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Outgoing president eager to shift gears after July 1

Katie Perry | Wednesday, April 27, 2005

A full professor in the theology department and member of the faculty since 1974, University President Father Edward Malloy has grown quite accustomed to playing the role of teacher during his tenure at Notre Dame.

But when he steps down from his post this July, Malloy will make a conscientious transition from instructor to student.

“The best explanation of what I want to do with the rest of my life, other than be a good priest and somebody who’s available to engage in these apostolic sorts of works, is to learn as much as I can for as long as I can about as many things as I can,” Malloy said.

For the man who believes in the “inherent worth for a person to be a lifelong learner,” this means garnering knowledge both traditionally through literature as well as through cultural experience. Malloy said although he would be complacent spending the rest of his life with his nose deeply buried in a book, he is too much of an “activist” to shun opportunities in active learning.

“My goal is to be a learner in the formal way of reading and exposure to good creative arts, [and] also the way to have a range of experiences, maybe see some other parts of the world,” Malloy said.

Malloy said he plans to work on three books next year, and additionally “do some travel” both internationally and domestically. If the past is any indication, Malloy’s visible personality will remain intact even though the outgoing president will no longer be at the forefront of University affairs.

“I’ve been in China and Notre Dame people stop me and come up,” Malloy said. “Or in Japan, or all over Europe or the Holy Land, or Latin America – could be anywhere. Could be on the subway in New York, could be on the Metro in Washington, could be at some restaurant, and people come up.”

Although Malloy is renowned among members of the worldwide Notre Dame family, he plans to continue living in the one place he is most recognized – his Sorin Hall residence.

“In the summer, sometimes [the tour guides] will go by and say, ‘Oh the president of Notre Dame lives in there, in Sorin Hall,’ and I’ll be sitting in my room with shorts on or something, and I’ll wave and they’ll go ‘oh’ [embarrassed gesture],” Malloy said.

Like University President Emeritus Father Theodore Hesburgh, who resides on the 13th floor of the library that shares his name, Malloy’s continued presence on campus will be felt even though he will no longer serve as University president.

“One of the odd things about Notre Dame is that on this campus if I walk around, or in this community, I can presume that people know who I am,” Malloy said. “They may not say anything … but generally that’s true, because I’ve been at the job a long time, and Father Hesburgh’s the same way.”

Malloy might take pleasure in the recognition that accompanies his celebrity, but Notre Dame’s 16th president is wholly cognizant he will be on sabbatical after officially surrendering his position in July.

“I will try to do full justice of the notion of the sabbatical, which is [like] the Sabbath, the day of rest in the sense that it’s a change of pace from what my life has been like for the last X number of years,” Malloy said.

However, while Malloy’s schedule will be significantly less demanding after July 1, Hesburgh noted the life of a president emeritus is not marked solely by leisure.

“[It is] a sigh of relief that the 18-hour days will no longer be there, but I must say that I’m turning 88 next month and I’m still pretty busy,” Hesburgh said.

Busy is a state to which Malloy is relatively accustomed. For nearly 20 years he has sat at the top of the University, prolifically seeking to improve upon nearly every facet of Notre Dame. Among his most noteworthy accomplishments were the successful completion of the Generations campaign – which earned $1.1 billion – and the enhancement of student diversity. Additionally, Malloy shifted academic focus to stress the importance of research, increased financial aid and improved the academic profile of University students.

But upon resignation the president, much like his storied predecessor, will voluntarily and contentedly step out of the limelight and into the background.

“Father Hesburgh provides a wonderful model for a president emeritus,” Malloy said. “He has his own things that he likes to be involved with, he is available to the University to pinch-hit and go to funerals and other kinds of things, to welcome groups when somebody’s not around, but always in a subordinate role, and that’s what my intention is.”

In choosing to emulate Hesburgh regarding his upcoming resignation, Malloy has stayed true to promises made when he first announced he would be stepping down last April. Malloy recalled Hesburgh’s pledge to leave the University in “good shape,” but promptly move from center stage to the wings.

“I’m not retiring, just shifting focus,” Malloy said in the April 30 press conference. “I have no intention of going anyplace else. Father Hesburgh provides a great model – he got away, he came back, he’s done great things.”

This balance of both involvement and detachment requires a distant yet pervasive participation in the overall well-being of the University and the world at large, in addition to dabbling in matters of personal interest to the outgoing president.

“Separate from [opportunities to serve on committees for social issues like the AIDS problem and international debt], the rest of it seems to be making as much of a contribution as I can to Notre Dame and outside of Notre Dame and just doing these things that I enjoy and appreciate and are full of meaning in and of themselves,” Malloy said.

Malloy’s list of accomplishments separate from at the University is almost as reputable as his advancements directly influencing life at Notre Dame. From serving on the boards of such prominent universities as Vanderbilt and Portland, to chairing several educational organizations like the American Council on Education (ACE) and the Association of Governing Boards of Universities and Colleges (AGB), Malloy has demonstrated a history of extending his talents beyond his main building office – a record he seeks to continue after stepping down at the end of the semester.

While residing on campus, Malloy said he will focus on a more “personal” agenda and maintain involvement with not-for-profit boards external to Notre Dame. In addition to his status as University professor, Malloy said he has already turned down a number of job offers – including a CEO position that he deemed incompatible with his priestly duties – in order to honor the obvious nature of a sabbatical.

“Will I keep regular office hours? Probably not. Will I exercise serendipity? Probably yes,” Malloy said. “Will I smell the flowers? Will I do things that I haven’t had time to do? Yes.”

An advocate of liberal education, Malloy would like to be more of a recipient and participant by placing emphasis on the expansion of his own intellectual horizons.

“Whether there’s some pragmatic, concrete thing that [my continued learning] leads to or not,” the president said, “for me that’s exciting.”