Sept. 20, 2006

By Susan Guibert

Bob Kill is a 1959 alumnus who has been enjoying the ceremony, athleticism and mystique of Notre Dame football Saturdays since he was in the third grade. And after nearly 60 years, the experience hasn’t lost its magic. After all, this is Notre Dame.

A few years ago, Bob added a new twist to his football game-day agenda when he attended his first Saturday Scholar Series lecture, adding an academic dimension to his weekend’s routine.

“It’s great, really a fascinating experience,” he said. “Notre Dame has some of the world’s leading scholars, and I enjoy being able to listen and learn from them in that kind of casual, pressure-free setting. And you don’t have to take a test or write a paper at the end.

“However, my wife is insisting I take notes on one of this year’s presentations called `Successful Aging,’ so she may give me a test on that one.”

Sponsored by Notre Dame’s College of Arts and Letters, the Saturday Scholar Series lectures are held three and one-half hours before kickoff of each home football game in the Annenberg Auditorium of the Snite Museum of Art. Presentations feature leading Arts and Letters faculty members who discuss relevant issues of the day.

From a panel discussion on religion’s role in building peace to an exploration of the Dead Sea Scrolls, the Saturday Scholar Series offers Irish football fans new insights into an array of issues spanning all three divisions of the College – the arts, humanities and social sciences.

“I’m not a scholar and it’s been years since I’ve been in a classroom, but the opportunity to learn from Notre Dame’s experts is great – it really rounds out the weekend’s activities,” said Kill, who is chairman and chief executive officer of the Hacienda Mexican Restaurants chain. “We have guests for almost every home game, and each of them enjoys attending the presentations.”

The Saturday Scholar Series was initiated six years ago by Mark W. Roche, I. A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of Arts and Letters.

“Football weekends involve almost all aspects of the University experience, from pageantry to musical performance, but rarely do they involve the heart of the academic enterprise: scholarship,” Roche said. “The College of Arts and Letters is the University’s largest college and provides an education to all Notre Dame students; this program complements the college’s mission.”

Though rooted in the current research and scholarship of Notre Dame’s faculty, the presentations carry a general appeal. This year’s first presentation, for example, is a panel discussion titled “More Than a Movie? Assessing `The Da Vinci Code’,” featuring a film professor, a theologian and an art historian, who will offer insights into the cinematic quality of the blockbuster film, the historical relationship between Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and the theological role of the art depicted in the movie.

“The discussion of `The Da Vinci Code’ sounds really interesting,” Kill said.

“I guess you could say I’ll go from historical Jesus to Touchdown Jesus that day. And where else can you attend a lecture given by internationally recognized scholars and watch the most famous team in college football – all in one day?”

After all, this is Notre Dame.

The 2006 Saturday Scholar Series schedule is as follows:

September 9 – “More Than a Movie? Assessing `The Da Vinci Code'” with panelists James Collins, professor of film, television and theatre; Mary Rose D’Angelo, associate professor of theology; and Charles Barber, associate professor of art, art history and design.

September 16 – “The Impact of the Dead Sea Scrolls on Our Bible,” with Eugene Ulrich, Rev. John A. O’Brien Professor of Theology and a principal editor of the manuscripts.

September 30 – “Successful Aging,” with Cindy Bergeman, professor of psychology.

October 7 – “The Bone Collector,” with Susan Guise Sheridan, associate professor of anthropology.

October 21 – “Completing the Constitution: The 14th Amendment,” with Michael Zuckert, Nancy Reeves Dreux Professor of Political Science.

November 4 – “The Role of Religion in Peacebuilding,” with panelists R. Scott Appleby, professor of history and the John M. Regan Jr. Director of the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, and Kroc faculty members John Paul Lederach and A. Rashied Omar.

November 18 – “Seeds of Change,” a Musical Performance, with music department faculty members Georgine Resick (soprano) and John Blacklow (piano).