Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Notre Dame Role Models

Every week or so, my friends and I invite a professor or a married couple to have dinner with us and share their insights on life, love, marriage and anything else they want.
Last Thursday night I was lucky enough to hear Bill and Elizabeth Kirk speak on Marital Love and Spiritual Fruitfulness over dinner.
Bill Kirk is the Associate Vice President for Residence Life at Notre Dame and one of my favorite people. He graduated from Notre Dame in 1984 with a degree in accountancy. After several years in the workforce he returned to campus as a law student. He has served as Assistant Rector of Sorin Hall, Rector of Holy Cross Hall and Rector of Stanford Hall. He’s also funny, kind and a really good guy.
Elizabeth Kirk, his wife and also one of my favorite people, was a professor at the Ave Maria law school and worked as a lawyer in Chicago. She graduated from the University of Missouri-Columbia with a Bachelor’s degree in English Literature and also graduated from the Notre Dame Law School. She is gracious and lovely, and has such impeccable style that it makes me jealous.
Bill and Elizabeth brought their two adorable boys: Will, a laughing redheaded toddler, and Benedict, a chubby and adorable 8-month-old.
They talked about the ups and downs of marriage and the struggles of infertility (both their boys are adopted). They shared funny stories and serious moments that almost had my friends and me in tears. I had never before heard the heartache of infertility discussed so frankly and so gracefully.
Finally, Bill looked at the two smiling, squirming little boys in his and Elizabeth’s arms and said, “I know these boys were meant to be my sons.”
I thought, “That is love. That is a true Christian family.”
One of my favorite things about Notre Dame is that it is full of incredible role models. I will never forget the day I saw my freshman biology professor, Father Tom Streit, on TV discussing his work to end lymphatic filariasis (also known as elephantiasis, a horribly disfiguring disease). The man is almost single-handedly eliminating elephantiasis from Haiti and I had him as a teacher.
There are so many professors and administrators at Notre Dame who the students can look up to as examples of virtue. That will always be one of my favorite things about this university.
Which professors were your role models as an undergraduate? What made you look up to them?
 Thanks for the comments!


  1. I was an English major during the 70's, so my favorite profs were Tom Werge, Les Martin, Bill Krier, and Tom Jemielity. They were incredibly wise and each had the most wonderful sense of humor. Loved their classes so much that I made sure I took each of them twice before I graduated.

  2. Tess, I saw your picture in the Alumni e-newsletter! Congrats on the internship and blog. Hope you're having an awesome junior year.

  3. Thanks Emily! I'm really my loving junior year. Jeanine, do you know if any of those professors still teach here? Any good stories you remember from their classes?

  4. Tess, I believe the only one who has officially retired and left the campus is Professor Martin. If you have the chance to take a class from any of the remaining three, don't hesitate. Mr. Jemielity's Satire class was infamous (reading Roman and Greek satire "unfiltered" introduced me to a lot of new words for body parts - ha). Professor Werge had two favorite subjects -- Dante's Inferno and Mark Twain -- both classes were marvelous. And Mr. Krier focused on contemporary American lit (John Updike, John Barth, etc.).

  5. I was a History major from 1969-73. Without doubt my favorite professor was Dr.Sam Shapiro. I think i took every class he taught at one time or another. He made the subject come alive. His topical field trips were famous (infamous?). For example, our Mexican History class took a trip to Taco Bell. Favorites outside my department were Father Maury Amen in the Theology department, and Dr. Ernest Sandeen in English. I absolutely loved his poetry class.

  6. Bill Dempsey, President, Sycamore TrustSeptember 1, 2010 at 9:11 PM

    And now the University shows how little it values what Bill Kirk has contributed over 21 year by firing him without notice or grace or even common courtesy -- four days after the new Vice President of Student Affairs, Fr. Doyle, took office. And while praising him in an internal letter but refusing public comment except by referring to a "restructuring" which evidently affects only Bill. The speculation is that the reasons include Bill's standing with other faculty members at the students' Mass and Rally last year in opposition to the honoring of President Obama; Elizabeth's support of those students in their organizational efforts; Charlie Weis' slam at Bill's office for holding athletes to the University's high standards of behavior; and Bill's potential role in connection with the prosecution of the pro-life demonsrtators at the Obama commencement. It's all described in detail in the current issue of the independent student publication The Rover, which includes a moving tribute to Bill ("So Long, Captain Kirk") and indictment of the dismissal by Professor David Solomon, the Director of the Center on Ethics and Culture. A sorry episode indeed.