The well-loved Notre Dame professor and scholar Ralph McInerny passed away Friday morning at 7:45 a.m. at the age of 80. First Things editor Joseph Bottum reported McInerny's death in an article on the magazine's website on Friday afternoon.
In his article, Bottum reprinted a letter sent to him on Friday by Associate Professor Christopher Kaczor at Loyola Marymount who was one of McInerny's students. Prof. Kaczor describes the late academic's life accomplishments as well as his personal relationship with him.
Ralph McInerny had retired from the philosophy department at the University of Notre Dame as the Michael P. Grace Professor of Medieval Studies after serving in that position since 1955, said Prof. Kaczor.
“He wrote wrote more than 40 books in philosophy and other disciplines (including poetry), authored thousands of scholarly and general audience articles, edited three national magazines, authored more than 80 mystery novels (including the Father Dowling Mysteries), and I’m confident directed more dissertations than anyone in the history of Notre Dame,” wrote Prof. Kaczor.
The Fr. Dowling books eventually became a successful TV series.
McInerny was also credited with co-founding Crisis Magazine in 1982. The monthly lay publication was recognized for its orthodoxy in Catholic opinion.
“One might think such a person would neglect his students, au contraire (a McInerny habit was to end sentences in lectures in Latin or French),” Prof. Kaczor quipped. “He was my dissertation advisor and at the time he had around 7 other students as well. He was available for us virtually every afternoon in his 7th floor office of Hesburgh Library.”
“If we gave him a dissertation chapter, he’d have it back to us like a serve in tennis. He gave us laptops. He arranged for extra funding (many of us had two or three kids, and none of us made more than $10,000 a year). He took us out to lunch (The Great Wall of China and the University Club were favorites). He’d give us copies of his scholarly books and novels. He helped get us jobs.”
“When I think about how I hope to live the rest of my life,” reflected Prof. Kaczor, “he is the model : Scholar, teacher, writer, family man, person of faith. No doubt he is enjoying his reward, meeting his Maker and, as an incidental benefit, his own model of the intellectual life, Thomas Aquinas.”