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Personal: Art Harvey Has Died

Art Harvey is dead. In fact, he's been dead for over a year, but I just found out when I received an email yesterday from the attorney handling his estate, because I was a witness to his Last Will and Testament. Although I scan Notre Dame Magazine for such news whenever I get an issue, I somehow missed this, and just the other day I found myself wondering how he was doing, amazed that he was still, I thought, alive, as he would now be 98.

In fact, Professor Rev. Arthur S. Harvey, C.S.C. of the University of Notre Dame, the "Father of Notre Dame Theatre," died February 4th, 2008, as I just discovered by doing a Google search. The year that I did extra Ph.D. prep at Notre Dame, extending my Master's residency, my roommate Bob and I had the extraordinary luck to land a pair of live-in jobs at Holy Cross House, the retirement and nursing facility for the priests and brothers of Holy Cross, the order that founded Notre Dame. There, in exchange for trading off nights manning the doors in the evening, we were given room and board. But it was the experience of living with these men, the youngest of whom had just turned 62, that was the real gift. In a culture that so values youth over age, it was a wonderful counter-cultural experience to live with this group, the bulk of whom had gone to school in the 1930s. And so, for an entire year, I had dinner almost every night with Art Harvey, who was one of the regulars at the table of the House Superior, Fr. Joseph F. O'Donnell, C.S.C., the man who hired us and whose table I ate at as well, and who became a particularly good friend. Fr. Art was on the quieter side, but that year, and then in the following year when I decided to take a break from higher education, I had the privilege of helping to take care of him, and so I found that I spent two years in regular conversation with him.

I felt a bit blank after hearing the news, and took a late-night walk around campus, thinking of the time I had spent in his company. Not surprisingly, we talked theatre and movies a great deal, and I caught some of the adamant feeling others have described of his determination as to what constituted great drama. What struck me perhaps the most, though, were not the anecdotes about his friend Helen Hayes and the like, but the sense that I think I fail to hear among my students and others I talk to: that drama points us toward recognizing the significance of all the moments of our lives, even those we think insignificant. Instead, I think most people see drama as "over there," as that stuff, on the television, movie screen, or stage. Maybe that's why so many people imitate movies and characters, thinking that in this way they "import" something of real drama into their lives. I've seen people pattern even their adulteries off of something that they liked in a film, little realizing that they were robbing their lives of their true drama and significance and replacing them with something even less real than a story they had watched. Even in the last, hard years of his life, when reminiscing was naturally far more common than at earlier times in his life, Art Harvey still gave off a stronger sense of being present in a given moment than most anyone I've met.

Father Arthur Harvey, "Father of Theatre at Notre Dame," Dies

By Michael O. Garvey

Rev. Arthur S. Harvey, C.S.C., 96, died Monday (Feb. 4) at Holy Cross House on the Notre Dame campus, where he had lived since 1993.

A native of Washington, D.C., Father Harvey was educated at St. Paul grade and high school and worked briefly for the Washington Railway and Electric Company before coming to Notre Dame in 1942 to study for the priesthood in the Congregation of Holy Cross.

Graduated from Notre Dame in 1947, Father Harvey returned to Washington to study theology at Holy Cross College and was ordained on June 5, 1951, at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. He studied drama at Catholic University, earning a graduate degree in 1953, and returned to Notre Dame to embark on a long and celebrated career teaching drama and directing plays on campus. His many productions included, "Hamlet" and "Long Day's Journey Into Night," "My Fair Lady" and "South Pacific." He retired in 1969, and began to serve for many years as an assistant to Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., then Notre Dame's executive vice president, but twice returned to Washington Hall to direct highly acclaimed productions of "Death of a Salesman" and "The Crucible."

"Perhaps more than any other person, Father Arthur Harvey is considered the father of theater at Notre Dame," said Mark C. Pilkinton, professor of film, television and theater. "Trained as an accountant but blessed with an abiding interest in the theater, Father Art worked tirelessly to achieve both artistic merit and academic integrity. With such student actors in his early years as Phil Donohue, Reg Bain and Gene Gorski, and supported by a faculty that included Fred Syburg, he oversaw a remarkable period of serious and good theatre at Notre Dame.

"During his tenure, Father Art famously recreated on the Washington Hall stage the grandest of Broadway dramas and musicals of the day. He modernized and updated Washington Hall in 1956, turning the heavily decorated 19th-century interior into a modern fully functional theater. Imperious, disciplined, and hard working, he was also a master stage director known for his careful attention to detail and his work ethic that consistently produced work of the highest merit. No one loved Notre Dame more, and no one loved theater more. All of us who worked with Fr. Art will be forever grateful."

The Notre Dame Alumni Association named an award in honor of Father Harvey in 2000 to be given annually to a graduate for outstanding contributions to the performing arts. The first recipient of the award was Father Harvey.

A viewing and wake service will be held at 2:30 p.m. Sunday (Feb. 10) in the chapel of Moreau Seminary. A funeral Mass will be celebrated Monday (Feb. 11) at 3:30 p.m. in Notre Dame's Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

Letter from Campus: Art Harvey, His Presence Endures
BY Reginald F. Bain '57
Published: Spring 2008

Father Arthur S. Harvey, CSC, was a presence. I first became aware of that presence as a freshman more than half a century ago at a rehearsal in Washington Hall. I noticed a black-clad man observing our work from the shadows of the back row of the theater and asked a friend, “Who is that?” He replied, “That’s the man who is going to take over the theater next year.”

His formative years had been spent in his hometown of Washington, D.C. At age 31, after working several years in private industry as an accountant, Harvey entered Notre Dame to study for the priesthood in the Congregation of Holy Cross. He graduated in 1947, returned to Washington to study theology and was ordained in 1951 at the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception.

Harvey brought to his priesthood a lifelong passion for theater. To aid in combining that love with his vocation, he entered the graduate drama program at the Catholic University of America and completed his studies in 1953.

He returned to Notre Dame to join the faculty with a newfound zeal and mission for bringing some of the excitement and academic credibility he had found at Catholic University to his work here. He had a dream. It was at that point when I first encountered his presence in the environs of the old campus theater.

Our sense of Harvey’s presence grew in subsequent years as he took charge of the program: renovating a somewhat seedy Washington Hall; selecting serious, demanding and sometimes controversial plays for those times; and exhorting us to find the best that was in us in service of what he called “the work we are doing here.” That phrase became a kind of mantra reflecting his unflagging enthusiasm for his dream. His youthful audience found it both challenging and sometimes humorous in its repetition.

He meant, of course, that he was trying to engage us in his mission. Through the years he ardently continued the work: in guiding and counseling students to realize their own dreams; in his carefully conceived and tightly woven theater productions; in the building of a faithful audience; and, finally, in establishing the basis for a professionally oriented academic curriculum within the liberal arts traditions of the university.

By the time of his retirement from the work, I’m certain he did not feel he had fully achieved his dream. But the presence remained. In his priestly office he presided at weddings of former students and baptisms of their offspring. He would often appear at opening night in the green room for a prayer and encouraging word. And he maintained a critical eye on the theater program. Often during those years, he would again sit in the last row of the theater observing the work, meeting and encouraging the new crop of students, and occasionally providing well-intended but sometimes trenchant notes to the director.

In later years when physical limitations prevented him from attending rehearsals or performances, he kept a watchful eye on campus from his second-floor room in Holy Cross House looking out on the Dome. Notes and prayerful wishes for the cast replaced his opening-night visits. Friends, former students and colleagues visited him for remembrance and celebration. Unable to leave his room, he once proudly officiated at a renewal of marriage vows for a former student. As always, he regaled visitors with memories: his past shows; his vast history of theater-going; his encounters with numerous theater artists, including his card games with acting legend Helen Hayes. Throughout, he always seemed to know what was going on and was full of comments on the latest happenings.

In 2000, the Notre Dame Alumni Association created a performing arts award in his honor. He was the first recipient.

Father Harvey died at age 96 on February 4. Like many of the legendary figures who have graced this campus, his presence will endure, embedded in the culture and life of this place and “the work we are doing here.”

Reginald F. Bain is an emeritus associate professor in the Department of Film, Television and Theatre.

Photo of Art Havey by Robert Phillips.

The Passing of a True Legend
Letter to the Editor
The Observer
Issue date: 2/7/08 Section: Viewpoint

Amidst the excitement and hubbub of the Super Bowl, Super Tuesday, and even National Letter of Intent Day, Notre Dame lost one of its quiet giants on Monday morning, with the passing of Father Arthur S. Harvey, at the ripe old age of 97.

Father Harvey, or "Father Art" as he was known to thousands of his students, passed away peacefully at Holy Cross House, where he spent some tough final years of his life both bed ridden and unable to eat solid food. And yet, his spirit was lively to the end, and his legacy as one of the great priests of Notre Dame will forever remain.

Father Art spent over 60 years of his life at Notre Dame, and is largely responsible for the acclaim and prestige that the theater department enjoys today. His productions in Washington Hall were reviewed the world over, and his close frienships with Broadway legend Helen Hayes, Notre Dame alumnus Phil Donahue and others are well known. He even came out of retirement one last time in 1989 to direct a revival of his most acclaimed production, Arthur Miller's "Death of a Salesman."

Several years ago the University Fathers honored Father Art by creating the Arthur S. Harvey award for Theater Excellence. It was something of which he was especially proud in his final years, as he would mentor up and coming theater students and priests right from his bed. But more than just awards, Father Harvey will be, and should be remembered, as the very embodiment of a priest - a counselor, a mentor, a friend, and an instructor. His legions of theater students, many going on to great acclaim on stage and screen, would tell you of his insistence on getting the best of his people, his unbending demands for excellence, and his encouragement and guidance, that for most people, lasted well beyond their four years at Notre Dame.

I was lucky enough to know another side of Father Harvey - that of a family friend as well. His "halftime" Masses, given in our kitchen and living room during Notre Dame football games, became legendary around our house and among my visiting friends and roommates. But it was a prayer that he always prayed aloud during the list of intentions that has stuck with me all these years, and tells you most about the man: "Father," he would intercede, "we add our prayers for one person, somewhere, who needs your help more than anything right now. Someone who is alone, who is struggling, and who doesn't know where to turn. Only you know who that person is. We ask you to be with that person right now, and give them your comfort and blessings, and have them know that you are with them." That was Father Harvey.

His funeral Mass will be held in the Basilica next Monday afternoon. If you are walking by, to or from class, and hear the bells toll, be happy, for we will be inside celebrating the wonderful life of a true Notre Dame man.

Godspeed Father Harvey!

Guy Weismantel
Class of 1990
Feb. 6


A footnote in George F. Kennan and the Making of American Foreign Policy, 1947-1950, a diplomatic history by Notre Dame Professor of History Wilson D. Miscamble,C.S.C., strikes me as wonderfully funny. In describing a scene where one John D. "Jack" Hickerson (Head of "The Division of European Affairs" for something in the U.S. government, apparently) was speaking while sloshed on something called "fishhouse punch," Miscamble footnote on this point reads:
Achilles Oral History, HSTL. Despite arduous research I have not succeeded in determining the exact ingredients of fishhouse punch. I should like to thank Rev. Arthur S. Harvey, C.S.C., for his assistance on this matter.
Fabulous! :-)
Tags: friends-notre dame era, movies/film/tv, notre dame, obituary, personal, theatre

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