The former director of the University of Notre Dame Press, Barbara Hanrahan, plans to sue the university for her June 2010 dismissal. 

Hanrahan became director of the press in 1999.  Before coming to Notre Dame, she also worked at the University of Chicago Press and as director of the Ohio State University Press.

Citing the upcoming lawsuit, Hanrahan declined to comment on any aspect of her employment at the university. 

As was the case for former Director of Hesburgh Libraries Jennifer Younger, who left the University in May 2010, Hanrahan’s position was overseen by Assistant Provost C. Ohmer.  Ohmer declined to comment on the firing or provide an indication of when a new director will be appointed, citing the confidentiality of personnel matters.

In an August 20 press release, the university announced the appointment of interim director of University of Notre Dame Press, Harv Humphrey, who “replaces Barbara Hanrahan, who left the University at the end of June.”

The press release also states that the university “will conduct a national search for a new managing director.”  Harv Humphrey, a Notre Dame alumnus and management and financial consultant, did not respond to requests for comment. 

Two distinguished faculty members in the College of Arts and Letters expressed deep regret for Hanrahan’s dismissal.

John Van Engen, a professor of history at Notre Dame who has been widely recognized for his work in medieval studies, praised Hanrahan’s contributions to the University of Notre Dame Press. 

“Barbara Hanrahan is a superb editor,” Van Engen told The Rover.  “She drew into the orbit of the Press some of the finest North American scholars in things medieval, quite especially in Medieval English, and we can only hope that her sudden disappearance has not seriously ruined those relationships or tarnished the reputation of Medieval Studies at Notre Dame, one of our premiere programs.”

Professor Sabine MacCormack provided a long-term view of Hanrahan’s work.  A history and classics professor, MacCormack has won numerous awards for her work in both Latin American and European history and the cultural and religious interactions between the two. 

 “Before Barabara Hanrahan came as director of ND Press, some ten years ago, we were publishing books of no particular distinction, and ND Press was not a place where serious scholars were likely to go to publish their work,” said MacCormack.  “Barbara Hanrahan changed all that. Her work has been particularly important in medieval studies, which is one of the fields that ND is good at, and where the holdings of the library are good too. Under Barabara Hanrahan’s direction, the press has published excellent books in medieval studies by ND faculty.” 

“But she also accomplished something that is much harder to do – to build a list of books by distinguished scholars from elsewhere, people who can easily publish with any number of other well known presses,” MacCormack pointed out.  Furthermore, she has attracted distinguished authors from fields other than medieval studies to come to the Press and did a lovely job getting their books out.”

MacCormack also drew on her own experience as editor of the series “Histories, Languages, and Cultures of the Spanish and Portuguese Worlds.”

“She also has a truly remarkable gift for finding young authors who are publishing their first books. This is very difficult to do: it needs talent and experience. And once she gets these manuscripts by the young and inexperienced, she invariably improves them immeasurably. She has that rare ability of seeing what needs to be done to make a book the best book it can be and to get the author to do whatever it is that’s missing. I’ve seen her do it several times with authors who published in my series, and it is a lovely thing to watch.

According to MacCormack, Hanrahan’s departure may seriously detract from the press’ academic reputation.

“As a result of all that [Hanrahan’s work], ND Press is now one among a smallish number of distinguished scholarly publishers, and it enjoys a nation wide, and indeed international reputation,” MacCormack concluded.  “Consider only the number of books by Notre Dame Press authors that are reviewed in the Times Literary Supplement. All this is likely to be lost if current plans about the Press, in so far as I can see what they are, are implemented.”

Van Engen echoed MacCormack’s analysis. 

He stated, “The abrupt dismissal or disappearance of an editor, with no one to take up the reins and carry forward the program, seriously risks the complete implosion of a press, at least in terms of authors and national reputation, and could take years to rebuild.” 

Claire Gillen is junior history major.  Contact her at cgillen2@nd.e