Six years ago this week, longtime Notre Dame law professor Charles Rice entered his eternal reward. Rereading his obituary now, and reflecting upon his enormous influence on me, I want to say to my friends: We need to follow his example better! In particular, we need to mentor young people, just as he did for me and so many others.
Professor Rice began teaching at Notre Dame Law School in 1969, instructing students in torts, constitutional law, and jurisprudence for over 40 years. His lifetime achievements were varied and innumerable. He served in the Marine Corps, coached the Notre Dame Boxing Club, rescued countless collies, served as a consultant to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, and wrote 13 books. He prayed all 20 decades of the Rosary daily. With his wife, Mary, he raised ten accomplished children. An old school Irishman, he had a tough exterior and an affectionate heart. Here’s another old touch: I always knew he was in his office (on the third floor of the law school) when, upon entering the law school on the first floor, I could smell his pipe.
Bill Dempsey, chairman of the Sycamore Trust, a group of alumni concerned about the Catholic character of Notre Dame, described the legacy of Professor Rice in this way: He was “a treasured mentor to countless students, a gifted natural law proponent, a pioneer in the pro-life movement at the University, and a courageous and relentless critic of the forces of secularization at work at Notre Dame and in Catholic higher education in general.” Notre Dame history professor Fr. Bill Miscamble, CSC said simply, “Professor Charles Rice epitomized all that is best about Notre Dame.”