Father Alexander Kirsch, C.S.C. (1855-1923)

“As a boy of seventeen he left Luxemburg for America and received the Holy Cross habit in 1873 being ordained in 1880.  For the next two years he studied at the University of Louvain, Belgium, where he prepared to assume the heavy teaching duties [in biological sciences] at our university.  It is almost impossible to form an estimate of the sacrifices which his half-century of educational work involved…. Father Kirsch taught as many as thirteen hours a day; taught subjects ranging from German to zoology.  The work actually left him without sufficient time to get meals, so that only the robust constitution of the man could have resisted the appalling grind of daily labor. As the school grew he got time to devote himself to those branches of science in which he remained most deeply interested—zoology, anatomy and geology.  His name was synonymous with authority in these subjects, and during the years of his prime no teacher enjoyed a greater popularity with his classes or served them more devotedly…. Father Kirsch coveted no honors, sought no applause.  The testimonial of his desire was honest service bearing fruitful results” Scholastic, 1923.

 “The root of biology at the University of Notre Dame is grounded in the work of Rev. Alexander Kirsch.  A successful anatomist, cytologist and bacteriologist, he formally established biology at the University in 1890. A somewhat reclusive person, the large-framed priest was seldom seen on campus except in the classroom or the laboratory, where he would spend as many as 13 hours a day. He established a four-year course in biology in 1890.  The new curriculum was billed as ‘an immediate preparation for the study of medicine or veterinary science or with a view to teaching or otherwise engaging in biological science.’ Kirsch has devised a rigorous curriculum of 19 courses in the department—the majority of which he taught.  The biology department continually expanded during Father Kirsch’s term as head.  Father Kirsch suffered a heart attack on December 28, 1921.  Never totally recovering from the original attack, he died at the age of 67 in 1923.” Jane Kane and John Monczunski, Department of Information Services, University of Notre Dame, nd.

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