In memoriam: Professor Charles E. Rice.

Author:Newton, Nell Jessup
Position::Notre Dame Law School faculty - Testimonial

God. Country. Notre Dame.

Professor Charles E. Rice embodied the motto inscribed over the door to the Sacred Heart Basilica. A devout Catholic, a Marine, a professor, and a coach, Professor Rice did it all.

On a personal level I will miss Charlie greatly. Although we started off on the wrong foot--I foolishly said to him at our first meeting, 'You were in the Navy, right?" The scowl and a growled "Marines" almost knocked me off my feet. Nevertheless, we formed a strong bond. What I loved about Charlie was that he valued everyone's individual integrity. What mattered to him was how well you treated others, even more than whether you agreed with him on every point. Faculty, students, and alumni will miss him dearly.

For generations of students, Professor Rice was a foundational pillar of a Notre Dame Law School education. As a member of the faculty since 1969, his scholarly work profoundly impacted graduates as well as colleagues around the country. A noted expert in the area of natural law, Professor Rice served as a consultant to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and to various congressional committees on constitutional issues, wrote numerous books and articles, and was a sought-after speaker.

However, his legacy will be more than his academic prowess. It will also be his concern and care for our students. Alumni often recount being filled with anticipation and dread when waiting to be called upon in his class. There was no need to raise a hand; Professor Rice would simply shout out a name and expect the student to stand and answer the question. At the same time, his humor was also legendary. One could simultaneously regard Charlie's class as the most academically daunting and the most entertaining experience of a law school career. It certainly was my experience that the professor who could seem so formidable could be tenderhearted when focusing on an individual. Simply put, he loved teaching. Although he had been an emeritus faculty member for years, he continued to teach the current generation of law students, as recently as last fall.

One such recent student was Michael Buschbacher (NDLS '13), who says,

I'm sure many other former students have written better than I can of what a marvelous teacher he was. His lectures blended incisive logic (no assumption survived his class unexamined) and puckish humor. He was a master of the Socratic method. Indeed, it's hard to describe to the uninitiated what an exhilarating (and terrifying)...

To continue reading