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24 J. Legis. 1 (1998)


There is an old and famous Irish blessing, the last line of which runs: "And may you be in heaven half an hour before the devil knows you're dead." If anyone ever deserved to be happily ensconced in heaven for the proverbial half-hour, it is Bill Lewers.

For the last fourteen years of his life among us, Bill spent his considerable energy improving our understanding and awareness of international human rights. It became Bill's great passion. In 1983, Bill was appointed as Director of the Office of International Justice and Peace for the United States Catholic Conference. When he returned to Notre Dame in 1988, he took over as Director of a dormant Center for Civil and Human Rights. Bill built the Center into a unique program that awards masters' and doctoral degrees to foreign students that are committed to the practice of international human rights in their native countries and-elsewhere around the world. Although you will search in vain for major books, articles, or treatises that Bill wrote about the subject of human rights, he was the driving force behind the recent translation and publication of a lengthy volume documenting the human rights abuses of the Pinochet regime in Chile. In the main, however, Bill preferred to work retail, instilling in his students his own sense of passion and commitment. Then he sent them out into the world, where many have spent time working as interns or prosecutors for the United Nations war crime tribunals and some have returned home to teach the next generation of human rights lawyers and activists.

Bill was a wise man, and a warm, loving, and generous friend. He was a true statesman, to whom many of us on the faculty turned for conversation, advice, and support. Today, nearly a year after his death, a day rarely goes by when I do not think of Bill and realize the thousand small ways in which our school misses him. Heaven is better off, but we are poorer for his loss. He was the best of the best.



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