John Garvey, president emeritus of Catholic University of America, gives 2023 Rice-Hasson Distinguished Lecture

Author: Denise Wager

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“To build a great Catholic university, universities should hire great people and not tell them what to say.” – John Garvey

John Garvey, president emeritus of Catholic University of America, gave the 2023 Rice-Hasson Distinguished Lecture at Notre Dame Law School on Friday, April 14.

Sponsored by the Law School’s Program on Church, State & Society, the Rice-Hasson Distinguished Lecture Series is the program’s flagship annual event and celebration. The series is named to honor the late Notre Dame Law Professor Charles E. Rice as well as Kevin J. “Seamus” Hasson and his wife, Mary Rice Hasson.

“John Garvey is an accomplished scholar, an engaging teacher, an inspiring mentor, and a world leader in Catholic higher education. It was a privilege for the Notre Dame Law School community to welcome and honor him as this year’s Rice-Hasson Lecturer,” said Richard W. Garnett, the Paul J. Schierl/Fort Howard Corporation Professor of Law and faculty director of the Program on Church, State & Society.

Garvey spoke on the topic, “What is the Marketplace of Ideas?” During his talk he focused on what it takes to build a great Catholic University.

He said for a Catholic University to be Catholic, a majority of its faculty should be Catholic as laid out by St. John Paul II in the apostolic constitution on higher education, Ex corde ecclesiae.

He explained how this does not suppress academic freedom or the marketplace of ideas. While the work of faculty would be independent, they would be coordinated toward shared goals and solutions. Faculty would be free to meet those goals, and help strengthen the Catholic identity of their university in their own way without regulation or direction.

“To build a great Catholic university, universities should hire great people and not tell them what to say,” said Garvey.

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Garvey is a nationally renowned expert in constitutional law, religious liberty, and the First Amendment. He served as the president of Catholic University of America from 2010-2022. Before coming to Catholic University, he served one year as dean of Boston College Law School. He was previously a professor at the University of Kentucky College of Law, a visiting professor at the University of Michigan Law School, and he was a professor at Notre Dame Law School from 1994 to 1999.

He also served as an assistant to the solicitor general of the United States under President Ronald Reagan. Garvey is on the board of directors for the Vatican Agency for the Evaluation and Promotion of Quality in Ecclesiastical Universities and Faculties. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Notre Dame and his J.D. from Harvard Law School.

In addition to delivering the Rice-Hasson Lecture, Garvey led a seminar with 15 undergraduate and law students on the relevance of the gifts of the Holy Spirit to the life of the Catholic university. He also led an additional seminar with a group of faculty from across the University on the topic of religious and secular authority.

One of the students who attended the small group discussion was Notre Dame junior Nicole Baumann. She said, “It was such a blessing to have John Garvey here. Rather than providing us with a poetic and abstract explanation, he spoke practically about the gifts of the Holy Spirit and cultivation of virtue from those gifts, clearly speaking from personal experience.”

A recording of Garvey’s talk is available below.