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Emeritus political science professor dies at age 75

| Sunday, May 3, 2020

Emeritus political science professor Gilburt Loescher died Tuesday of heart failure at 75, Notre Dame announced in a press release.

Loescher survived a terrorist attack in Baghdad in August 2003, when he traveled to meet with U.S. ambassador Paul Brenner at the U.N. headquarters at the Canal Hotel. Minutes after Loescher arrived, a suicide bomber detonated his device beneath the third-floor office of U.N. envoy to Iraq Sergio Vierira de Mello. 

Twenty-two people died in the attack, and 150 were injured. Loescher sustained life-threatening injuries, and doctors believed he had a 25% chance of surviving.

It took rescuers more than four hours to extract him from the rubble — amputating his legs in the process — and later told him the only reason he didn’t bleed to death was because he was trapped upside down,” the press release said.

When Loescher recovered he decided to use his experience to continue his life’s work.

“This tragic event has given me greater strength and a renewed sense of commitment to continue studying and reporting on the issues that mattered so much to Arthur Helton, Sergio Vieira de Mello and to all those others who died that day while working to ensure the survival of humanitarian norms,” Loescher said in a Notre Dame Magazine story.

Loescher taught international relations and peace studies at the University and was a fellow of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. He earned a bachelor’s degree at St. Mary’s College of California, a master’s degree from the Monterey Institute of International Studies and a doctoral degree from the London School of Economics. After retiring from teaching, he served with the European Council on Refugees and Exiles, International Institute for Strategic Studies and Open Democracy.

Robert Johansen, a professor emeritus of political science and peace studies and Kroc Institute senior fellow, said in the press release that Loescher treated every person he met with compassion and kindness.  

“His undying commitment to scholarship on behalf of those forced out of home and often out of country was always an inspiration to his students and colleagues,” Johansen said. “Through concerned scholarship and compassionate teaching, he profoundly inspired many of the Kroc Institute’s first graduate students in peace studies. Many have testified that his influence has continued to inspire them throughout their lives since leaving Notre Dame.”

Loescher is survived by his wife, Ann, and daughters Margaret and Clare.

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