In Memoriam: Conrad L. Kellenberg, professor emeritus of law

by Michael O. Garvey

Conrad L. Kellenberg Conrad L. Kellenberg

Conrad L. Kellenberg, professor emeritus of law at the University of Notre Dame, died Friday (April 8). He was 88. A native of New York City, Kellenberg was graduated from St. John’s University in 1949 and earned his J.D. from Columbia Law School in 1952. He served as a legal officer in the United States Air Force Judge Advocate General’s Department and in private law practice in New York City before joining the Notre Dame Law School faculty in 1955 and remaining there until his retirement in 2005.

At Notre Dame, Kellenberg taught in a wide variety of legal areas, including property and family law; estate planning; legal ethics; criminal law and procedure; environmental, energy, agricultural land use, and housing and community development law. He was the founding director of the Law School’s Neighborhood Legal Services Program, now its Clinical Law Center, from 1965 to 1967 and in 1968 became the first director of Notre Dame’s London Law Center, initiating a program that is the first — and still only — full-time branch of an American law school located outside the United States.

“Con was a perfect exemplar of the gentleman and scholar,” said Charles K. Wilber, professor emeritus of economics. “He and his wife, Catherine, were devoted parents and models for all of us of what Catholic faith looks like in action.”

“I was very sorry to learn of the passing of such a sweet and good man. Conrad’s colleagues and I will greatly miss him even as his legacy lives on in his work, which includes our clinical programs and the London Law Center, and of course in the Conrad Kellenberg Award, which NDLS awards every year to a graduating student who has worked for the betterment of the Law School and local community,” said Nell Jessup Newton, Joseph A. Matson Dean of the Law School.

“As if to show he meant it, Con Kellenberg, when greeted in the hallway, said ‘hello’ not just once, but rather thrice, and at three different pitches, from high to low,” remembered Fernand “Tex” N. Dutile, professor emeritus of law and one of Kellenberg’s first students at Notre Dame. “A warm and friendly fixture of the law school since the Eisenhower administration, Con was only formally an ‘employee’ of the place. His title more aptly fit that of a ‘citizen.’ To paraphrase Ike’s successor, Con was less interested in what the law school could do for him than what he could do for the law school, and for Con the law school was largely its students. His office door was always open and what he taught, both in class and out, nurtured not only the mind, but also the heart and soul of the student.”

During the early days of the Civil Rights movement, Kellenberg joined other Notre Dame Law School faculty to help rewrite housing laws in the city of South Bend, and in 2005, this work, as well as his 50 years of service to the Notre Dame Law School and the local community, was honored with the establishment of the Conrad Kellenberg Award, which is annually awarded to a Notre Dame Law School graduate who has dedicated substantial time to the betterment of the community through service.

“His values, those of the classic progressive, emphasized the plight of the poor, the minorities and the otherwise marginalized,” Dutile said. “And these values proved more than theoretical, as, for example, his courageous and active role in desegregating housing in South Bend reflected. His outlook, pronouncements and priorities mirrored those of Pope Francis decades before there was a Pope Francis.”

Kellenberg is survived by his wife, Catherine Havey Kellenberg, and their five children and 13 grandchildren.

A funeral Mass will be celebrated at 10 a.m. Monday (April 18) in St. Joseph Chapel at Holy Cross College.

In lieu of flowers, the Kellenberg family has asked that donations in Kellenberg’s memory be made to the St. Vincent de Paul Society of St. Joseph County, Indiana, or to FINCA International.