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Michael Novak - RIP

novak300Michael Novak, the noted author, philosopher and theologian who called Ave Maria home for most of the last seven years, died Friday morning in Washington, D.C., where he had been teaching at the Catholic University of America. He was 83 years old.

During his life, Mr. Novak counted among his friends world leaders, including Pope John Paul II, but in his later years those friends included countless Ave Maria residents and Ave Maria University students and faculty.

"The years with him have been among the best, most stimulating and productive of my life," said Ave Maria resident Paul Adams, who co-authored one of Mr. Novak's last books, Social Justice is Not What You Think It Is. " He was open and generous in encouraging not only of young scholars with promising careers ahead of them but also of a retired septuagenarian like me."

Mr. Novak was an early supporter of Ave Maria University and was among the first people asked to serve on its board by founder Tom Monaghan. He also was a major donor to the Rhodora J. Donahue Academy K-12 Catholic school in town.

Although he was associated with Ave Maria University for years, he did not become deeply involved until shortly after the death in 2009 of his wife, the artist Karen Laub-Novak, to whom he was devoted since their wedding in 1963. She, too, died of cancer and after he was diagnosed with colon cancer himself in December, 2016, he said her struggle was inspirational to him. "My morale is very high. I know that I don't have the courage that Karen had in braving the trials of cancer, but I will do my best when as it comes, in her honor."

The library at the Donahue Academy, which Mr. Novak's donations helped establish, is named for his wife.

In an interview near his 80th birthday, he told The Ave Herald, "After my dear wife Karen died in August of 2009, I began to realize I wanted to sell [my] house in Washington. I started sending my books to AMU. Then [former AMU President] Nick Healy said to me, 'Michael, your books are here. Why don't you come down?'"

He said he considered teaching one of his true callings, and he began teaching one course a semester at Ave Maria University. In the fall of 2016 he accepted an offer by the Catholic University of America to teach and lecture as a Distinguished Visiting Fellow. It was a return, of sorts, for Mr. Novak who studied at CUA in 1958 and 1959.

CUA President John Garvey remembered him as "a man of great intellectual honesty."

"Unlike some scholars, Michael Novak made it a point to reflect on new and different topics, always with a fresh and dynamic perspective," Mr. Garvey said. "We are immensely grateful that he could end his academic life as he began it, as a member of our community."

The following links have more on Michael Novak.

The Washington Post: Michael Novak, theologian who made a spiritual case for capitalism, dies at 83

The Ave Herald: Michael Novak's Poltical Journey from Right to Left

The Naples Daily News: What's Up in Ave Maria – Mr. Novak Goes to Washington

Catholic University Remembers Michael Novak

Michael Novak Biography from his website


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