Longtime supporter of Catholic education passes away

George Strake Jr., a Notre Dame alumnus and a longtime supporter of Notre Dame’s Catholic identity, passed away earlier this month. Strake, the former Texas Secretary of State and Chairman of the Texas Republican Committee, passed away peacefully on February 9 at 88 years old. His wife, Annette, preceded him in death just two months prior. 

Strake was a graduate of the Notre Dame Class of 1957 where he received a degree in Economics and served as the Senior Class President. As the class president, Strake presented John F. Kennedy with the “Patriot of the Year Award” at the Washington Day Exercises, a Notre Dame tradition that subsided in the 1970s. Strake himself was the 1993 recipient of the Rev. John J. Cavanaugh, C.S.C., Award. This honor is bestowed by the university on an alumnus who is “performing or has performed outstanding service in the field of government, patriotism, public service, local, state, and national politics, etc.”

In addition to his political and business career, Strake was a philanthropist for national organizations and in his local Houston area. His obituary recounts, “He served as a board member of numerous organizations, including, Rotary Club of Houston, The C Club, of which he was a founding member, Boy Scouts of America, Albert & Ethel Herzstein Foundation, University of St. Thomas [Houston], San Jacinto Museum of History and many, many more.” 

As a Notre Dame graduate and devout Catholic, Strake was a generous supporter of Catholic groups on campus, including the Irish Rover, Students for Child-Oriented Policy, and NDVision. The Strake Foundation also funded course development in the College of Arts & Letters relating to Catholic identity and funded fellowships for student summer experiences. Strake also served on the College of Arts and Letters Advisory Council. Strake’s father, George W. Strake, was a member of the University of Notre Dame Board of Trustees. 

Fr. Bill Miscamble, C.S.C, a friend of George Strake and professor of history, told the Rover that Strake “was a true loyal son of Notre Dame.  When I think of him, I go immediately to the inscription over the east door of Sacred Heart Basilica— ‘God, Country, Notre Dame.’”   

Miscamble continued, “He was so deeply committed to all three. His faith was deep and his love for Christ and our Church led him to expend his energies in service to so many worthy causes. I am very grateful especially for his commitment to Notre Dame and for his efforts to uphold her Catholic identity and mission. We can all be thankful for the support he gave to our school as a whole, and for the generous aid that he gave to certain centers and institutes that play important roles in upholding Notre Dame’s central mission.” 

Michael Bradley, Editor-in-Chief Emeritus of the Irish Rover and graduate of Notre Dame, echoed Miscamble’s sentiments, stating that upon meeting Strake as an undergraduate, he saw that Strake’s “love for Notre Dame, his zeal for the university’s Catholic character, and his belief in the paper’s mission were all apparent.”

Bradley continued, “George Strake’s generosity toward the Rover has been indispensable, and unmatched, for many years; without his support, the Rover as we know it would not exist.” 

In addition to his lasting mark left on dozens of organizations, such as Notre Dame, Strake’s legacy is continued through his six children, 17 grandchildren, and 19 great-grandchildren. 

Hundreds took to Strake’s obituary page to share their memories and condolences. One comment, left by Strake’s pastor in Houston read, “His love of the Catholic Church and its rich faith, combined with his dedication to the love and service of family and society made George a true shepherd of the flock of Christ and a profound example of committed discipleship. Our world is a better place because of the lives of love of George and Annette Strake.”

The post concludes, “Eternal rest grant unto them O Lord, and let perpetual light shine upon them.”

Nico Schmitz is a senior from Los Angeles, California in the Program of Liberal Studies. You can reach out to him at nschmit2@nd.edu. 

Photo Credit: Family of George Strake via Dignity Memorial Obituary