Magazine editor reflects on career
Charlie Ducey | Thursday, January 30, 2014
As Notre Dame Magazine editor, Kerry Temple tells the Notre Dame story — as a class of 1974 graduate, English major and former Farley Hall resident, the University has inevitably become part of his own story. Seven years after he turned his tassle, Temple returned to take a writer job at the magazine, became editor in 1995 and has lead the publication for almost 20 years.
Temple said his Notre Dame story began with the impression of the university he formed as a high school student in Louisiana.
“I looked up to the local guys who went to Notre Dame from my high school and really liked what the place represented,” he said. “A campus visit convinced me that it was the only school I wanted to go to.”
Temple said he set his mind to grappling with life’s big questions early on during his time as an undergraduate.
“I wanted to learn all I could about the world, the meaning of nature,” he said. “I wanted to find myself, to know what it meant to be human, and then I wanted to know how I might fit into that world, what my place was, how I could contribute.
“Those questions guided my coursework and late-night talks and times spent alone. I’m still living those questions.”
Temple said he returned to Louisiana after graduation to earn a master’s degree in journalism, but his career path ultimately brought him back to Notre Dame through a writing job at Notre Dame Magazine in 1981.
“The magazine seemed like an extension of the University and the education I had gotten, and the subject matter was varied and engaging and dealt with stuff I liked,” Temple said. “To a large degree, my work at the magazine is a continuation of my time as an undergrad.”
Temple said he published a book in 2005 that addresses some of the same questions that interested him as a Notre Dame student.
“Some years ago I wrote a book, ‘Back to Earth,’ about the search for God in the natural world,” he said. “It was the book I dreamed of writing when I was an undergrad here, when I was exploring the world and myself and my place in it.”
Throughout his years at Notre Dame Magazine, Temple said he has seen much continuity in the magazine’s message and approach, even amid changes in political climate and University life.
“From the onset — back in 1972, because of some visionary leadership at the time — Notre Dame Magazine dealt with the tough questions. The very first cover asked, ‘Who Lives and Who Decides?’. It had articles on abortion and euthanasia and capital punishment,” Temple said. “It was still a pretty edgy publication when I joined the staff [in 1981], and I think that reputation endures to a certain degree. And the questions posed are perennial; we’re still asking them.”
Since becoming editor in 1995, Temple said he has worked to maintain the focus and esteem of Notre Dame Magazine, which circulates approximately 150,000 copies during each quarterly publication.
“Its philosophy is essentially the same,” he said. “It reflects a university that takes on difficult questions, that is engaged with the world, tells stories of alumni engaged in that world and addresses complicated issues that our readers confront in their lives.”
Temple said he envisions the future of Notre Dame Magazine as running in tandem with that of the University, moving toward a global scope.
“I’d like the magazine to contribute more to the international conversation on all manner of topics because that’s exciting and that is consistent with the University’s aspirations,” he said.