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130 years of Notre Dame: Thomas Blantz, Edward ‘Monk’ Malloy speak on University history

| Thursday, November 11, 2021

As part of the Notre Dame Book Festival, Notre Dame University Press hosted an informal question and answer session with Fr. Thomas Blantz and former University President Fr. Edward “Monk” Malloy in the Hesburgh Library Scholars Lounge Wednesday evening.

Malloy’s memoir, titled “Monk’s Notre Dame,” was published in 2005 and recounts his relationship with Notre Dame in the form of anecdotes and stories. Blantz’s book, “Notre Dame: A History” was published in 2020 and offers a comprehensive history of the University.

Simon Vogel | The Observer
To celebrate the Notre Dame Book Festival, Fr. Thomas Blantz (left) and Fr. Edward “Monk” Malloy gave a talk in Hesburgh Library’s Scholars Lounge about their respective books Wednesday.

The conversation began with a discussion of how the two priests compiled the evidence to use in their respective books, given that they were writing about times in which they lived.

“When you’re talking about yourself and your history in an institution, what does objectivity look like?” Malloy asked.

He added that he felt he reasonably fulfilled his goal of telling his experience at Notre Dame, but said objectivity is difficult.

As the talk continued, it turned to a discussion of Fr. Ted Hesburgh and the conversation took on a lighter tone.

Malloy talked about how he had “one significant fight” in his 18 years working with Hesburgh “and a thing with Father Jenkins” as well. Both disagreements were resolved quickly, Malloy said, and he took some time to consider the role former presidents play at Notre Dame.

“I think there is a responsibility the former president has to be of service when asked, otherwise stay out of the way,” he said.

The next question in the conversation was “Why Notre Dame?” since both men have spent a combined total of over 130 years attending or working for Notre Dame.

Blantz said he came back to Notre Dame because Columbia University showed him the potential it had as a research university.

“I got a Master’s degree at Notre Dame: straight, straight A’s,” Blantz said. “I went to Columbia, never got an A or A- in any class.”

As Hesburgh was steering Notre Dame in establishing itself as a research university, Blantz said he decided to be a part of that movement and returned to campus to teach.

For Malloy, Notre Dame was an easy choice.

“From the moment I first arrived, I felt comfortable here,” he said. “The heart of what Notre Dame was about appealed to me from the start.”

The conversation then moved on to discuss the origin of Notre Dame’s national reputation, which many said came from the University’s commitment to a religion not defined by regional boundaries.

Blantz explained that Fr. Edward Sorin, Notre Dame’s founder, did indeed have some national aspirations of Notre Dame being the figurehead of a network of Congregation of the Holy Cross schools. But he said it was actually the football team’s rejection from the Big 10, which forced them to play games around the country, that gave Notre Dame its national reputation.

To conclude the talk, the audience was given the opportunity to ask questions. An attendee asked the priests if they enjoyed living in residence halls.

“The board of trustees thought I wouldn’t last more than 6 months in a residence hall,” Malloy said. “I’m now in my 42nd year living with teenagers.”

For his part, Blantz reflected on living and teaching at Notre Dame.

“It’s amazing they pay you to do it,” he said. “It keeps me young.”

Both Malloy and Blantz’s books are available for sale at a discount in Hesburgh Library this week as the Notre Dame Book Festival continues.

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About Simon Vogel

Simon is a junior from Manchester, Vermont majoring in finance and political science and living in Keough Hall. When not curled up with a book, he can be found running cross-country with friends. He can be contacted by email: [email protected]

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