While I was a student at Notre Dame our paths never crossed, but, after graduation, I became a fan of his fiction writing, especially his mysteries set on Notre Dame's campus. I also appreciated his outspoken defense of Notre Dame's Catholic identity, particularly in the aftermath of last Spring's commencement scandal.
The essay titled "Is Obama Worth a Mass?" that Prof. McInerny posted at The Catholic Thing (an excellent website) in response to the news that President Obama would be giving Notre Dame's 2009 commencement address is a must read and can be found here.
A man of many talents, Prof. McInerny will be missed.
First Things has posted a nice tribute. Below are a couple excerpts.
...Ralph excelled in so many spheres and combined so many virtues in his person that it is difficult to know where to begin in recounting his noteworthy achievements. He was a philosopher (author of more than two dozen scholarly books, he gave the prestigious Gifford Lectures in 1999–2000), a translator (he translated the texts of Aquinas for Penguin Classics), a critically acclaimed and popular novelist (author of a number of mystery series, including the popular Father Dowling series that became a television series), a public intellectual (he appeared on William F. Buckley's Firing Line), and was a member of President George W. Bush's Committee on the Arts and Humanities), a journalist (with Michael Novak, he founded Crisis, a journal of lay Catholic opinion), and a published poet. In the midst of all this activity, Ralph was remarkably generous with his time and his help, especially for his students, in whose families he expressed an avid interest...Excerpt 2:
...Ralph’s life and career will always be enmeshed with the university he loved, Our Lady’s University. He was of course deeply chagrined at the direction of the University. Of course, the concerns about Notre Dame’s Catholic identity have become very public in the past few years with the administration’s decisions to elevate the tawdry Vagina Monologues to the status of great art and to award an honorary doctorate of laws to a pro-abortion president. Before all that, Ralph objected to the premature firing of Coach Tyrone Willingham, in an New York Times op-ed piece “The Firing Irish,” and to the unseemly image of a president and priest chasing down potential coaches on airport tarmacs in the dead of night. Even prior to that, Ralph objected to hiring practices that focused exclusively on “academic” criteria and rendered irrelevant knowledge of, and sympathy for, the Catholic faith and intellectual tradition. For Ralph, the accelerating abandonment of things Catholic at Notre Dame was the direct result of a craven quest for success understood in conventional, and often quite secular, terms...