In memoriam: L. John Roos, professor emeritus of political science

Author: Dennis Brown

L. John Roos
L. John Roos

L. John Roos, a professor of political science at the University of Notre Dame for 44 years, died in Nashville, Tennessee, on Oct. 21, his 79th birthday.

“John was a wonderful colleague and friend, and there is so much to be said about his contributions to Notre Dame as a teacher and intellectual,” Peri Arnold, a Notre Dame political scientist, said. “In the spirit of celebrating him, I would like to mention a quality that was less apparent except to those who worked closely with him. John was a deeply principled person, consistently promoting fairness and transparency in our departmental and University practices, sometimes against official policy. We are better today because of John’s work.”

Born in Houston, Roos earned his bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in political science from Notre Dame in 1965, then took his master’s and doctoral degrees from the University of Chicago, writing his dissertation on “Natural Law and Natural Rights in Thomas Aquinas and Aristotle.”

Roos returned to Notre Dame in 1969 to begin his four-plus-decade career at the University. A multidimensional scholar, he taught and conducted research on such topics as congressional reform, campaign finance, local government reform, ancient and medieval political theory, Catholic political thought, politics and literature, Flannery O’Connor and Aquinas. He completed an inventory of the papers of Notre Dame Professor Gerhart Niemeyer and was director of the philosophy, politics and economics minor, for which he taught a course titled The Justice Seminar.

Roos received the 1983 Sheedy Award, presented to the faculty member in the College of Arts and Letters who has sustained excellence in research and teaching over a wide range of courses. He also won the University-wide Joyce and Dockweiler Awards for undergraduate teaching and mentorship and a Notre Dame Presidential Award for service to the campus community. Notre Dame’s Rooney Center for the Study of American Democracy annually presents the John Roos Award to the students with the best senior honors thesis in the area of American politics.

Christina Wolbrecht, a past director of the Rooney Center, wrote in a tweet: “John was an exemplar of the kind of dedicated service that makes academia work.”

In addition to his work on campus, Roos was active in local politics and community-based research, and with co-author Karl King published a report titled “Benchmarking South Bend,” for which they received the Engaged Scholarship Award for a “lifetime of scholarship for social improvement.”

Roos is survived by his wife of 53 years, Carole; two children, Eleanor and Andrew; a granddaughter; and four siblings. A memorial service will take place at 3:30 p.m. April 13 at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, to be followed by a reception in the Great Hall of O'Shaughnessy Hall.