After 54 years of teaching and ‘profound impact,’ economist Bill Leahy retires

Author: Marie Revak

William (Bill) Leahy recently retired from active teaching and research in the Department of Economics at the University of Notre Dame. His retirement became effective July 1, 2020, at which point he assumed the status of emeritus professor of economics.

William Leahy Headshot 1

Leahy's retirement came after 54 consecutive years of teaching economics at Notre Dame. A triple Domer who received his bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees from Notre Dame, Leahy joined the faculty of the Department of Economics as an assistant professor in 1966. He was promoted to associate professor in 1969 and full professor in 1975. For many years, he served as the director of undergraduate studies or the director of undergraduate advising for economics majors.

Leahy's research specialties are labor economics, collective bargaining, arbitration, and industrial relations. Over the course of his academic career, he published six books and more than 30 journal articles. An incredibly popular instructor, he most frequently taught a social science university seminar, labor law, and employee relations law. His teaching was recognized in 2004 with the Sheedy Excellence in Teaching Award, given annually to a faculty member in the College of Arts and Letters. The Sheedy award, named after former dean Rev. Charles E. Sheedy, CSC, is the College’s most prestigious teaching award.

As a professor, Leahy's passion was his students. He would come to his office in Decio very early in the morning and meet students for coffee and breakfast at the Decio Café. For years, he was heavily involved in the recruitment and advising of student athletes. On days when he was teaching, in between classes he could be found hanging out in the lounge of the Kaneb Center in DeBartolo Hall, sipping coffee and interacting with faculty from units all over campus.

“Bill Leahy has had a profound impact on thousands of students over the course of his decades on the faculty at Notre Dame,” said Eric Sims, professor and chair of the Department of Economics. “Bill represents Notre Dame at its finest. He has a firm commitment to shaping the whole person and helping young people grow into the best version of themselves. I am lucky to count Bill as a mentor and friend. I will miss our regular interactions, but look forward to keeping in touch with him as he moves on to the next stage of his life.”

Mary Flannery is a Notre Dame alumna who currently serves as associate dean for undergraduate studies in the College of Arts and Letters. Prior to that, she was the director of undergraduate studies in the Department of Economics.

“Bill Leahy was already a very popular and well-regarded presence in the Department of Economics when I was an undergraduate in the 1970s. Unfortunately, I never got the chance to take a class with him,” Flannery said. “One of the unexpected blessings of returning to Notre Dame to teach was seeing him again and realizing that his enthusiasm for teaching economics and our students was as strong as ever. Many students took his courses on the recommendation of their own parents and were never disappointed. Bill’s wisdom and concern for his students continued to be as impactful in recent years as they were in his early years of teaching. His long career of service was a gift to the University and to the Department of Economics in particular.”

Leahy came to Notre Dame as an undergraduate in 1952 — the same year the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C, became University president.

“The longer I taught at Notre Dame, the more I appreciated the history and values of this place,” he said. “One day I opened a class with 10 to 15 minutes on the history of Notre Dame. I found it be a wonderful grounding upon which to teach, and so good for students to understand this unique university on a deeper level.”

Leahy and his wife, Sharon, have six children, all of whom graduated from Notre Dame. The couple recently moved to Holy Cross Village across from Notre Dame’s campus, and look forward to a retirement filled with cheering on Fighting Irish athletics teams and spending time with friends and family.

“My only regret in retiring this past year was not being able to say goodbye in person to my colleagues and to the many of the priests whom I have become close to over the years. I thank all of them for their support and friendship over all these years," he said. "While no institution is perfect, Notre Dame works so hard to do the right thing. In this world that is to be lauded. Notre Dame will be in my heart forever.”   

Originally published at