notre Dame Magazine” in my inbox, I was certain it was an automated reply telling me the magazine did not accept email submissions. It was not. It was one of the most touching letters I have ever received. Kerry was telling me he read my essay through tears and was accepting it.

That essay was “Wintry Rooms of Love.” Over the next 12 years, Kerry accepted other pieces and touched my heart with personal letters again and again.

We met in person only once, about four years ago, when I drove down from Evanston with a friend for lunch on campus. I made that 110-mile trip because I wanted real time in the presence of this man I had come to admire so deeply. At that lunch Kerry asked a question I have been thinking about ever since: Did your family tell stories of the miseries they had to endure or stories of overcoming hardships? He didn’t say it, but I’m certain he thought the answer determined much about who you became in the rest of your life.

That question and other questions that strike to the core of who we are and what we might make of our lives and how we might do good in the world have been at the bottom of every issue of Notre Dame Magazine I have read for the last 12 years. Those questions and their various answers are why I — someone who has stepped on campus only three times in his life — have read this magazine as if my life depended on it. Because in a sense — a moral sense — it really does. I read the magazine Kerry edited because it called me to find my soul in a materialistic world and to become a deeper, better, more reflective human being with essays so enthralling that they fused my soul to the words I was reading. If you want an instance of what I mean, go back to the Spring 2022 issue and read the essay by Gerard Thomas Straub on what he saw when he visited the last residence of Vincent Van Gogh. And then read the very next essay about Straub and his decade of tireless work among the poorest of the poor in Haiti. Those pieces made me know how terribly short I am standing next to Straub.

Those pieces and scores more didn’t just happen. They are the result of who Kerry Temple is. He is one of the finest human beings I have ever known — a real-life George Bailey. With every issue of the magazine and in our letters to each other, Kerry has always made me glad to be a fellow human being.

Mel Livatino, a regular contributor to this magazine, has published in The Sewanee Review, Portland magazine and other journals. Since 2004, 12 of these pieces have been named notable essays of the year by the annual collection The Best American Essays.


Patience and persistence

Toni Morrison once likened editors to priests and psychiatrists, warning that having the wrong one is worse than being on your own. Every writer who’s been in the game very long understands her caution. There are editors who think they speak for God and editors who have a prescription for everything, afraid, above all, that a writer might do something crazy.

Like the best priests and counselors, however, the best editors recognize the need for both benediction and intercession, patient listening and persistent urging in the right direction.

Good writing requires a certain measure of wildness. Of risk. Of sinning, if you will. You have to let the daemon of fantasy and energy possess you. You have to let your spirit fly, your voice soar, the horse beneath you gallop without bridle or blinders or fences. But that wildness must be tamed eventually, made to serve the task at hand, ideally by a gentle touch. One that doesn’t leave fingerprints.

The best editors know this. Encouraging and enthusiastic, they remain practical and honest as well. Although they know their craft inside and out, they focus on dialogue rather than dictation, asking questions instead of demanding changes. Maintaining a balance between confidence and humility, they stay open to surprise, knowing that the best solution to any problem will probably come from the writer. While they love what they do and the people they do it with, their love is tempered by a sense of duty to their audience and publication. What they want most of all is to hear the music and tune the instrument so a writer’s rhapsody conveys both beauty and meaning.

Over four decades as a practicing writer, I’ve encountered no editor who embodies these qualities as fully as Kerry Temple. He encouraged me to address each assignment in my own way, expressed his faith in my abilities, guided me with a velvet hand, even said no in a way that made me feel affirmed rather than rejected. When he didn’t think something worked, he let me know. And when he liked what I did, his praise was effusive.

The attributes that meant the most to me were his willingness to trust me, his openness to my questions and occasional assertions, his tenderness in dealing with difficulties, and his humanness in every interaction. He didn’t always agree with me or love what I did, but he always made me feel valued and talented and capable of anything. What more could a writer ask of his editor than that?

Michael McGregor is professor emeritus of English and creative writing at Portland State University and author of Pure Act: The Uncommon Life of Robert Lax.


Beatitudes between the lines

“Gifts from writers sharing themselves with strangers” is how Kerry Temple describes the stories of autumn 2023’s Notre Dame Magazine. He steps back some from his editor role in his closing sentence, saying “we, once again, pretend we knew what we were doing all along.”

I’m not going to let him get away with that. Kerry Temple knows what he is doing. The writer in me recognizes his need for a satisfying closer. He used one there to end his editor’s column, a graceful bow (pronounce that word either way). Kerry is a very good writer.

Journalists used to write -30- at the end of a piece. Googling it, I learned the symbol derives from 19th-century telegraphy, a numerical signal for the end of transmission. But in journalism that symbol signifies the end of the story only until an editor receives it — where it begins again. For the editor of a high-quality, four-times-a-year magazine representing a University with a unique global mission, we’re in territory way beyond the telegraph, or the old newspaperman’s rush to the streets before some competitor breaks a story. Kerry Temple has edited Notre Dame Magazine just short of 30 years, in times of rapidly changing technology, politics and culture. He is a superb editor.

I left Notre Dame more than 50 years ago, thinking the University was behind me. My undergraduate years had been elsewhere — checkered, stretched out by circumstances including three years in the U.S. Army. Let’s just say that when Notre Dame Magazine began its seasonal arrival at my mailbox (mysteriously finding me wherever I moved), it was the first university magazine I’d ever seen. I didn’t know that niche genre existed. I always read it with interest but never imagined writing for it. I’d not been an undergraduate at Notre Dame, and I no longer belonged to any religion. I published here and there, but only as an English professor, an occasional nonfiction writer, a North Dakotan (for those years). I never wrote as a Catholic. But Notre Dame Magazine, more than any other institution, has shown me that my Catholic culture and experience live at the core of what I write and value most.

I know my surprising claim (a shock to me, if to nobody else) is true because of the large number of essays Kerry has curated and edited into life in the magazine’s pages over his three decades. I appreciate and take pride in stories of alums living and working in circumstances around the world that I recognize as embodiments of one or several (or all) of the Beatitudes. Their work is elaborated and celebrated in high-quality prose.

The Beatitudes are seldom if ever mentioned. Rather, they lie quietly at the core of the magazine’s values, a kind of sleeper cell. I am now well acquainted with other alumni magazines and recognize how unique and inspiring Notre Dame Magazine’s emphasis is. How familiar its values have become. How necessary it is to have it in the world. I said I practice no religion, not that I abandoned the Sermon on the Mount.

I am speaking here of the low-hanging fruit of Kerry’s work. Other, more difficult-to-reach branches bear different fruit, less sweet, harder for some to taste. These are the ones that inevitably bring hostile mail to a major university or alumni magazine, tied up, as all such journals are, with a donor base.

I’ll mention two such essays from recent years: Jason Kelly’s “When the Past Presents Problems,” on the creative, inspiring, expensive, time-consuming resolution of the University’s long-controversial Columbus murals “problem.” The other: Terrence Keeley’s “Putting an End to It,” on medical aid in dying. Kerry has brought many more such morally challenging essays to these pages over his editorship. These two have touched me directly, and many others as well, as those letters show.

After 34 years teaching at a university deep in Indian Country, one that exploited its relationship with Natives through a stereotyping sports name and logo, I was relieved and proud to read of Notre Dame’s solution to its Columbus murals. Kelly’s essay laid out the history and issues unflinchingly, including the “prohibition on the baptism of natives without [Columbus’] permission in order to maintain a population of slaves.” But the essay also presents the painstaking care of preserving while covering the murals, making them available digitally (and even, on occasion, on-site) and, most of all, using them to teach over the long haul. Kerry did not hide behind some minimalist, just-the-facts announcement journalism. He went all in through Kelly. Notre Dame Magazine here continued the core mission of the institution it serves. Come one, come all. Learn. Debate. Continue.

Which brings me to Terrence Keeley’s challenging essay that Kerry published in Spring 2023. I find it easier to imagine sleeper cell Beatitudes at the core of the Columbus murals piece than in “Putting an End to It.” Carefully arranging one’s own death through contemporary medicine — Keeley refers to it as medically assisted suicide, I prefer “medical aid in dying” — races past the Beatitudes all the way back to Mosaic Law: “Thou shalt not kill.”

I was deeply moved by the love and reconciliations Keeley’s father-in-law and immediate family experienced through his choice and the organization that assisted him. Keeley and I think differently about medical aid in dying. Nevertheless, he uses religious vocabulary to celebrate those reconciliations. He speaks of profound emotion “punctuated by grace, sacred moments of prayer and harmony . . . transformational reconciliation.” His theological objection is clear, yet what he has written so well about that death includes this reader in his ending: “As more and more members of the human family outlive their mental and physical capacities, maintaining dignity and heightened divinity within grace-filled, loving communities will become more difficult.”

By telling the story of his father-in-law’s chosen death as respectfully and well as he did, Keeley serves a sacred, collective purpose. Such has been the nature of Kerry Temple’s three-decade editing of Notre Dame Magazine.

James McKenzie ’71Ph.D. is professor emeritus of English at the University of North Dakota and a frequent contributor to this magazine.


How dare he depart?

I have literally never had better editing and editorial guidance than I have from Kerry Temple. And I am rather pissed off that he is retiring! How dare he? Because editing is only a part of it. Kerry took an interest in and made room for my very Jewish-centric essays when, I imagine, other editors at the helm of a Catholic publication would not. He made my work better. Even his rejections were kind and thoughtful.

With gratitude for having found such a sympathetic and insightful editors (and team of editors!)

Jennifer Anne Moses is the author of eight books and a frequent contributor to this magazine.


An accidental mentor

I knew about Kerry Temple long before I came back to South Bend to work for University Communications. He was a legend in my mind because I was a huge fan of Notre Dame Magazine. I thought of him in the same realm with modern greats like Hemingway and Steinbeck. His essays were poetic and philosophical. His inside-the-cover introductions illustrated a pure economy of words.

In fact, he had agreed to publish a story of mine before I ever met him. While working at The Indianapolis Star, I sent him an essay about struggling to potty train my son. I think Kerry appreciated the image of me cross-country skiing in a hardware store parking lot with two maxipads for heel cushions, an illustration of the stubbornness I had passed on to my offspring. Kerry likes self-deprecating humor.

When I arrived on campus as a speechwriter in 2009, I was nervous to meet the great Kerry Temple. I shouldn’t have been. It’s hard to imagine a kinder, humbler great writer.

I was too nervous to ask him about writing anything for the magazine, but we went out to lunch and did what writers do — we lamented the sad state of journalism. He told me he taught a magazine writing class, which inspired me to consider college teaching. I had taught high school for years before I became a journalist, but it hadn’t occurred to me to combine my two previous jobs until Kerry encouraged me. Just like that, I had a mentor, even if he didn’t know it.

My first adjunct job was at Holy Cross College. I invited Kerry as a guest speaker, and that’s when I realized that his humility is all-encompassing. And physical. He was genuinely nervous, and he admitted he hated public speaking. Writers write. But Kerry excels at his crucible — he’s so genuine that it makes the audience root for him to succeed and feel excited when he does.

A year later, I suggested to Kerry a story about an old guy I often saw sitting on a bench in front of the Main Building. I noticed the man was rarely alone, and that people approached him with reverence. Then I saw his name on a plaque on the bench: Emil Hofman. Kerry agreed I should write about the legendary chemistry professor, and I was thrilled when it became the cover story for the autumn 2011 issue.

A colleague in my speechwriting job noticed that I seemed to be more excited about the magazine story than any speech I’d written. She was right. I would eventually switch to writing online feature stories full time. But I kept writing for Kerry. He even asked me to write stories that involved really cool trips: to a tiny island off the coast of Ireland, to Utah for mountain wind research, to Colorado for indigenous cliff dwellings.

While Kerry’s interests are insanely broad, he has a soft spot for the environment, for epic quests, for scrappy and flawed heroes, for the little guy overcoming great odds. Most of all, Kerry just loves a good story.

I liked writing stories for Kerry so much that I wrote a bunch without a trip or pay. I wrote about Studebaker as a symbol of South Bend’s revival, about the law-school-dean-turned-priest David Link, about economic injustice and about the intrepid explorer Father John Zahm. Who else could inspire a writer to work for free?

Along the way, Kerry became a friend. We checked in regularly about University news, current events and our similar-aged kids. We went out to lunch again when he announced his retirement. As usual, the conversation ranged from stories to colleagues, journalism to teaching, the magazine’s past to its future. An hour and a half flew by in a blink.

It’s hard to imagine the magazine without Kerry. As a historian of the institution, he would be the first to assure us that Notre Dame will carry on. I just know that the place won’t be the same.

Brendan O’Shaughnessy ’93 is an editor with the brand content team in the Office of Public Affairs and Communications.


A caregiver to people and their stories

I first met Kerry Temple when I was an intern at Notre Dame Magazine and he was managing editor, back in 1991. I was a shy, frazzled college student always rushing into the staff meetings at the last minute, and I remember his quiet kindness, patience and support.

Decades later, we reconnected when I began writing stories for him, and it has become one of the most fulfilling experiences of my journalism career — because of that kindness I remember from so long ago. He has always taken the time to send thoughtful reflections on my stories and the people in them, to send a personal note of encouragement and support.

Just one example: “Please know how grateful I am for your talent, for your thoughtfulness, and for coming though under the abbreviated turnaround time,” he wrote when I turned in a profile of a family forever changed by the school shooting in Parkland, Florida. “It’s really powerful,” he said of the piece. “I read pretty much the whole story with tears in my eyes.”

He cares about writers, about storytelling, about creating a platform for personal narratives of people from different worlds.

Kerry, please know how grateful I am for you. I will greatly miss you, but I look forward to reading your writing as you start a new chapter.

Abigail Pesta ’91 is an award-winning journalist and author of The Girls: An All-American Town, a Predatory Doctor, and the Untold Story of the Gymnasts Who Brought Him Down.


Breath and breadth of life

The writing of this personal tribute to Kerry Temple languished for several weeks, not because I didn’t know what to say or how to say it, but because I found it difficult to accept that he would no longer be the editor of Notre Dame Magazine. I now feel like I am saying goodbye to a long blessing, and in one sense I am, as is the University of Notre Dame. Yet blessings leave behind gifts, such as this magazine, the content of which has been honored by the annual anthology The Best American Essays, by my rough count, more often than that of any other university magazine — and most literary magazines. The University has honored the magazine by supporting it financially and trusting the judgment of its editorial staff; in turn, the magazine’s success has honored the University. I am honored that I could contribute to the University, if in a small way, by writing for its magazine.

My first contact with Kerry occurred over 40 years ago, when Kerry happened to read something I wrote for a different magazine and asked me if I would submit to Notre Dame Magazine. I was still mostly a working-class kid and had never seen or heard of the magazine, and all I knew about the University was that it was Catholic and had a storied football program. Since I was neither a Catholic nor a sportswriter, I wondered what I could write that would be of interest to anyone at Notre Dame. What I didn’t yet know about the University was that it is Catholic and catholic; and what I didn’t yet understand about Kerry was his sacramental view that the world should be married to the soul. I hadn’t yet experienced how his tastes and interests brought both a breath and breadth of life to the pages of the magazine when so many other alumni magazines were, and remain, mere fundraising and public relations organs. Yet I suppose a few readers of this magazine have wondered why so much of the content concerns subjects not directly related to the University. I would ask such readers to begin answering their own question by considering whether a university, especially one that is Catholic, should be about itself only.

Should someone ask me for a definition of the best writing published under Kerry’s editorship, I would refer to a passage in Francis and Bonniejean Christensen’s Notes Toward a New Rhetoric, which I alluded to when characterizing Kerry’s editorial perspective: “Narrations and descriptions, words and sentences, are means. The end is to enhance life — to give the self (the soul) body by wedding it to the world, to give the world life by wedding it to the soul. Or, more simply, to teach to see, for that, as Conrad maintained, is everything.”

Thanks to Kerry and the other staff at the magazine, thousands of readers have been given — as one of my students at St. Bonaventure University once said of the gifts offered by effective writing, “new glasses.”

Here I am tempted to add a thousand words about what a good friend Kerry has been to me, though we have only met once, briefly. A friend who tells me when what I’ve written is good and, for my good and the good of the magazine he edits, doesn’t hesitate to say when my writing is bad. Yet this tribute is not about Kerry and me, but about him and Notre Dame Magazine. And Kerry — a very talented writer whose literary career has been subsumed by his devotion to his family, the magazine and the University of Notre Dame — has never been about himself only.

Thank you, Kerry.

Mark Phillips lives in southwestern New York and is a regular contributor to this magazine.


Breathtaking impact

Back in 1983, I was a recent Notre Dame grad with a philosophy degree who was struggling — living and working at a small orphanage in Santiago, Chile.

I found that writing in my journal was one of the few ways to process all that was going on around me — life under a brutal military government, mind-numbing poverty and the traumas that the kids under my care carried with them. Except for bits in letters home, I hadn’t shown this writing to anyone.

Kerry Temple was a friend of a friend of mine from Kerry’s hometown, Shreveport, Louisiana. Kerry and I had met once when I was an undergraduate on campus, and I regularly read his pieces in Notre Dame Magazine. His stories spoke to me, as he had this way of entering into big questions, often managed through small, personal narratives.

I wrote to Kerry and shared two stories I had written about my experiences in Santiago. One was about the joys and pains of living with the children at the orphanage and the second was about life under military rule.

He wrote back on his typewriter (letters I have kept all these years) and told me the stories were good, and I should keep writing. He then did something magical.

He took these two stories that I hadn’t connected and wove them together into one, and returned the single story to me. And I saw, perhaps for the first time, the breathtaking impact of a good editor. Even more to my amazement, he published the story in Notre Dame Magazine.

That experience, at least in part, encouraged me to do a master’s degree in journalism when I returned to the United States. I wasn’t meant to be a journalist, but inspired by writers like Kerry, I see writing as a way to try to make sense of things — big and small — in my life and in the world, and sometimes the writing serves as a vehicle to share those ideas with others.

Over the years, I would write other things for the magazine. Some were ideas Kerry encouraged and others just emerged, that he — more often than not, and to my continuing amazement — would publish.

I was grateful in 1983, just as I am grateful now. I continue to marvel at his incredible skills as an editor and his explorations as a writer about how the divine is all around us — in nature, in small gestures and things, and in friendship, another area where he excels.

Steve Reifenberg ’81 is a teaching professor in the Keough School of Global Affairs.


Embodying the etymology of ‘editor’

The English word “editor” derives from a Latin root that means, according to one translation, “to bring forth.” This meaning comes to mind when I reflect on my experience of working with Kerry Temple over the past quarter century, for he is the rare sort of editor who inspires writers to explore themes and questions they might not otherwise take on. I can’t speak for other contributors to Notre Dame Magazine, of course, but in my case, he has shown remarkable skill at proposing just the right challenge to rouse the imagination.

My essay in the winter 2023-24 issue marked the 15th time Kerry ushered my work into print, and at least half of those pieces would not have been written without his invitations. Once, for example, he emailed me to say that on his drive home he had been listening to a radio interview in which someone uttered the words “useless beauty.” The phrase intrigued him and made him think of me and set him wondering if it might stir me to write a piece for the magazine.

The phrase did stir me, and set me wondering, in turn. Much of what we find beautiful can be attributed to natural selection — the peacock’s tail, the zinnia’s bloom, the monarch butterfly’s cautionary colors, a baby’s cherubic face. But what about sunsets, waterfalls, Bach’s music, Vermeer’s paintings and the host of other cultural and natural phenomena that strike us as beautiful, yet serve no obvious evolutionary purpose? Why is the universe resplendent with so much seemingly useless beauty, from the grass at our feet to the most distant galaxy?

When “Useless Beauty” appeared in the magazine, Kerry graced it with the subtitle “A Canticle for the Cosmos.” Here’s how the essay ends:

I will let the philosophers define what beauty is. But I think I understand some of what beauty does. It calls us out of ourselves. It feeds our senses. It provides standards for art and science, for language and literature. It inspires affection and gratitude. How then should we live, in a world overflowing with such bounty? Rejoice in it, care for it, and strive to add our own mite of beauty, with whatever power and talent we possess.

This one sample may stand for all the work that Kerry drew out of me by his questions and generosity.

Far back in the ancestry of the word “editor” is a Latin verb that means “to give.” This etymology seems wholly appropriate for describing Kerry, who has given unstintingly of his time and talent as editor of this magazine since 1995. I am glad to join his many readers and colleagues in celebrating his devoted, imaginative and big-hearted work.

Scott Russell Sanders is a distinguished professor emeritus of English at Indiana University and the author of more than 20 books of fiction and nonfiction, most recently Small Marvels: Stories.


Wellspring of a writer’s enthusiasm

Magazine editors tend to be busy people, and many of them can’t wait to remind you of it. Some adopt a brusque, impatient interpersonal style that I imagine is taught in advanced seminars in journalism school (Introduction to Managerial Misanthropy). I’m sure Kerry Temple has always been a busy guy, too, because orchestrating a publication as consistently strong as Notre Dame Magazine takes a ton of time and effort. But Kerry seems never to have learned to be surly.

Here’s how our professional relationship has gone over the last decade or so: I send him an idea for an essay, or sometimes he sends me one. We bat this idea back and forth by email for a while, and Kerry’s emails are long and funny, full of anecdote. Conversational. Rambling, you might even say. Which is a wonderful thing, because I know I’m not communicating with someone who’s not really paying attention to me. He may or may not accept my pitch, but at least I know Kerry has made time for me. And when he does like my pitch, after a few back-and-forths, he’ll say something like, “OK, let’s do it,” and I have an assignment. And I sign off thinking to myself, “This is going to be great!”

That kind of enthusiasm for work is not my default setting, so I have to think Kerry is responsible for it. I finish any conversation with Kerry feeling talented, trusted, valued. I know I have an ally. An editor treats me like that, and I really don’t want to let him down.

Kerry’s encouragement has seen me through all my work for the magazine. And I don’t think it is a coincidence that I have done some of my truest, most personal writing for this magazine. He does what you hope every editor will do: He ignites your creativity, gives you the space to exercise it, asks the right questions to draw the best from you. And if I should turn in something less than my best, Kerry will, in his way, let me know that the piece needs to be better. (“Would you like a little more time to make this more satisfying?”) One of the essays I wrote for Kerry became a book that earned gratifyingly positive reviews in some high-profile publications. But it was Kerry’s belief in the original essay that gave me the confidence to develop it. And his is the response I will never forget. I’ll always be grateful to Kerry and his staff at the magazine for helping me produce that work.

Whenever an issue of the magazine came out with my work in it, Kerry would send it to me with a note scrawled on a magazine notecard paper-clipped to the front cover. “I love having your work in the magazine,” it would say. “Cheers.”

Maybe they should teach that in journalism school. Working with Kerry has reminded me that kindess, wit, generosity and good manners can be part of the editor’s craft, too.

Kerry, I’ve loved having my work in your magazine. Cheers.

Andrew Santella is author of Soon: An Overdue History of Procrastination and a frequent contributor to this magazine.


An engine of ideas

I’m not Catholic, I didn’t go to Notre Dame, and I’m not a subscriber to Notre Dame Magazine. I think Kerry Temple is one of the greatest editors alive.

I’ve only met the man once. I don’t quite remember what he looks like. Tall? Gray hair? Partial to shirts that don’t tuck in? I have no idea. But I do know this: A story in Kerry’s hands is in very good hands indeed. Plus this: The man is the best engine of story ideas I’ve ever known.

I was “introduced” to KT by another great editor, Matt Storin. He put us together, thinking we might do business together. We did a lot of business together. But as someone who has been writing for newspapers and magazines for more than a half-century, I seldom have had the depth of conversations about stories the way I have routinely had them with Kerry. And the thing is, these stories we have banged around were pretty demanding. Topics like: What is humility? What is ambition? Why do we care so much about sports?

I will miss Kerry’s hands on the tiller of the magazine. He leaves behind a terrific staff and, of course, a strong ethos. I’m grateful for the friendship we have shared even though we probably wouldn’t recognize each other in a small coffee shop. I’m grateful for the difficult questions he has prompted me to pose, and to attempt to answer. And I’m grateful for the care he has employed in every sentence and every paragraph. What a gift he has. What a gift he has given.

David Shribman is executive editor emeritus of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and a frequent contributor to this magazine.


Censored again

Eulogies are better without the mush, so I am not going to write something adulatory. Instead, Kerry, I am going to draw on what you have taught me. At the top of that list is respect for your reader. If I’m respecting my reader and writing for you, I need to talk about the passage of time with a light heart, metaphors, humor, lots of nature and a nod to baseball. Layering would also be a good idea, but I am not off to a good start. I am sitting in my office with no idea what to write: a white room with wallpaper.

My office is an old sun porch. Over the years, we converted it into a livable space. The French door is original to the house and to the porch. It has old glass that, looked at just so, reveals its imperfections and waviness. The door is old, provides no privacy and doesn’t close, and anyone who walks into my front room can hear whatever I’m barking about as I talk to the electric company. They also get to see the chaos.

My office is never tidy. The floor is stone and cold, so I wear wooly slippers even in the summer. Until recently, the windows let in too much sunlight, so I couldn’t even see my computer screen in the morning. I finally managed to replace the windows, so now the space is usable in the winter, but since it’s a porch and was never insulated, I still use a space heater. As a workspace, like me, my work and my focus, it is flawed.

Now that I have filled the space of my children’s leaving with too many volunteer commitments that all seem to involve spreadsheets and phone calls, and now that I have an English degree, I spend a lot of time in this room. So, last fall, I decided to decorate, to embrace the flaws and spruce it up. I hung wallpaper and put up blinds. I bought bookcases from IKEA to get the books off the floor. And though the space is now “decorated,” it’s still flawed. The beauty of this room is not the wallpaper, my new windows or my cheap bookcases, it is the view and what I see when I am sitting here and ruminating because I love gerunds.

Sitting here, I see the birds and the bees, my imperfect lawn, children going to school. Parents walk dogs or push strollers, and some try to do both. Armies of middle schoolers pass by on their bikes. They ride down the middle of the road and block traffic in defiance of every bike-safety rule their parents taught them, flaunting their independence as the helmets they took off at the end of their driveways dangle from the handlebars. High school students ride city buses or drive cars to school, so they are nowhere to be seen; the college students are away at school, and grown-ups whiz by, driving too fast. They roll through the four-way stop on my corner as they hurry off to work and their busy lives.

A mother who reminds me of myself walked by this morning. Her son was meant to walk beside her, but he wanted to ride in the stroller. Some words were exchanged, and she gave in and let him crawl into the stroller. Much like my own son after a win, he stood up and turned to her, and hours later he’s still talking, still arguing his position, I’m sure. He wanted to get what he wants, it seems, but he also wanted his mother to be happy; he doesn’t like it when she’s angry. She appeared to be angry as she walked past my window, pushing her son in the stroller as he jabbered away. She maybe thought he should be walking beside her, that he’s too old to be in the stroller. She marches duickly, her gait fueled by anger and urgency. I wanted to tell her, “In the mist (not “midst” but “mist”) of your anger, stress and frustration, you will never be happier than you are right now. He will walk beside you until he doesn’t. What comes after the stroller is terrifying.”

In 2009, you and I made a choice that began with an essay I wrote at a desk situated not on the far eastern edge of my home but nestled instead in the corner of my basement laundry room. A laundry room next to my children’s playroom. In our correspondence that year, you talked about the “we’re all houses with many rooms” theory. I titled my column “The Playroom.” A place you described as a room where we need “to live, to laugh, be a kid, frolic with our kids, roughhouse, make believe, escape through play, within our playful imaginations.”

Once the playroom was gone, I stopped writing.

The sun rises in the east, rooms empty, houses get smaller and quieter, and for some inexplicable reason, I hung wallpaper as if that would mute the silence. The chaos that accompanied the noise became tame, and I realized that I was not. I needed to get out of my comfortable chair by the fire, to find meaning and seek a place to grow outside the rooms I built. That may be why I look outside when I have no idea what to write.

And now, I kid you not, I just watched a grown-ass woman on rollerblades sail through the four-way stop in front of my window with her head down while texting on her phone, maybe about baseball; at least she was wearing a helmet. F--k.

Maraya Steadman ’89, ’90MBA lives and writes in River Forest, Illinois.


Cheerleader, moderator, provocateur

How to praise Kerry Temple? First, I would like to say that yes, indeed, he should be praised. And I will add, as one who has worked with him over 20 years, that I would know.

Second, my angle of praise would be from the perspective of a longtime (45 years?) reader of Notre Dame Magazine, from well before the time that Kerry was editor. Under his leadership, the quarterly is never less than readable, and it is regularly compelling. He has a knack for balance, moving between issues of importance to the University, the Church, the alumni, American society and the more general reader. He was willing to be a cheerleader at times, a moderator at others, and a provocateur when needed. As a professional writer who reads magazines and journals constantly and deeply for information, awareness and pleasure, I was always eager to see a new edition, because I knew there would be something of interest.

Third, what I have said doesn’t begin to encompass what truly makes Kerry Temple special as an editor, and even more as a person. I had the good fortune to work with him for his entire career at Notre Dame Magazine, and that time together was one of the grander measures of good fortune that I’ve experienced as a writer. I have been very blessed in some of the editors I have worked with, lucky, even; folks like Eric Copage at The New York Times, Patricia Towers at 7 Days and Mirabella, Gary Fisketjon at Alfred A. Knopf and Joshua Bodwell at Godine. Each one was kind, patient, thoughtful and instructive. Kerry sits comfortably among those editors, all legendary, with an equal seat at that table.

How Kerry worked with me is important to understand, both in comprehending his gifts but also as instruction for the future editors of the world. Kerry came to trust and rely upon me for a certain kind of piece, often an essay on the state of race (and “race relations”) in the United States, often at some particularly fraught moment. And I was willing to do those essays, partially because I knew I would be working with Kerry and the team, which meant there would be freedom to write whatever I thought was the truth and also a net composed of probity, prudence, patience and devotion to the truth — even if it differed from my own.

Kerry would wait for me, wrestle the piece with me, challenge me: “Do you really believe that?” “Is that really what you want to say?” “I believe you, but you have to explain that better. . . .” Whenever I worked with him, I knew I had to bring my best, and then I would be challenged to dig and find a little bit more. And if the proof is in the pudding, many of those essays make up the body of my next book, The End of Respectability, which would not exist without Kerry asking me questions and not letting up until he thought he had my absolute best effort. That is the editor’s job — and rarer than one might think.

One more thing: Kerry didn’t just ask about race. He asked about J.S. Bach, horror movies, St. Katherine Drexel and anything else he thought I might be interested in. As a writer, I always felt he saw me as a person, which is, in my experience, decidedly not always the case.

So let us praise Kerry Temple. His work has helped make the world a better place, and helped make at least some of us better writers. He represented the University with rigor and compassion through turbulent times. That sounds like a pretty good career to me.

Anthony Walton ’82 is a poet, essayist and senior writer-in-residence at Bowdoin College.


La Esperanza 

The road, the sky, the fields on either side of I-90 as I drove to campus were drab and heavy with what felt like February. From these dark and dreary elements, you and your team invited me into the magazine’s warm, bright Grace Hall offices. We did introductions, talked a bit, then you and I went to La Esperanza with Carol Schaal ’91M.A. and talked some more over enchiladas.

I had nothing material to offer. What I had was the nerve to knock on a door hanging over a threshold I’d dreamed of crossing since I was 8 years old — one where I might be not a student or a journalist but a writer.

You kindly opened that door for me and for hundreds of other people who wrote for the magazine over the years. And so it began: pinks and golds filtering into the dreary February of my life as an aspiring writer. Not yet a thaw, but the hope one might be possible. La esperanza.

I can’t express what it meant to me that you said yes to my bold request that you please consider paying me to write something for the magazine. It’s impossible for me to know what your yeses meant to the other writers you’ve worked with. We all found a voice on the page because you were our editor. That’s the incredible gift you gave us. I am grateful. We are grateful.

Beyond what you gave us writers, though, is what you gave the tens of thousands of readers for whom we do what we do.

Our stories are sometimes serious, sometimes funny; sometimes a source of information and often of truth. They mine and illuminate this absurd, excruciating, magical thing it is to exist as a human in this world. They’re a vehicle to access our own feelings, as well as the feelings and experiences of others, from which develops empathy. They offer respite from the hard day, the inner monologue, the present reality. They offer connection, comfort, commonality. To hear and be heard; to see and be seen. An exchange, then; a way to be in relationship; that element of humanity that saves us from our individual selves.

Through your work at the magazine, you fostered this warm and welcoming, safe and respectful, thoughtful and provocative exchange of ideas: always an open door, always a seat at the table, always enough stories for everyone to share, discuss and ponder.

You created a community for us to belong to.

The greatness of a university like Notre Dame isn’t in the name it bears. It’s in the people who comprise it, the values they uphold, and the mission they advance through their service.

The magazine under your direction has served an incredibly important function and advanced an incredibly important mission. It’s gotten us through some dark and dreary Februarys. It’s helped us keep writing and reading, asking questions, thinking and learning and considering other points of view. It’s helped us keep turning the page. Even when we’ve been apart, thanks to you, the magazine has brought us together. Our hope is that it will continue to do so.

Emily Dagostino ’02 lives and writes in Oak Park, Illinois.


Fuel for a flickering flame

How do you say thank you to the person who helped you get started?

The guy who gave you your first shot?

How do you express your gratitude for the editor who saw something in your writing, maybe just a glimmer of promise, when even you weren’t certain there was much worth sharing in the lines you were typing?

Early 1998, I was living and working at a Holy Cross-sponsored homeless outreach in Phoenix. Days spent preparing soup-line meals and sorting donated clothing, evenings pecking away on the single shared computer our volunteer house owned. Poems, bits of memoir, some embarrassingly earnest fiction. I had a vague sense then of wanting to become a writer with a capital W, but little sense of how to make that dream a reality. At the suggestion of a priest in our community, I wrote an essay about an experience with one of our homeless guests and mailed it — in an actual envelope, with U.S. postage — to “Mr. Kerry Temple” at Notre Dame Magazine.

And he published it. The first thing I’d ever written that saw the light of day, and for which I was actually compensated.

If Kerry had stopped there, that would have been enough. That single byline at the back of the magazine was the sort of confidence boost that almost every writer needs at some point in their career. The confirmation that someone believes in them. It provided, in many ways, the assurance I needed to continue tending the flame of a dream that flickered and flared over the next decade. But Kerry didn’t leave it at that single acceptance. He kept circling back, inviting further submissions, inquiring about additional assignments, kicking me essay requests, firing off gentle nudges to keep writing. Some of those nudges arrived when the flame was at its lowest, offering encouragement for which I’m eternally grateful.

And so, Kerry: thank you. Thank you for tirelessly shepherding a publication that has always welcomed and celebrated new writers. Thank you for creating a space where small stories and big conversations feel equally at home, where compelling voices collaborate and illuminate and occasionally clash. Thank you for the miracle of delivering, four times a year, a publication in which the spirit of Notre Dame — in all its brilliance and blemishes — is not only alive but is beating and thrumming and bursting from the pages.

And thank you for giving a kid a shot.

I’m a writer today — sometimes even with a capital W — because you believed in something I wrote on a battered, secondhand computer 25 years ago.

God bless and godspeed on the next leg of your journey.

David Devine ’94 lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.


A resounding yay

I imagine many tributes to Kerry Temple assume the same shape as mine: He gave me a chance before anyone else did.

It began one spring evening when I attended a campus panel on careers in journalism and publishing. It had recently occurred to me that I had no plan for my life. Regrettably, this realization arrived a few months before I graduated. I had submitted some applications — MFA programs, a year-long teaching post in France — but I was under no delusion that these pathways forged routes to professional stability. I knew that my passions for literature and French would never compensate for my fight-or-flight response to Microsoft Excel, knew that I’d never be able to use corporate jargon without gagging a little — knew that on a molecular level, I was not a particularly employable person. So I sat in a rather desperate state of attention in a hot room on a cold night, listening as the panel participants described their careers, scrutinizing their words for leads like a detective on a murder case — except the murder was my future.

I don’t recall Kerry speaking much. When he did, I noticed his honesty, his efficiency, his lucidity, his absence of ego. He spoke plainly about the challenges of pursuing a career in journalism in 2015, and while I detected a quiet advocacy simmering beneath his statements, he presented the realities as they were. No sugarcoating.

In the years to follow, I would come to view this unadorned presentation of the facts as Kerry’s trademark quality. Those who know Kerry know that while he is a writer, he is also a man of few words. In response to extraordinarily good news, for example, he will typically email: yay. That’s it: period, no capitalization. He has never been one to gush or embroider or aggrandize, instead remaining measured and objective, and this was clear from the first moment I heard him speak. A commitment to impartial honesty is fundamental to journalism, of course, but it is also fundamental to care. What better way to respect people than to offer them the unembellished truth?

After the panel, I approached Kerry without a plan. I stood before him, hand outstretched, and improvised as I introduced myself. “I would love the opportunity to apply for a job at Notre Dame Magazine if you have any openings,” I found myself saying. I was from South Bend, I explained, and I would be staying in town through the summer. Did they ever hire administrative assistants? Interns? Kerry considered this for a moment, then explained that Notre Dame Magazine typically hired interns from a pool of current undergraduate applicants minoring in journalism. As we spoke, it became clear I met none of the standard criteria. I hadn’t taken a single class offered by the Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. I didn’t serve on any student magazines or newspapers. By the summer, I’d be an alumna, not a student. My absence of credentials stood beside us like a third person, eyeing us nervously. “Oh,” I said, gathering myself. “Yes, of course. I completely understand.” I thanked him for his time and prepared to go. Kerry — taking pity on me, I imagine — offered me his email, volunteering to discuss other entry points into journalism that I could seek upon graduation.

I don’t know what occurred between that interaction and the miraculous message he sent me a few months later. I’m sure I’d sent him some kind of email, and I’m sure it said nothing of note. Perhaps nobody else applied for the internship. Perhaps the student they had selected chose a different opportunity. I never asked. But shortly before my graduation, I opened my inbox to find a message from Kerry. He had read some of my essays online, he said, and wanted to invite me to apply.

Soon afterward, under the drinkable skies of early June, I stepped into a summer job as an administrative assistant at Notre Dame Magazine. By then, I had accepted a fellowship to pursue a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative writing at New York University, which would begin that autumn. I was ecstatic about the program, but I worried my stipend would fare poorly in a boxing match against New York City’s hefty cost of living, so the magazine job fluttered into my life as a winged marvel. Moreover, I cherished the opportunity to gain experience in journalism. If financially surviving graduate school was a nagging concern, surviving after graduate school was an enormous fanged question mark that followed me around, heckling. An MFA in creative writing does not facilitate real life, it merely gives you two or three years to defer it — sacred time to suspend your student loan payments as you draft a manuscript. All to say: I was thrilled to accept the job.

I only worked at Notre Dame Magazine that one summer, but it remains one of the most formative experiences of my professional life. The team Kerry cultivated was trusting, warm and collaborative. He led with humility, always drawing others into the conversation, welcoming input, holding the magazine to the highest standards while fostering an atmosphere of goodwill. He respected the entire staff, and I was astonished to find that he extended that respect to me — requesting my opinions, listening closely, giving me permission to pursue ideas and offering his own honest feedback in response.

During lulls in tasks at the office, looking for a useful way to spend the time, I began drafting a personal essay. After completing and revising the draft at home, I decided to submit it to Kerry. I knew my job as an administrative assistant was not to write but rather to fact-check, research, organize, answer phones, answer emails, restock office supplies, take notes, chat with alumni; I had no expectations. Kerry replied asking me to meet with him the next day. As I stepped into his glass-walled office, I braced myself for criticism, perhaps even a reprimand — had I overstepped by sending him my writing? Instead, he told me he wanted to publish my essay in the print magazine.

A few weeks later, at a staff meaning, he invited me to share ideas for the next issue. I pitched a profile on a longtime Morris Inn bartender named Murf. My junior year, when I lived in Ryan Hall, I had frequented Rohr’s — the hotel bar a few steps away. I often read there over a glass of wine or mug of coffee, profligately depleting my flex points. I had spent the previous year studying in France; bistro culture had gone to my head. I had only spoken with Murf once, but I found him captivating — I knew there was a story to tell about him. After listening to my pitch, Kerry gave me permission to write the profile, imposing no word limit. Just see what happens, he told me.

Kerry’s trust in me — a 22-year-old with no journalism experience — gave me the confidence to devote my energy and attention to the assignment. After meeting with Murf several times and speaking with his friends and colleagues, after transcribing my interviews and making several outlines, after drafting and redrafting the profile, fact-checking it, cutting it, expanding it, refining it, I finally arrived at something that seemed to do Murf justice. I submitted it the week I left South Bend for Brooklyn. After a few rounds of edits, Kerry ensured that Murf’s profile occupied center stage in the magazine, pairing the print version with a photo spread and the online version with a video of Murf fixing Father Hesburgh’s favorite cocktail. The response to the profile was staggering. Eventually, Murf was named an honorary alumnus of the University.

“Murf” was published over eight years ago. While writing this tribute, I serendipitously received a text from Murf himself. “I just wanted to tell you that this couple came in last night to meet me,” he wrote. “They read the article that you wrote and had me on a bucket list. This happened at least ten times during this football season. I tell them to go over to the bookstore and buy your book. I hope all is well and that you have a great holiday season. Thank you again and God bless.”

The opportunity to celebrate and honor Murf — a man of integrity, humility and goodness who works tirelessly to cultivate community at Notre Dame, a person who never asked for the recognition he wholly deserves — remains one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I was able to write it and share it because Kerry gave me a chance. And then another, and then another. In the years after I left Notre Dame Magazine and moved to New York, Kerry solicited essays now and then, allowing me to freely pursue ideas while also offering fair compensation, two rewards that seldom coalesce in the assignments of a freelance writer.

You never forget the first people who took you seriously. The first people who offered you the confidence, challenges and space you needed to grow. In the fall of 2022, I published my debut novel, and I was fortunate to receive tremendous support. Last year, as I cradled a 10-pound, solid-bronze statue at the National Book Award ceremony, wandering the afterparty in a daze, I kept thinking about the people who gave me a chance. The people who trusted my abilities and believed in my potential, teaching me to trust and believe in turn. Kerry was one of those people.

What a gift it has been to work with Kerry Temple, to learn from his leadership, to read his creations and curations over the years. How lucky we are to know him. As I reflect on his retirement, I am filled with a resounding sense of gratitude, a celebratory song of brass and joy. As Kerry would say: yay.

Tess Gunty ’15 won the 2022 National Book Award for Fiction for her debut novel, The Rabbit Hutch.


Some kind of legend

A student: anxious but hopeful. Two semesters from graduation with a music degree. He’s a fine pianist, but in classical music you’re either brilliant or you’re not, so now he’s in a magazine writing class, flanked by a future New York Times reporter and the future head writer of Good Morning America, wondering if he might be worthy of the endeavor.

The teacher: Some kind of legend, in a place with more legends than most. (He’s awfully sweaty.) His voice starts as a whisper, like gravel under bike tires. Then he starts talking about tone and texture. About perspective and time and rhythm. Annie Dillard and her angelic moth, Gene Weingarten’s gravitic humor. About the time he, the teacher (who is also a writer), composed a tragedy in the omniscient second person: how exhausting to bear that responsibility, how rewarding to write such a piece of art.

The teacher is an editor, too, and one day after class he asks the student if he could cover a slightly unusual event. Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels is speaking at campus and staying over in Alumni Hall, and he might hang out with students past parietals, and given that the student happens to be one of the few men in an almost entirely female class, would the student mind covering it for the magazine? And the student, still hopeful and anxious, says yes. Pangs of responsibility. Luminescent gratitude. His first byline in a real publication — in the magazine.

Over that semester, the student feels his spirit thrill to the quixotic pursuit of storytelling, feels his own stories bubble up, feels himself taking the leap of faith before he’s ready. Still hopeful, still anxious, but alive with the potential of feeling seen, feeling heard, feeling that his voice might commute a piece of the spirit to another. The teacher has given him a profound gift: The student begins to understand what it means to be a writer.

In class, then as an intern (another break), the student unearths those stories. His erstwhile high school rock band survives a Jersey Shore dive bar. Military veterans find their place on Frank Leahy’s championship football teams. A rock’n’roll piano teacher, who mostly smiles with his eyes, plays the chords to a story.

A week before graduation: yet another break. The University needs a development writer, and while it’s not quite magazine writing, it’s a professional writing gig. Something to pay the bills while he hones his craft. The editor recommends him to the hiring manager, and the student gets the job. The student, who was otherwise facing graduation with the composure of an unwilling log-flume rider, can now see a future in writing. His hands feel useful again.

And so, with gratitude, he writes about everything he can. Spontaneous skydiving. Two classmates hustling to start a tech company in New York City. An ode to his family’s Chevy Suburban. Two classmates, an architect and lawyer, side-gigging as a Chicago rap duo. A baseball player turned pro volleyball player. A Metropolitan Opera singer. A stint of football recaps in the style of Grantland Rice — mostly a labored exercise in extended metaphors — delivered from the press box for the semi-miraculous 2012 season.

The writer comes to understand the editor’s quiet mastery. How he summons stories like a water diviner calling forth a clear spring in rocky soil. How he makes writers feel like friends, then confidants. How each issue of a magazine is an anthem, a chorus of artistic voices — a vanishing art form. How he demonstrates grace and patience for his readership, even after the magazine’s first-ever fashion issue. How he connects the writer to a friend’s niece’s boyfriend’s friend, who happens to work at NBC in New York, where the national news team needs some poor soul for the graveyard shift, and the editors are politely bemused by the writer’s spiral-bound book of published stories, and they say: sure, kid. You got the job.

Later, the writer reflects on how years of writing and fourth-degree connections led to that moment. Suddenly he’s back in a classroom in 2011, when the editor takes the anxious, hopeful kid aside and tells him what every 22-year-old needs to hear: that someone believes in his voice, that the kid just needs courage to go do what he was meant to do. That he was meant to do it.

And the writer realizes every piece he’s written, from that rock-band piece to a profile in the omniscient second-person, has been his way of saying thanks.

Thank you for your patience.

Thank you for inviting me in.

And thanks for giving that kid his big break — again and again.

Michael Rodio’12, director of data science at Talkspace, lives and writes in Brooklyn.


A writer’s ideal compatriot

As a first-year doctoral student at Notre Dame, I was conscious of straddling two worlds: the vivid language of my storytelling Irish American family in Boston, where embellishments and digressions grew with every retelling, and the exacting language of literary study, in which I was learning to be ever more precise, measured and footnoted — each claim carefully supported as in a legal brief. While becoming a scholar has had its rewards, as a graduate student, I still longed to write for “nonspecialists,” and I thought a class in magazine writing with Kerry Temple might help me find a third path, a way of writing for the general reader.

Kerry’s course, in which we read a variety of compelling writers and delved into the subjects that interested (or obsessed) us most, was the start of an almost 20-year friendship and collaboration. At the end of that summer, I tried out my new skills with a pitch to Kerry himself on a piece about the cruxes in women’s lives and my mother’s decision to stay at home while raising four children in lieu of a promising research career. To my surprise, he accepted my pitch and gave me the running space for my first magazine essay. In a couple years, I was able to write “Lucie and Me,” a piece about a hairpin turn in my own life and a friendship’s saving grace, an essay I would not have been able to crack without Kerry’s guidance.

Since then, I have written widely for magazines in the United States and England — mostly about poetry and poets, but also about friendship, motherhood, the polio and COVID-19 pandemics and a recovery from a brush with paralysis. My latest piece for Notre Dame Magazine, “My Search for Elizabeth Bishop,” was cited in The Best American Essays 2022.

As an editor, Kerry is a writer’s ideal compatriot: as intuitive as a psychologist, bloodhound or fortune teller, he locates parts of the story not yet on the page and lends writers the trust and daring to follow their better instincts.

Kerry’s book, Back to Earth, which appeared the year I lucked into his course, is a bracing, beautiful account of a pilgrim searching at middle age for greater meaning and coherence. I reread it recently and recognized in it the same honest, questing conscience and intelligence that has been present in the magazine during Kerry’s editorship, making it a standout among national magazines. Kerry’s legacy to his readers and writers is his is loyalty to truth, and to hard, beautiful truths. It has shaped these pages and, I trust, will endure as his mark on a generation of American writers.

Heather Treseler ’10Ph.D., is a poet, essayist and professor of English at Worcester State University.


Where it all began

In our study of Mark Twain, Kerry Temple was rather shy and self-deprecating — and a terrific writer. His boyhood years in Shreveport, Louisiana, and Twain’s in Hannibal, Missouri, shared a Southern vision of the wondrous presence of the Mississippi River. When Kerry as an undergraduate wrote a striking paper on Huckleberry Finn marked by concrete observations, real imagination and a distinctive voice and worldview clearly akin to Huck’s, I asked him to meet with me to discuss it.

Ten years later he arrived, his visit prefaced by the question of whether I still wanted to discuss his paper. I did, of course, and he brought with him several qualities he shared with Twain: a wonderful sense of humor, a genuineness as a human being (still self-deprecating, inquisitive, and without a shred of pretense) and as a writer — an open and astute observer with a clear conviction, as Twain argues, that the difference between the almost-right word and the right word is “the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning.” Twain and Temple both came to know, in language and in life, what is most important.

As for Kerry’s sense of humor as part of his appreciating Twain, one might argue that a reader would have to be an absolute blockhead not to respond to, say, Twain’s contentions that “Wagner’s music is better than it sounds,” that the name of Fenimore Cooper’s character Chingachgook is actually pronounced “Chicago,” and that God should have forbidden Adam and Eve to eat the serpent rather than the fruit because in defying Him humanity would never have known evil. But Kerry’s keen and abiding sense of humor, like Twain’s at his best, is restorative and communal rather than isolating and ironic. Sentiment trumps today’s pervasive solipsism. It is deeply human, shared and sympathetic as we try to embrace and live by — though we so often fail — what Lincoln calls “the better angels of our nature.”

From our conversations about Twain and throughout our friendship, Kerry’s reflectiveness clearly presupposed the power and importance of words and the moral imagination’s engagement with real-life values, conflicts and questions. It’s been said that an academic is someone terrified that what works in life will not work in theory. It’s also rumored that when German philosophers die they are given a choice between entering Heaven or attending lectures about Heaven. Further, when Orwell said that “some ideas are so stupid that only an intellectual could believe them,” he well may have agreed with that American definition of an “intellectual” as someone who could listen to the “William Tell Overture” without thinking of the Lone Ranger, which immediately rules out most of us.

For Kerry, and for his compatriot, the prior editor of Notre Dame Magazine, Walt Collins ’51, abstract theory could never hold a candle to life’s intense actuality and even sacramental intensity amid all the global horrors of what’s been called “this terrible century.” Their first-rate writing and editing deepened the magazine’s real, timely, concrete and perennial engagement with often-controversial issues, and deepened its distinctiveness as well. During that decade when we had not been in touch, Kerry spent time in the West honing his journalistic ability and his understanding of America — of what D.H. Lawrence called America’s “spirit of place,” our vision of nature and the complexity of our moral aspirations as a people and the inevitable shortcomings inherent in our human condition.

As editor, Kerry further enhanced the depth of the magazine — its contributors, topics, staff and nationally respected quality — and Notre Dame’s voice and distinctiveness. Even amid the noisy clatter and din of so-called social media — try to imagine Lincoln tweeting during the Civil War — the zaniness of “streaming” assaulting our ever-diminishing attention spans, and the constant distractions disrupting our sense of time and continuity, the magazine (especially Kerry’s profound articles and prefaces to each issue) stands out in its distinctiveness and quality and, strikingly, its consistency.

During one of our many meetings, often lunches at the University Club — now, alas, but a memory — I told Kerry a story about my leaping off a bridge at the Jersey Shore the year before. Since my brother and friends and I had made the jump repeatedly (a 30- or 40-foot drop) as teenagers, and it was now only a few decades later, I figured a jump now would be equally joyful. Kerry thought the idea and aftermath comical. The story avoided complete tragedy and graphically reminded us that teenagerdom and middle age often differ. Kerry suggested I write about it for the magazine, perhaps in part because I still believe we can go home again.

In working with Kerry and aiming to write for a broader audience than usual, I had a great deal to learn, and Kerry — no surprise — turned out to be an excellent editor: astute and helpful, with the same generous spirit. He made my account far better than it would have been, and the same holds true for other articles I’ve enjoyed writing for the magazine. In becoming my mentor, Kerry reminded me that we are, all of us, students. Intellectual arrogance and posturing, pretense and self-importance remain as ludicrous as they are appalling. As the novelist Peter DeVries reminds us, all we do our whole lives is just keep going back to school.

As editor and friend, Kerry is the same true and good soul who knows our shared human experience is at once joyous and sad, tragic and comic, defined by church spires and inane commercials; by sports leagues that encourage our young people to gamble while profiting from their partnerships with gambling venues; by the incongruities abounding in everyday life. For all of us, humor can be a profound bond in recognizing we are all in the same boat, seeking both adventure and a safe and secure harbor. In seeing, too, how humor and the virtue of humility — not much advertised these days — are close kin indeed. Former Senator Alan Simpson observed that in Washington, D.C. “Those who take the high road of humility never have to worry about heavy traffic.”

Kerry’s genuine humility and self-deprecating tone, his generous mind, heart and spirit make him strikingly special.

Was my 10-year wait worth it? Speaking for one, and for all, and for Notre Dame: Absolutely.

Thomas Werge is a professor emeritus of English at Notre Dame.