STEUBENVILLE – The Franciscan University of Steubenville mourns the death of its longtime friend Alice Jourdain von Hildebrand, 98, who died on January 14.
The internationally acclaimed Catholic philosopher, professor, and author served on the Franciscan University board of trustees from 1987 to 1999. She has also taught courses as a visiting professor in the Franciscan University’s philosophy program.
At the 1987 Academic Honors Convocation, Franciscan University President Reverend Michael Scanlan, TOR presented him with an Honorary Doctor of Science in Philosophy and Letters for his degree. “great contribution to Catholic intellectual life.”
In his address to students and faculty that followed, von Hildebrand spoke of “The Nature and Mission of a Catholic University.”
She describes the crisis of Catholic education in America and points out that the success of a Catholic university “depends on his academic excellence, but also on his genuine loyalty to his Catholic heritage.”
Von Hildebrand also addressed students and guests on campus on several occasions, including at a 1988 conference on marriage and family in modern culture co-sponsored by Franciscan.
Several university officials comment on the death.
“I had the great privilege of taking von Hildebrand’s course on the philosophy of love as an undergraduate student at Franciscan. I remember her as an excellent teacher who taught with both beauty and simplicity – in fact, hers was one of my favorite philosophy classes. I am personally grateful to him for that, but I am also grateful to him for his services as trustee,” said the Reverend Dave Pivonka, president of the university. “Even as we pray for the repose of her soul, I ask her to pray for the Franciscan University as she enjoys her eternal reward. May she rest in peace.”
In a tribute written for the National Catholic Register, alumnus Mary Healy, a scripture professor at Sacred Heart Major Seminary in Detroit, said she and von Hildebrand attended a 1988 talk given by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. which had been interrupted by shouts from demonstrators.
“It was my first and only experience of bullying by the crowd,” Healy wrote. “The Cardinal paused, while the audience sat stunned and helpless – except for a 98-pound woman in twisted steel seated next to me. She alone, among the hundreds of people present in the room, reacted by standing up and politely but firmly admonishing the protesters, demanding that they do the courtesy of allowing the cardinal to finish his speech. Although his voice did not carry far, it brought air back into the room. , as if she was breaking the spell. Eventually, the protesters were cleared away by security. For me, this was an unforgettable lesson in the powerful effect of one person resisting bullying.
John Crosby, professor of philosophy at Franciscan University, said: “Alice von Hildebrand has been a dear friend for 56 years. She was also a friend of the Franciscan University of Steubenville, making the growth of the university one of her main life projects. She helped me discern my vocation at the Franciscan University. In recent years, I have been inspired by the way she prepared for death. She spent a lot of time in prayer reviewing her life, letting go of her disappointments, and most importantly, giving thanks for all the blessings in her life. At the end of her life, she was filled with the spirit of thanksgiving.
Michael Healy, professor of philosophy at Franciscan University, said: “I first met Alice von Hildebrand over 50 years ago when she was a student at Loyola University in Los Angeles. She was there to give a talk on how Soren Kierkegaard treated liberals theologies of his day (19th century). His speech was full of insight and humor. Over time, I discovered that this combination was deeply characteristic of his whole life and thought.
Franciscan Past Pupil John Henry Crosby, President and Founder of the Hildebrand Project, said: “My life and my work are inextricably linked to Alice von Hildebrand. She believed in me when I proposed to found the Hildebrand Project in 2003, so much so that I consider her a true co-founder… She loved the Franciscan University and was always deeply grateful that the Hildebrand Project found its place here.