In Memoriam: Mary Kathleen Hamann

Spring 2011

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(June 2, 1960- April 22, 2011)

Mary K. Hamann, 50, editor of Notre Dame Business, died suddenly of health-related causes on April 22 while visiting Paraguay for her daughter Kate’s wedding. Following is a letter of tribute from the people who worked with her every day—her magazine team and Dean Carolyn Y. Woo.

The closed door stops people in their tracks.

It’s the week following Mary’s very unexpected death—not enough time for it to sink in. As colleagues and visitors come into the department—some to express condolence, some just on business matters—they inevitably pull up at the sight of Mary’s office door, tightly shut and locked.

Perhaps it’s simply a tangible reminder of the finality of her death. But it’s also unnatural, because Mary’s door was never closed. She was a person who always had time—made time—for anyone in need of help with a project, or uncritical advice, or just a friendly chat. Unpretentious, devoutly Catholic, cared not a whit for trendiness but everything for what is authentic and lasting. The kind of friend you make for life, even with the most glancing of interactions.

Those of you who routinely read her “Letter from the Editor” that appeared on this page came to know her a bit through her stories about her husband, Mike, her friends, and a wide variety of interesting people she met through the Notre Dame network.

A lovely writer with a simple style and a keen eye for the kind of detail that lifts words into visions, Mary’s foremost gift was her open, nonjudgmental way of finding rarity in the common, appreciation for the oddball, humor in the most taxing of situations, and God’s grace when people tend to each other.

As editor of Notre Dame Business, she crafted expressions for the Mendoza mission of excellence and faith as an integrated whole. The magazine was not to brag, but to inform, inspire and open minds and hearts. She not only wrote about our colleagues’ achievements, but beamed with pride and the desire to celebrate their contributions through her words. Make no mistake, though, Mary had steel, just no edges.

She had a bit of the absent-minded professor quality—very smart but sometimes completely unmindful of life’s nagging little pragmatisms, like carrying an umbrella or remembering to wear boots. But if you needed something—a meal or a ride—she walked through the rain or the snow happily, just to be of service.

There will come the day when the door will be opened, and a new name plate will appear outside. It’s not a shrine. In these early days, the true tributes come in the form of the personal anecdotes that so many people have to tell about Mary. She leaves a humbling legacy of unconditional love for so many that survives and blooms and endures far beyond any shut door.