Please remember in your prayers alumnus Richard W. Conklin, a retired public relations and communications administrator at St. Thomas and Notre Dame and author of a popular history of St. Thomas.

Conklin, 77, of Mendota Heights, died Tuesday after suffering a heart attack last week.

A native of Minneapolis and a 1958 graduate of St. Thomas with degrees in English and psychology, Conklin was a reporter for the Minneapolis Star before he returned to his alma mater in 1962 to serve as News Bureau director, journalism instructor and Aquin adviser.

He moved to South Bend, Ind., in 1967 to become assistant director of public information at Notre Dame and stayed for 35 years, retiring as associate vice president for university relations. He received a master’s degree in American studies at Notre Dame and served as the biographer of Father Theodore Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame from 1952 to 1987.

Conklin and his wife, Annette, moved back to Minnesota after his retirement in 2001. He wrote for Notre Dame and St. Thomas magazines and was the author of the 2009 book, 125 Years: A Look at Interesting and Influential People in the History of St. Thomas. A voracious reader who loved to discuss everything from literature to public policy to sports, he took several undergraduate English classes offered to senior citizens through the Selim Center for Learning in Later Years at St. Thomas.

“You would be hard-pressed to find a wiser communications professional or a better writer than Dick,” said Doug Hennes, vice president for university and government relations at St. Thomas. “He had an absolutely wonderful way with words, he wrote with wit and eloquence, and he always had me scrambling for a dictionary to look up a word that he would use in a story.”

When Conklin turned 70, his children published Irish Whiskey Neat and Other Remembrances, an anthology of his stories, essays, letters to the editor, scripts, Christmas letters and pithy notes “of putative interest,” as he would describe them.

He also was a stickler for correct language, and always said he would haunt anyone who misused “who” and “whom” at his funeral. He often quipped, “When I get old and you’re pushing me around Lake Harriet, one day I’m just going to say, ‘Take a left.’” As his death notice in the Pioneer Press and Star Tribune on Friday will add: “Always one for planning, he has taken that turn on his own. And he will be greatly missed.”

In addition to his wife, survivors include children Rick, Christy and Marc, three grandchildren, four brothers and two sisters. Memorials may be made to St. Thomas, Notre Dame, St. Catherine University or the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at St. Peter’s Catholic Church, Mendota. Visitation will be from 9 to 11 a.m. at the church, with burial in Resurrection Cemetery, Mendota Heights.

Read more from Notre Dame News – In Memoriam: Richard W. Conklin, former associate vice president of University Relations

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One Response

  1. Tom King

    Dick Conklin was one of a kind, a good man with a pithy sense of humor and a marvelous way with words.

    I remember reading his editorials in The Aquin back in the 50’s. His wit and observations, always couched in a civil manner, were the reasons I traipsed over, every week, to the stack of new papers near the postoffice, and pick up a fresh copy of our fine college newspaper. Dick had a lot to do with the quality of that fine paper.

    I had gotten to know him much better in these later years after his return to St. Paul. He loved taking the courses open to seniors on campus, always interested in ideas, both old and new. He was, as they say, someone you could disagree with, without being disagreeable.

    We enjoyed talking about the wonderful English professors we had at St. Thomas: Herb Slusser’s “Hopkins & Eliot”, Jim Colwell’s “History of the English Language”, and Father Keenan’s Victorian Lit.

    Some years after Dick left St. Thomas, President Jim Shannon wrote a wonderful column on “Respectful Argument,” and the importance of remaining a gentleman during discourse. I’ve kept that column these 50+ years, and have always thought that Dick Conklin best exemplified those standards.

    RIP my good friend.

    Tom King
    Class of ’60