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