Inspiring Conversations: Chosen to Lead

While the residents of Sorin Hall often seize the opportunity to sit down with their priest in residence, Notre Dame President Emeritus Rev. Edward A. “Monk” Malloy, C.S.C., it’s a prospect that doesn’t often present itself to the rest of the world. But here’s your chance! Join us for this week’s Inspiring Conversations session: “Chosen to Lead.” We will have the opportunity to learn the why behind Monk’s vocation and the long-lasting career it has manifested — including leadership roles he was chosen for, not ones he sought out.

Read the event recap, watch the video, or listen to the podcast below.


  • Although Rev. Malloy has turned down a few leadership positions, he always has an inclination to say yes. He calls us to say “Yes” to opportunities which result in fruitful experiences for yourself and others. (18:14)
  • Having the support of your community is incredibly important. The Notre Dame community is a large and very diverse community in interest and age. It is truly a community of colleagues, friends, leaders, and more. (19:05)
  • “I think the temptation [of fundraising as the President of the University of Notre Dame] is not that people put you on the spot…the temptation is you get too used to what they can provide.” (Rev. Malloy, 23:38)
  • “I’m a big believer in common ground…When you can find common ground like [youth, higher education], then you discover that you have more in common than you ever imagined.”  (Rev. Malloy, 27:15)
  • The key leadership traits required in order to bridge the widening divide in this country are wisdom and intense effort. When Rev. Malloy was President of ND, he would interact with Presidents and members of Congress of both parties. He would always be able to discover common ground or similarities of purpose, combatting the danger of polarization with respect and similarity. (29:26)
  • The disagreements in this country are driven by fear (fear of the future, of change). The same thing is true for other parts of the world; it is not particular to the US. These challenges seem to be rooted in human nature. However, this does not excuse us to not attempt to find ways to overcome these challenges. (31:15)
  • “I’m eight-seven percent Irish and thirteen percent English, so I’m a melder of two cultures that were hostile to each other in modern history.” (Rev. Malloy, 32:21)
  • “One of the things I discovered in the process of [writing an autobiography] is how many people were influential in my life in a positive way.” (Rev. Malloy, 34:39)
  • There are different types of leaders, from organizers to behind-the-scenes people. Although you should not be forced to be a leader, Rev. Malloy calls all of us to try it out, since you never know if you will enjoy the experience or not. (54:55)
  • “I don’t think people should be forced to be leaders, unless there is an emergency, but I think they should test it out.” (Rev. Malloy, 55:41)

Event Recap

The Inspiring Conversations Series featured a discussion about leadership with guest speaker Notre Dame President Emeritus Rev. Edward A. “Monk” Malloy, C.S.C.. This virtual event was led by Tom Schreier, the founding director of the Inspired Leadership Initiative. Through this conversation, Rev. Malloy discussed his calling to be the President of the University of Notre Dame, his principles of leadership, and his love for writing.

In the beginning of the discussion, Rev. Malloy touched on his past, from his childhood growing up in Washington, D.C. to his years as a student at Notre Dame. Although his family did not have a lot of resources, he described his childhood as one where he constantly felt well-fed and well-loved. Additionally, Rev. Malloy loved basketball (In fact, he was on the first integrated team in the history of his city!). When he came to ND for college, he originally thought he wanted to be a chemical engineer, but ended up majoring in English. On a service trip to Mexico, Rev. Malloy had a “mountaintop experience” where he discovered his calling to become a priest. Rev. Malloy went on to pursue his calling, joining the Holy Cross Seminary. During these years, he worked in Detroit around the time of the riots and St. Elizabeth’s Mental Hospital. He also gained his doctorate at Vanderbilt University, where he was the first priest in his program. Afterward, Rev. Malloy returned to ND, where he led the College Seminary Program for four years. After a few years, he was selected as a potential successor to Fr. Ted Hesburgh as the next President of the university. After being ultimately appointed to the job, Rev. Malloy focused his attention on the community around ND (mayors, county council, etc.); he yearned to discover how to provide assistance and welcome the community. However, as President, Rev. Malloy initially wondered if his integrity would be questioned; this did not turn out to be a problem, for he gathered a great number of people who take pride in this institution and contribute to it. Rev. Malloy loves educating and teaching. Additionally, 11 years ago, he became a kidney donor. After stepping down as President, Rev. Malloy published several books as an expression of love for ND and its people.

In the next topic of conversation, Rev. Malloy touched on his experiences with leadership and advice for any hopeful future leaders. Although Rev. Malloy was constantly asked to take on several roles of leadership, he carefully chose his ultimate positions. In regards to his presidency, he truly felt as if it was part of his calling, since Holy Cross has always been deeply involved in the ND culture and community. In order to maintain sanity and composure amidst so many leadership roles, Rev. Malloy places trust and respect in his beloved communities. In fact, Rev. Malloy explained his deep love for the life he has chosen, where he can participate in friendly basketball games with students and engage in amiable friendships of depth.

In the Q&A portion of the virtual event, Rev. Malloy answered a wide range of questions, explaining topics such as the overarching spiritual principle in which he conducts his work as well as the leaders that inspire him. Rev. Malloy explained that Fr. Ted Hesburgh is obviously one of his largest inspirations, as well as leaders such as Abraham Lincoln and Mother Teresa. In regards to the spiritual principle which guides his work, Rev. Malloy, without hesitation, pointed towards the Eucharist. He explained that the Eucharist sustains in times of difficulty; with the right understanding, we see it as food for our journeys.

At the end of the discussion, Rev. Malloy described one of the moments in which he discovered his capabilities for leadership. When he was a high school senior, he was a star at basketball. One day, one of the priests came up to him, stating that Rev. Malloy would be an amazing Student Body President. After winning the election and conducting his presidential duties, Rev. Malloy discovered his joy in leadership. From then on, he looked to lead, whether that would be becoming President of Badin Hall his senior year or becoming the President of the University of Notre Dame later in life.

View the discussion recorded on Tuesday, April 6, 2021, with Tom Schreier and special guest Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C. 

Listen to the discussion wherever, whenever, on The ThinkND Podcast:

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