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Basil O Leary, 1968 and Today RIP

1968: From the Milwaukee 14 Statement at the time of the action

Bro. K. Basil O’Leary, 48, is chairman of the Economics Dept. and associate professor of Theology at St. Mary’s College, Winona, Minn. He holds MA’s both from the University of Chicago and Loyola University and a doctorate from the University of Notre Dame. He has contributed articles to a number of periodicals, including Commonweal and Continuum.

Eulogy for Basil O’Leary

June 1, 1920 - March 25, 2004

Basil O’Leary was born in Chicago, Illinois, and entered the Lasallian Christian Brothers after attending De Lasalle High School there. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Saint Mary’s College in Minnesota, and a master’s degree from Loyola of Chicago, he taught philosophy, economics and theology at Saint Mary’s from 1950 to 1969. He was also chair of the economics department. While at Saint Mary’s he managed to find the time to earn a master’s degree in economics from the University of Chicago and a Ph.D. from Notre Dame.

He organized symposia and conferences on philosophical and theological topics among students and faculty at Saint Mary’s for many years. He was interested in issues of peace and social justice and participated in an act of civil disobedience as part of the Milwaukee 14 in September 1968. His good friend, Brother David Darst, had participated in a similar action the previous year as part of the Catonsville 9. As part of the action of civil disobedience in opposition to the Vietnam War, O’Leary spent one year (1969–1970) in prison in Wisconsin.

From 1970–1980, O’Leary directed the Program on Non-Violence at Notre Dame University. This was part of the program that evolved into the prestigious Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies. After teaching at Lewis University, Romeo, Illinois, from 1980–1988, he returned to Notre Dame where he served the Kroc Institute as an adjunct professor, working closely with the institute’s international peace scholars and ROTC officers.

He was an expert on Gandhi and Gandhian approaches to economics. Because of his interest in issues of word poverty, O’Leary visited India about once a year for 20 years and had a number of close friends there.

As a teacher, O’Leary inspired countless students at both the high school and college level to participate in what the documents of Vatican II refer to as the “universal call to holiness.” Like Socrates, he was a gadfly, stinging us awake so we might recognize and begin to concern ourselves with the really important things in life. Like Socrates, his constant credo was: The unexamined life is not worth living.

(A eulogy by Dr. Alven M. Neiman, Department of Philosophy, University of Notre Dame, who was a friend and colleague of Basil O’Leary.)

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