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Former biology prof. dies at 92

Laura McCrystal | Friday, September 24, 2010

Julian Pleasants, associate professor emeritus of biological sciences at Notre Dame, died Sept. 17 at the age of 92, according to a University press release.

Pleasants graduated from Notre Dame in 1939 and began working at LOBUND, the University’s germ-free research center, in 1944, according to the press release issued Thursday. He earned his doctorate in microbiology from Notre Dame in 1966, and worked in germ-free research for the rest of his career.

In addition to his work teaching and researching at Notre Dame, Pleasants worked throughout his life as a Catholic social activist and peace activist. He joined the Catholic Worker movement at the end of the Great Depression. In 1941, he helped create South Bend’s first Catholic Worker house of hospitality to serve meals made from Notre Dame’s dining hall leftovers to unemployed men. As a member of the Catholic Worker movement he joined a community of Catholic social activists, which included Catholic writer and editor Eugene Geissler and Notre Dame professor Willis Nutting.

He began to correspond with his future wife, Mary Jane Brady, when she was editor of “Life and Home” magazine. They married in 1948.

In 1949, Pleasants, his wife and other members of the Notre Dame theology program, in which he studied for a master’s degree, purchased an 80-acre farm in Granger to live in a communal, religious setting and work closely with the land. He and his wife raised seven children in that community.

The Pleasants were also founding members of Little Flower Catholic Church.

Pleasants, his family and other members of the community sought to integrate faith, Catholic liturgy, social justice and the importance of life into their lifestyles.

He was a volunteer at South Bend’s Logan Center and a founding member of Friends of l’Arche, both of which serve the developmentally disabled.

Pleasants died at the Sanctuary at Holy Cross. He is survived by three daughters, four sons and 17 grandchildren.

There will be a visitation today from 5 to 7 p.m. and a Mass of Christian Burial Saturday, both at Little Flower Catholic Church on 54191 Ironwood Rd. Contributions in Pleasants’ memory can be made to the Logan Center or Little Flower Catholic Church.