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Missed opportunities

Franklin A. (Steve) Morse II | Tuesday, November 2, 2010

I saw and heard President Jenkins’ prayer for Declan Sullivan at the start of the Tulsa game on TV from my home in northwest Michigan. However presumptuous of me to improve on his prayer, I nonetheless wish I had heard Father Jenkins speak a final paragraph something like this:

“And finally, Heavenly Father, we ask your forgiveness. We, particularly those of us in the administration and athletic department of this University, ask that You forgive us of our terrible, grievous mistake of judgment in allowing, permitting and directing this young man, who was not only our student but our employee, to assume a position high on a dangerous piece of equipment under the extreme weather conditions that prevailed this past Wednesday afternoon. We also ask the forgiveness of Mr. Sullivan’s parents, his sister (also a member of the Notre Dame family here on campus), the rest of his family, his classmates and friends.

This we ask in Your name … [etc.]”

My sympathy for Mr. Sullivan’s family and friends is boundless. Speaking now as a lawyer, however, I’m fully aware that this addendum to Father Jenkins’ prayer would cause a severe case of apoplexy on the part of the University’s lawyers. But neither they nor the administration should be concerned with such issues, so mundane in the circumstances; rather, simply put, they should do what’s right. Moreover, legal liability in this case is clear, and will undoubtedly be admitted at some point in settlement negotiations or even during litigation itself, should it come to that. Notre Dame’s only defense will be a partial one, one based on an attempt to limit damages by reason of the fact that Mr. Sullivan had no dependents, was not married, and had no children.

Father Jenkins missed a big opportunity to seek forgiveness and express sorrow, not only for Mr. Sullivan’s death, but for the actions of the University. Hopefully, he will not miss another.


Franklin A. (Steve) Morse II


Law School Class of 1964

Nov. 1