In memoriam: Ronald Weber, American studies professor emeritus

Author: Dennis Brown

In Memoriam

Ronald Weber, a professor emeritus of American studies at the University of Notre Dame, died March 12 in Valparaiso, Indiana. He was 89.

Born and raised in Mason City, Iowa, Weber earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from Notre Dame in 1957. After working for newspapers in Illinois and Iowa, he took his master’s degree in English from the University of Iowa and a doctoral degree in American studies from the University of Minnesota.

Weber taught for two years at Loras College in Dubuque, Iowa, and then returned to his undergraduate alma mater in 1963 as a faculty member in the Department of Communication Arts. As department chair, he directed a committee that created a program in American studies, which in 1970 merged with the communication arts department and became the Department of American Studies. Weber served as chair of the new department for its first seven years.

Robert Schmuhl, the Walter H. Annenberg-Edmund P. Joyce Professor Emeritus of American Studies and Journalism, said of his longtime colleague: “More than anyone, Ron Weber was responsible for making American studies a distinctive academic entity at Notre Dame. He combined inquiry about literature, history and politics with the practice of journalism and modern communications. He’d tell new faculty members that they had to bring their subjects to life, something he did whenever he entered a classroom. As a writer, he was at home working on a book of literary analysis or history as well as a mystery or spy novel. His rare abilities were those of a rare individual, who will be long remembered.”

Weber focused his writing and research on American literature, journalism and culture and was the author or editor of 19 books of nonfiction and fiction, including murder mystery novels centered on fly fishing in northern Michigan. Two of his nonfiction titles, “Hired Pens” and “The Midwestern Ascendancy in American Writing,” drew praise from a Publishers Weekly reviewer, who called Weber “one of the finest writers on writers,” adding that “previous authors have covered the ground he walks … but no one has covered it better.”

Weber was a Fulbright lecturer in American studies at the University of Coimbra in Portugal in 1968-69, and he received a second Fulbright to Coimbra as well as the University of Lisbon in 1982. He was the recipient of fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and the Freedom Forum Media Studies Center at Columbia University, and he received the Office of the Provost Faculty Award from Notre Dame in 1976. He was a member of the American Studies Association, Great Lakes American Studies Association and Catholic Commission on Intellectual and Cultural Affairs. He was elevated to emeritus status in 1999.

Weber was preceded in death by his wife of 63 years, Patricia, and a daughter, Andrea Weber. He is survived by two daughters, Elizabeth Krupchak and Kathryn Weber, and three grandchildren and four great-grandchildren.

His family will bury his ashes with those of his wife and daughter in Cedar Grove Cemetery at Notre Dame.