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Experiences with diversity shape young Malloy

Eileen Duffy | Wednesday, April 27, 2005

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

When 22-year-old Eddie Malloy stood among the crowd at Martin Luther King, Jr.’s 1963 speech, he probably wasn’t thinking about becoming president of his alma mater, the University of Notre Dame. But when he did 24 years later, he carried a lifetime of experiences with diversity – racial, socioeconomic and religious. Those eyes that had seen so much injustice ensured that minorities have a place at Notre Dame – under their watch, the percentage of American minority students grew from 7.7 to 16.6 percent.

Early years

A native of Washington, D.C., University President Father Edward Malloy was born on Dec. 3, 1941, to Edward and Elizabeth (née Clark) Malloy. Each parent had personal impact on the young Malloy, Malloy later wrote in a Holy Cross publication. While his mother was “the liberal Catholic influence – gentle in judgment of others, confident of God’s mercy for sinners,” his father was “more conservative – a defender of the Pope and all things Catholic.”

Malloy put his Catholicism into practice by serving as an altar boy at St. Anthony’s Catholic grammar school. In an interview with the Washington Post, one of his high school basketball teammates George Leftwich pointed to Malloy as the reason for his conversion to Catholicism.

“Monk’s the single most responsible person for my being a Catholic,” Leftwich said. Malloy’s parents served as Leftwich’s godparents on the day he was baptized.

Although neither Edward Sr. nor Elizabeth Malloy had continued past high school, they “prized and encouraged education” for their children, according to a 2001 article in The Catholic Standard. It was during Malloy’s time at St. Anthony’s, in third grade, that he began calling one of his friends “Bunky.” When Bunky needed a retort, he came up with “Monky,” which was later shortened to “Monk.”

Malloy then moved on to Washington, D.C.’s Archbishop Carroll High School. By his senior year, Malloy was ranked fifth academically in his class and had served as student body and class president and yearbook editor. He also wrote for the Crescent, the student newspaper, and was chairman of the Progressive Party his junior year.

According to The Catholic Standard, Malloy learned a great deal from his Augustinian priests at Carroll.

“They gave me the sense that there was nothing irreconcilable about being a priest and a committed teacher,” he said.

Malloy also played basketball all four years at Carroll – and he played it well. His senior year, Malloy co-captained a team that began a 55-game winning streak, extending into the next season. One of the most important aspects of his high school career, though, was learning and playing basketball alongside blacks.

“It gave me a concrete example of living, working and befriending one another in a multiracial society,” Malloy told The Catholic Standard.

Malloy’s father set the precedent for the young Malloy’s racial tolerance. According to a Washington Post article, he was involved in preparations for Martin Luther King, Jr.’s march on Washington and a member of the Knights of Columbus as well as the Knights of St. John, a largely black group. Malloy was very concerned with integration in the city, said John Thompson, one of Malloy’s teammates at Carroll.

In The Washington Post, Malloy recalled a scene when ugly racism was aimed at the Carroll basketball team.

“[My father] was driving us, I think to Villanova,” Malloy said. “In Delaware we stopped at a place and they refused to serve us – only the white players. I never forgot that. I was so offended – these were my friends.”

Many years later Malloy had another run-in with racial tension, which he detailed in his book “Monk’s Travels: People, Places and Events.” In 1968, after King had been killed, there was rioting in Washington, D.C. When things seemed to have settled, Malloy and another seminarian took a drive to survey the city. When they turned onto 14th Street, Malloy recalled, “All hell broke loose.”

Amidst violent activity, Malloy’s car stalled, and the windows were smashed. When they made their way out and found a policeman, he asked if they were hurt, and they said no.

“Get out of here,” the policeman then said to Malloy and his friend. “This city is up for grabs and we can’t pay attention to every minor event.”

Malloy was also asked by King’s family to speak at Ebenezer Baptist Church in Atlanta, which he described in his book as “a great thrill.”

The four years Malloy spent at Notre Dame as an undergraduate were not as perfect as some might imagine.

Offered 50 basketball scholarships, Malloy chose Notre Dame for its Catholic mission. Once there, though, he spent a good deal of time on the bench. In addition, according to a New York Times Magazine article, he began his college career as an engineering major – but flunked math and engineering drawing during his first semester, prompting a switch to English. Finally, as Malloy recently admitted at the tribute “Michiana Salutes Monk,” a South Bend ceremony held in his honor in February, he never passed the swim test.

Answering the call

After his junior year at Notre Dame, Malloy went on a service trip to Aguascalientes, Mexico. It was at the Basilica of Cristo Rey high on a mountain, Malloy said, when he was sure he wanted to be a priest.

“The combination of being in another culture, feeling motivated to be in a helping profession and being really moved by that place,” he told the New York Times, “gave me this profound sense of certitude about what I wanted to do with my life.”

The following two summers, he did two more service projects in Latin America.

“Those experiences influenced my perspective on the divisions between rich and poor and the appreciation of the diversity of cultures,” he said.

In 1967, Malloy entered Moreau Seminary at Notre Dame. While studying for the priesthood, he completed a master’s in English and another in theology.

Following his ordination, Malloy entered the doctoral program at Vanderbilt University’s Divinity School, where he earned a Ph.D. in Christian Ethics in 1975. According to The Vanderbilt Hustler, studying alongside Catholics enhanced Malloy’s education.

“I learned a lot about other traditions and, at the same time, my own,” he told the Hustler.

His classmates’ experiences were equally enhanced.

“Our interchange with him and the other Roman Catholic students made for a vastly more enriching educational experience for all of us,” said Richard Harrison, Malloy’s classmate and former associate professor of Church history at Vanderbilt.

Malloy returned to Notre Dame in 1974 and began serving as an associate professor with tenure in the department of theology. In 1981, he was named vice president and associate provost. In a chapter he wrote on “Succeeding a Legend at the University of Notre Dame,” Malloy called his time in those positions “invaluable.”

“I was able to come to know a broad cross-section of the university community, faculty, staff and students,” he wrote. “And I was able to continue teaching, scholarship and pastoral activity.”

Ascent to the presidency

He was also director of the Master of Divinity [M.Div] program, theology professor Robert Krieg said, but he combined all these duties with ease.

“While taking steps to improve the M.Div. program, he taught undergraduates every semester and remained committed to their education,” said Krieg, who worked with Malloy. “While he could have resided at Moreau Seminary, he chose to reside in Sorin Hall so that he could remain close to undergraduates.”

Malloy frequently arrived at his M.Div. office concerned about the well being of some of the undergraduate students in his courses or in his residence hall, Krieg said.

“For example, he often was up during the night with them at the hospital if they were sick, or meeting with them if they had learned of the illness or death of a parent,” Krieg said. “He succeeded in attending to the education of both the future leaders of the Catholic Church in the M. Div. program, and also the Notre Dame undergraduates.”

In 1986, Malloy was named the successor to then-University President Father Theodore Hesburgh. Hesburgh was Malloy’s number one role model for the job, Malloy said.

“Clearly my model of president was Father Hesburgh,” Malloy said, “because I worked with him and he did a great job and was very encouraging of me.”

However honored Malloy was at his presidential appointment in 1986, he must have had some inclinations towards the role. In Archbishop Carroll High School’s yearbook, each senior’s profile includes a nickname, like “The road-runner!” or “Beer-belly!”

Next to Malloy’s smiling face, the caption reads “Monk – The cage president.”