University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame

My Fifty Years at Notre Dame

Leo R. Ward, C.S.C.

Copyright ©2000 by the Indiana Province of the Priests of Holy Cross. All rights reserved. No part of this text may be reproduced in any form by any electronic or mechanical means (including photocopying, recording, or information storage and retrieval) without permission in writing from the publisher.

Table of Contents

  1. Notre Dame, Here I Come
  2. Commitment
  3. A Long Way To Go
  4. Freedom
  5. Cowboy at Oxford
  6. Campus Maverick
  7. All Over the Lot by Ward
  8. Thy People, My People
  9. Interlude on Holy Cross
  10. Our Ecumenical Destiny
  11. Football at Notre Dame
  12. A Catholic University
  13. Father Hesburgh and a Catholic University
  14. With One Voice


Almost everyone who has spent a lifetime at Notre Dame has a story to write. But most of us never do. There are so many hopes and dreams, so many joyful and sorrowful encounters with others here, young and old, so much lore and myth and mystery, too.

It will cause joy and pleasure to many that Father Leo R. (Hick) Ward has decided in the autumn of his life to write such a book.

It is a long journey from an Iowa farm to Notre Dame, Washington, and back to Notre Dame to teach philosophy. Then there was that delightful academic interlude at Oxford and Louvain Universities in quest of Aristotle's wisdom and values. Back at Notre Dame again, more wise and more steeped in values, is when I first met Leo R. Ward. I had just returned from a year of Novitiate in Rolling Prairie, Indiana, to begin my second year at Notre Dame when I encountered him walking alone, already a legend, along the cinder path in front of Moreau Seminary by the lake. He was obviously deep in thought -- maybe Aristotle -and we only exchanged a brief greeting which I am sure did not break his train of thought.

Over the years, his interests broadened into Catholic social teachings, especially cooperatives a la Antigonish, Irish folk ways, long before the current interest in ethnicity, Catholic intellectual interests here and abroad, and, particularly, the nature and purpose of the Catholic university. All of these interests burgeoned into books which many of us have read and enjoyed.

It was his writing on the Catholic university that, as he rightly observed, particularly interested and influenced me when I, too, returned to Notre Dame to teach and then to help create an ever greater Catholic university here. I found him, for our present purposes, much more helpful than Cardinal Newman, although he is in the tradition of Newman's Idea of a University. We always called him Leo R. (rational) Ward to distinguish him from another legendary teacher here, Father Leo L. (literature) Ward. And rational, in a very down-to-earth fashion, he has ever been, as philosophers should be.

When I had to give my first talk on a Catholic university, it was to his book, Blueprint for a Catholic University, that I returned, and his message that I preached. I was back to him again this past year when speaking on the same subject again, for about the hundredth time. Doc Ward (another name for him) received the first copy of this talk that I shared with him so that he might recognize his progeny and my gratitude.

This latest book is pure Ward, simple, direct, and thoughtful. He is never flashy, but always pungent. He seems to say, "This is how I see it, like it or lump it." I am sure that all of his old friends and many new ones will like it -- except perhaps his mild growls about football which is more honest here (in an academic sense) than anywhere I know.

I will not comment on his chapter with my name on it, since he is here more generous than tart, and he can be both.

My deepest appreciation for Leo R. Ward derives from his lifelong efforts here to enlighten students by discussing seriously with them -- even with athletes -- questions that really matter. He himself has assured for so many that quality of education that should characterize the Catholic university, adequacy of knowledge, not just arts and scienceS, but philosophy and theology, too.

I know that I speak for all of our lay faculty especially when noting that he has always practiced what the great Cardinal Suhard of Paris preached: "The apostolate of one's presence." Leo R. Ward always took great joy in meeting with the lay faculty, their spouses and their children, in their homes. And always, when he was there, there was good conversation, the attraction of conflicting ideas that were worth discussing, good causes to be espoused, fair battles to be won.

Maybe that is why this is such an interesting book, because it is full of good ideas, chattily discussed without pretention or cant. I hope all enjoy it as much as I did.

-- (Rev.) Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C.
November 8, 1978