Rev. James J. McGrath, C.S.C., an emeritus professor in the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Notre Dame who played a key role in the construction of the Galvin Life Science Center, died Monday (Oct. 24) at age 84.
McGrath, a New York native who earned a master’s degree in botany at Notre Dame, came back and taught at the University for decades after he earned a Ph.D. from the University of California in 1966.
McGrath was an assistant chair of the Department of Biological Sciences and taught several botany courses including plant anatomy, plant taxonomy, biological microtechnique and a course for non-majors. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1959, and was a dorm rector and later chaplain of the Notre Dame Fire Department. In addition to serving the campus community, McGrath also served local parishes. For 20 years he celebrated Mass at the Sacred Heart of Mary Missionary Parish in Dowagiac, Michigan.
McGrath was responsible for creating the sandy beach on St. Joseph Lake on campus, raising money for the project with vending machine sales. He was also a liaison with the architects who designed the Galvin Life Science Center and oversaw the move to the space. A plaque at the greenhouse in the Jordan Hall of Science honors him as keeper of the plants.
Visitation will be held from 5:30-7:30 p.m. Sunday (Oct. 30) at Moreau Seminary, followed by a wake service at 7:30 p.m. A Mass in celebration of his life will be offered at 3:30 p.m. Monday (Oct. 31) in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart.