The Observer is a Student-run, daily print & online newspaper serving Notre Dame & Saint Mary's. Learn more about us.



Former ND professor dies at 91

Guyer, Meryl | Thursday, January 29, 2004

Thomas J. Stritch, professor emeritus of American Studies, died Jan. 22 at Belcourt Terrace Nursing Home in his native city of Nashville, Tenn. He was 91 years old.

Stritch was responsible for carrying the Department of Journalism through its transformation to the Department of Communication Arts and finally to the Department of American Studies in 1970.

Walt Collins, professor of American Studies, remembered one of Stritch’s signature sequences, a four-course sequence called “Modern Culture.” The popular courses included “The Arts in America” and were developed on the idea that anyone can learn how to be a journalist by working in a newsroom, but it is more important to be educated on topics on which articles will be written. Collins said philosophy has permeated the program, and that is why the Journalism, Ethics and Democracy minor is still housed within American Studies.

“He was an enormously bright, well-cultured man,” said Collins.

Stritch brought his interests in music, art, literature and architecture to Notre Dame’s campus, even taking classes into Chicago to participate in architecture walks.

Stritch was invaluable to the journalism program at Notre Dame, contributing to many publications during his tenure, beginning with student work for Scholastic and The South Bend Tribune and serving as mentor to many Notre Dame graduates pursuing careers in the field, including Collins himself.

Stritch joined Notre Dame as a student in 1930 and soon decided to make it his home. He graduated in 1934, received a master’s degree and stayed on as a faculty member until 1978.

For a large part of his time in South Bend, Stritch lived in Lyons Hall, where he gained the reputation of being one of the last of the “bachelor dons,” a phenomenon that was coming to an end in the 1940s and 50s. Stritch was a lifelong bachelor and so devoted his time to the students. His door was always open to those looking for conversation or advice, even after he moved off campus to a residence on North Eddy St. and ended his career as a professor.

In 1971, Stritch was given the Faculty Award at Notre Dame’s commencement.

“Tom Stritch was one of the finest professors we’ve ever had here,” said Father Theodore Hesburgh, University president emeritus. “He always kept his mind going and always kept writing.”

Stritch wrote a number of books, including My Notre Dame: Memories and Reflections of Sixty Years.

“He had an enormous sense of history,” Collins said. “He wrote his history [in that book], and much of it was intertwined with Notre Dame’s history. He was a great writer and a very witty man.”

A funeral service was celebrated Monday at the Cathedral of the Incarnation of Nashville. A campus memorial Mass will be held at a date to be determined. Stritch is survived by his older sister, Katherine Stritch.