Alice von Hildebrand, the widow of Dietrich von Hildebrand, and a brilliant and popular professor of philosophy and theology in her own right, died peacefully in her sleep last Friday, January 14th, at the age of 94.
Her story is a remarkable one – a refugee from Europe at the beginning of the Second World War, with a harrowing sea crossing, nearly getting torpedoed by a German U-boat. Her story of perseverance in a male-dominated and anti-Catholic teaching environment at Hunter College in New York should inspire us all, in our own, often less-difficult troubles. Professor von Hildebrand could have moved elsewhere – to a Catholic liberal arts college in the Midwest – but she felt called to stay, and her students loved her for it. Conversion stories poured in – increasing the resentment of her fellow profs and administrators – but her classes were packed to the rafters, and her popularity helped fill the college’s coffers. We will never know how many souls she touched.
Yet all she did was teach the truth, quietly, insistently. I heard her speak once, at a pro-life conference years ago, and recall her radiance, her soft, clear voice, her wit and humour, and her intelligence and erudition.
And an interview in Crisis, with Kimberly Cook, from 2018.
Requiem æternam dona ei, Domine. Et lux perpetua luceat ei: Requiescat in pace. Amen.