Wednesday, April 2, 2014

New Book Honors Life of Bruno Schlesinger

A new book pays tribute to one of Saint Mary’s most beloved professors, Dr. Bruno P. Schlesinger, who died in 2010 at the age of 99. Bruno Schlesinger: A Life in Learning & Letters, edited by Rick Regan, was published in August and available at

Schlesinger founded the Program for Christian Culture in 1956 and served as the long-time chair of the department, later renamed Humanistic Studies. In 1957, he inaugurated a lecture series that eventually brought over one hundred distinguished scholars to campus, and in 2006 the series was revived in his honor as the Christian Culture Lecture. During his 60-year teaching career, he received many honors, including an honorary doctorate from Saint Mary’s in 1994.

“This little book is a delightful, moving remembrance of Bruno,” says Professor Philip Hicks, department chair of Humanistic Studies. “It belongs on the bookshelf of every Christian Culture/Humanistic Studies graduate—anyone interested in Saint Mary’s, for that matter.”

The nucleus of the book is a chapter by Notre Dame historian Philip Gleason, “From Vienna to South Bend: A Refugee Professor’s Story.” Based on new interviews and research in the Saint Mary’s archives, Gleason’s essay provides the fullest account yet of Schlesinger’s public and private life, including his harrowing flight from Nazism, interrogation by the Gestapo, and month spent in a French jail.

Other contributors to the volume include Schlesinger’s son, Tom, his former colleague, Professor Gail Porter Mandell (Bruno P. Schlesinger Chair in Humanistic Studies Emerita), his friend Father Marvin R. O’Connell (another Notre Dame historian), and alumnae Patricia Ferris McGinn and Mary Griffin Burns. Also featured is a letter to Schlesinger written by the noted spiritual writer, Thomas Merton.

The book is illustrated with several black and white photographs, including childhood and wedding photos. Schlesinger was married for 70 years to Alice Teweles, a book illustrator and portrait artist who died in 2012. Several of Mrs. Schlesinger’s paintings are displayed on the Saint Mary’s campus. Her portrait of former Saint Mary’s president Sister Madeleva is now showcased on the ground floor of Madeleva Hall. It was Sister Madeleva who gave final approval for the Program for Christian Culture, after months of lobbying by Bruno Schlesinger for this experimental curriculum.