President, priest, professor, dorm resident

The Rev. Edward 'Monk' Malloy fills many roles at Notre Dame

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — He lives in a dormitory with students. He teaches a freshman English seminar on Sunday nights. He used to play basketball regularly with students, professors and staffers. He is called Monk by most people.

He is president of the best-known Catholic university on the globe. He meets regularly with political leaders and business executives across the country. He has written several books. He is under an almost-constant spotlight as he mingles with high-profile donors and alumni.

Can this possibly be the same person?

It is. He is the Rev. Edward Malloy, president of the University of Notre Dame and a man who wears so many hats and walks in so many circles that you wonder how he keeps everything straight and where he finds the time to accomplish so many tasks.

He smiles and shrugs when asked the question. "I just do it," he said. "It’s all part of my life."

His schedule one October Friday was typical, at least for a fall weekend when the Notre Dame football team has a home game. The campus is consumed by football on such weekends, and Malloy is in the middle of it. He hosted a luncheon and question-and-answer session with the advisory councils for the College of Arts and Letters and the Snite Museum of Art. He autographed copies of his new book, Monk’s Reflections: A View from the Dome, for two hours in a crowded bookstore. Members of the councils attended an evening pep rally that drew more than 10,000 and were back the next morning for brunch with Malloy and the game against Navy.

Malloy clearly enjoys the interaction with so many people. Many are longtime acquaintances or friends. Others are important people who warrant his attention because of their positions or influence. And all drawn together by one magnet — Notre Dame.

That is what drives him, too. He has been a part of this campus for 40 years — as a student, seminarian, faculty member and administrator. He has been president since 1987, and as complicated as his job is in many respects, he defines it in the simplest of terms.

"My first responsibility revolves around vision — to help articulate it and remind the broader community of its critical importance," he said. "The vision has sustained this institution over the last 13 years."

And what is that vision?

"To be a great Catholic university — to make the adjective and the noun compatible," he replied. "I think we are the best situated of all Catholic universities in the world to make our mark as an institution. Very few have the capacity, financial and otherwise, to be a great Catholic university."

Edward Malloy, 58, grew up a long way from South Bend, in Washington, D.C., one of three children of a secretary and a transit company claims adjuster.

He picked up his nickname in third grade — and not because his friends or family thought he would choose religious life as a vocation.

"Bunky Collins was a neighborhood hero, older than me," he said. "I called him Bunk for short. He looked for a comeback name and settled on Monk because it rhymed with Bunk and was alliterative with Malloy. It caught on in school. My mom didn’t like it at first, but it was better than some alternatives! So it stuck. I like it. I never have tried to change it."

Malloy played guard on an Archbishop Carroll High School team that won 55 games in a row and was ranked first in the nation. He was recruited heavily by colleges and had a good idea where he would go.

"I wanted to study away from home, and at a Catholic university that had an engineering program," he said. "I paid a visit here and felt at home. It just seemed to fit. It was clear to me that Notre Dame was the place.

"Engineering was another matter. I flunked math and engineering drawing my first year. That was a very unsettling development, because I was a good student in high school, but I learned my lesson early. I was reading a lot of novels at the time. I took a battery of tests and everything pointed to English and literature."

Just as clear was his decision to study for the priesthood.

"The summer after my junior year, I was in Mexico on a service trip and was on Cristo Rey — Christ the King," he said. "There is a shrine at the top of the mountain, and while I was up there I had the sense I was being called to be a priest. There were no voices or visions, but a sense of certitude. So when I returned, I corresponded with priests, met with the Holy Cross vocations director and ultimately decided I would be a priest."

Malloy has three degrees from Notre Dame — bachelor’s and master’s degrees in English in 1963 and 1967 and a master’s degree in theology in 1969. He was ordained into the Congregation of the Holy Cross the following year. He earned his doctorate in Christian ethics from Vanderbilt University, which honored him in 1998 by establishing a chair in Catholic studies in his name.

As much as Malloy loved to teach, he gravitated to work as an administrator early after joining the faculty in 1974. He directed the college seminary, master of divinity and collegiate theology programs and was elected to the Holy Cross provincial council.

"All of those experiences helped to prepare me," he said. "A Holy Cross priest is well-educated and has the capacity to wear multiple hats — to teach, write, engage in ministry and be an administrator. What I did was characteristic of our Holy Cross community, and was not radical at all."

By the early 1980s, Malloy found himself in line to succeed the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame for 35 years. Malloy became vice president and associate provost, the second-highest academic officer.

"I met every faculty member individually, visited many offices to learn how the entire university worked, and attended trustee and advisory council meetings," he said. "During the interview process, I was pretty up front — I told people what I was good at and what I wasn’t good at."

He got the job, and genuinely enjoys it.

"I and my colleagues have made a difference," he said of his tenure as president. "We’ve had a good run, not without challenges and problems, but in a lot of areas Notre Dame has continued to improve as a Catholic university. It is exciting and humbling to be part of it."

His management style, he said, "is to give a lot of leeway to the people who work with me — the provost and the vice presidents. When I’m gone, I don’t call back unless there is a crisis. If I have good people, they will handle things. I’m only as good as the people who work with me."

The Rev. William Beau-champ has been executive vice president of Notre Dame for 13 years and has worked more closely with Malloy than anyone. Administrators appreciate the freedom to run their own areas, Beauchamp said, yet they clearly understand who’s the boss and his goals.

"Monk and I have different personalities — and that has made a good match," Beauchamp said. "He is more cerebral and has a sense of the bigger picture. I’m more detail oriented. The combination has worked well."

During his question-and-answer session with the advisory councils, Malloy was peppered with polite but firm questions about life at Notre Dame. He answered them with candor, brevity and humor on such subjects as:

Faculty relations — They are an important part of his job, and he meets individually with professors "to give them the opportunity to speak their mind about the things they do and how they perceive the state of the university." One challenge is getting professors to be department chairs, where they deal with hiring, budget, tenure and promotion issues, "at a time when many of them just want to teach and do research in their areas."

Diversity — Notre Dame has tried to increase its diversity "within the context of what we are trying to achieve as a Catholic university." He expects the Hispanic student population will grow the most because of demographics and points to Notre Dame’s Institute for Latino Studies as helpful in dealing with many issues. "We’ll never eliminate all of the problems, but we will continue to strive to make people as comfortable as possible."

Vocations — "Ordained ministry is the Catholic Church’s most critical crisis." The Congregation of the Holy Cross has made strides because of efforts at Notre Dame and the University of Portland, "and we are blessed in the quality of our seminarians. I just wish we had more."

The cost of a Notre Dame education ($30,000 a year) — "It costs so much because of the quality of a Notre Dame education and the fact we are overseeing a small city that has enhanced expectation levels." The accrued debt of students concerns him, and he expects the existing Generations capital campaign will provide additional resources for financial aid and other expenses.

Student satisfaction — He jokes about how hard it can be to satisfy students. "We can give them 18 choices for food in the cafeterias, and do you know what we hear? ‘Same old stuff.’ Same old 18 choices." He recalls when he was a student, the issue was if he could have two glasses of milk, "and now they have all the milk they can drink." He sees a need for more recreational and social facilities, but not coeducational residence halls. "We need to listen to students of each generation, provide for them and hope they look back and think that it wasn’t so bad after all."

As busy as Malloy is, and as much as he travels, he makes time every semester to teach an English seminar in Notre Dame’s First Year Studies Program. Eighteen students are chosen, and Malloy asks only that the seminar be half men and half women, include international students and be racially diverse.

"I enjoy being a teacher," he said. "I don’t know that I like correcting 11 papers a semester for 18 students, but I get it done. I love to read, and I think it’s important that students read and write."

They do plenty of that — they read eight novels and watch two movies, and they write two- to three-page papers on each plus a final paper of five to seven pages. The fall semester novels were culturally diverse, ranging from The Trial by Franz Kafka to A Separate Peace by John Knowles. The movies were "Evita" and "My Life as a Dog."

The lineup changes each semester, and Malloy finds himself preparing for class in the oddest of places and at all hours of the day.

"I often read and correct papers when I’m on the road or in the Notre Dame airplane," he said, "and that can get a bit bumpy. Some of the papers look like they have been corrected by a drunkard!"

Ana Morales of San Mateo, Calif., said her favorite seminar book was Betsy Brown, a novel about an 11-year-old African-American girl’s desegregation experiences. She liked Malloy’s class because it made her think about what she was reading.

"With his papers, you need to explain the book — not just retell the story," said Morales, who plans to major in finance and computer applications. "He’s pretty tough, but fair. He doesn’t just give a grade, but he writes a paragraph agreeing or disagreeing with the points you make."

Matt Reisenauer, a pre-med student and theology major from Wenatchee, Wash., said the seminar was his favorite class. He didn’t find the load unreasonable because "reading novels doesn’t seem like work. The papers can become tedious at times, but it develops my writing skills."

He laughed when asked how students addressed Malloy. Some call him "Monk," Reisenauer said, "but I call him Father Malloy. That’s how I was brought up."

Malloy has an open-door policy with students, and that door usually is to his living quarters in Sorin Hall, a men’s residence hall that he has called home since 1979. He doesn’t find it unusual that he has remained in Sorin all these years.

"It’s part of the Holy Cross heritage," he said. "The role I play is much reduced when compared to an active member of the Sorin staff, but it’s both symbolic and real in that I’m there. If students want to stop by, they can. I meet with my seminar students individually outside of class for a half hour, and I do it in the dorm."

He used to be a regular in campus basketball games, hosting "Monk’s Hoops" two evenings a week, but tendonitis in his shoulders sidelined him more than a year ago "and I’m indifferent to whether I play again. I can’t play proficiently, especially shooting, which is the only thing that is fun."

In his latest book, Malloy discusses the pros and cons of whether he will seek a fourth five-year term as president in 2002. He pauses when asked to define the issues that will shape that decision.

"A group of trustees will evaluate my performance and give feedback," he said, "and I’ll see how my health is and how the university community is doing. In the end, it will not be hard to decide.

"The toughest thing is to decide the right time to step down. When should you step down and provide opportunities for others? You can’t always be the best judge of that yourself. I have enjoyed that people feel good about where the university is today, and I always think positively about what has happened."

If he doesn’t stay on, he expects to do pastoral or external work on behalf of his order. And he’ll go quietly, he promises.

"I have had a good relationship with Father Hesburgh," he said, "and I expect the same with my successor. I will stay out of his way and speak only when I’m asked."

The Rev. Edward Malloy and St. Thomas• Elected to the board of trustees in 1995, and is chair of the Academic Affairs Committee. He was a member of the advisory board that recommended St. Thomas open a law school.• Received a Doctor of Humane Letters degree from St. Thomas in May 1994, and was the undergraduate commencement speaker that day.• Sees a need for a better balance between the number of undergraduate students who live on and off campus, and says more on-campus opportunities "create greater loyalty and memories." He say it is important to maintain a proper relationship between the St. Paul campus (mostly undergraduate) and the Minneapolis campus (mostly graduate).• Mission also is an important issue. "Is St. Thomas comfortable being a strong regional university or does it aspire to be more than that?" he asks. "It's a tricky question. You have matured from college to university, with an increasing number of graduate programs and, now, a law school. Those have been good choices, but you also need to preserve the important role of undergraduate education."