In Memoriam

Dr. Alice von Hildebrand (1923-2022)

Franciscan Magazine Homepage > Summer 2022 > Dr. Alice von Hildebrand (1923-2022)

In Memoriam

Dr. Alice von Hildebrand (1923-2022)

Franciscan University honors the late Catholic philosopher, professor, and author.

Summer 2022 | Tom Sofio

In This Article


Perhaps no other contemporary female Catholic philosopher, professor, and author was as well known as Dr. Alice Jourdain von Hildebrand.

Her death on January 14, 2022, at age 98, brought forth a flurry of remembrances in Catholic circles. She even rated a lengthy obituary in the notoriously selective New York Times.

As a World War II Belgian refugee studying philosophy in New York, she first heard her future husband, the eminent philosopher Dietrich von Hildebrand, speak in 1942.

Alice became a student of Dietrich’s, then his secretary. They married in 1959, two years after the death of Dietrich’s first wife. Alice went on to become well known in her own right, primarily for her teachings on truth and beauty and for embracing feminine virtues such as receptivity, generosity, and maternity, arguing that women were not merely vessels for God’s work but active participants in it.

Von Hildebrand had many connections with Franciscan University, including as a visiting professor in Franciscan’s Philosophy Program and as a member of the Board of Trustees from 1987 to 1999.

At the 1987 Academic Honors Convocation, Franciscan University President Father Michael Scanlan, TOR, presented her with an honorary doctor of science in philosophy and letters degree for her “great contribution to Catholic intellectual life.”

In her address that followed, she compared Franciscan University’s role in Catholic higher education with God’s call to St. Francis of Assisi. “God’s command to St. Francis is addressed today to Franciscan University of Steubenville: ‘Rebuild my Church in America by rebuilding Catholic education.’”

Franciscan University President Father Dave Pivonka, TOR, ’89 took von Hildebrand’s class on the Philosophy of Love as an undergraduate at Franciscan.

“I remember her as a fine teacher who taught with both beauty and simplicity—in fact, hers was one of my favorite philosophy classes,” he recalled.

Franciscan alumnus John Henry Crosby ’00 is president and founder of the Hildebrand Project, which is based at Franciscan University.

“I remember her as a fine teacher who taught with both beauty and simplicity–in fact, hers was one of my favorite philosophy classes.”

“My life and work are inextricably linked to Alice von Hildebrand. She believed in me when I proposed founding the Hildebrand Project in 2003. By entrusting it with carrying on her and her husband’s life’s work, she gave me my life’s vocation. What a gift!”

Dr. John Crosby, professor of philosophy at Franciscan, knew von Hildebrand as a dear friend for 56 years. Crosby said in recent years she spent much time in prayer, “reviewing her life, letting go of disappointments, and most of all, giving thanks for all the blessings of her life. By the end of her life, she was filled with the spirit of thanksgiving.”

Go to Top