Robert Leader, Notre Dame artist and teacher, dies

Author: Michael O. Garvey


Robert A. Leader, professor emeritus of art, art history and design, died yesterday (April 11).He was 81 years old.

BornMay 26, 1924, inCambridge,Mass., Leader interrupted his studies at theMuseumofFine ArtinBostonto serve in the Marines during World War II.As a 20-year-old corporal he was wounded during the invasion of Iwo Jima a few days after having been a member of the patrol that capturedMount Suribachiand famously planted an American flag there.Even in the heat of battle, his artistic and scholarly training were never far from him.He wrote years later that on the morning of the Suribachi assault he was startled at the infernal ugliness of a military objective whichonly that morning I had thought looked beautiful, like the woodcut prints of Hiroshige and Utamaro.

Leader returned from the war to obtain degrees in art fromYaleUniversityand theUniversityofIllinoisand to marry Dorothy Riehl ofRaleigh,N.D.onSept. 1, 1949. They had four sons and a daughter.

Leader taught for two years atClarkeCollegeinDubuque,Iowa, before coming to Notre Dame in 1953.Carrying a heavy teaching load, he quickly became one of the Universitys most celebrated instructors.A memorable indication of his skills as a lecturer was the sustained standing ovation he once received from his students at the end of a crowded Washington Hall lecture on the unpromising subject of Gothic cathedral architecture.

One of his specialties, both as a scholar and a craftsman, was stained glass, and his many works in that medium include windows in Saint Matthews Cathedral in South Bend and in the chapel of Notre Dames Sorin Hall.He once said of the attempt to teach liturgical art craft,It is hardly an academic task to teach young people to capturethe sound and sight of God in any media. It is like wrestling a thunderbolt in an attempt to nail it to the wall of a church.There are few who can survive such an arduous task.

Hickey Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.

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