I interviewed for a law-teaching position at Notre Dame Law School in the Fall of 1997. So far as I know, that visit to Our Lady’s university and to lovely, cosmopolitan South Bend, Indiana, was my first. I had never attended a Catholic school at any level and was not much of a Fighting Irish fan. The circumstances and conversations that resulted in my being on campus for that interview were both unpredicted and unpredictable, although I know now they were providential.
In any event, what struck me most forcefully over that weekend—besides the freezing rain that persisted throughout the football game I attended—was my now-colleagues’ palpable enthusiasm for and excitement about what they were building. That is, the “Catholic law school project”—at that time, at Notre Dame—did not feel like and was not presented as an exercise in nostalgia, retrieval, or reaction. Instead, there seemed to be a widely shared sense that this “project” was something that had not really been tried before and that the goal was not to regain something that had been lost but rather to work on something new, namely, an engaged and excellent law school that was meaningfully, distinctively, and therefore interestingly Catholic.
I am grateful to Professors John Breen and Lee Strang for, among other things, confirming that I and my colleagues were— and, I hope, still are—right.