Notre Dame President Takes Responsibility for Tragic Death

November 8, 2010

The president of the University of Notre Dame, the Rev. John I. Jenkins, on Friday issued a letter saying that the university was responsible for the death of Declan Sullivan, who was killed in an accident last month when the tower on which he was situated to film a football practice collapsed. "There is no greater sadness for a university community than the death of one of its students under any circumstances. Yet this loss is more devastating, for Declan died in a tragic accident while in our care," wrote Father Jenkins. "For that, I am profoundly sorry. We are conducting an investigation and we must be careful not to pre-judge its results, but I will say this: Declan Sullivan was entrusted to our care, and we failed to keep him safe. We at Notre Dame — and ultimately I, as president — are responsible. Words cannot express our sorrow to the Sullivan family and to all involved." Notre Dame has asked Peter Likins, former president of the University of Arizona, to conduct an independent review of the tragedy. Some have criticized Notre Dame's football coach, Brian Kelly, for holding practice outdoors on the windy day when Sullivan was killed. Father Jenkins, in his letter, backed the coach: "Coach Kelly was hired not only because of his football expertise, but because we believed his character and values accord with the highest standards of Notre Dame. All we have seen since he came to Notre Dame, and everything we have learned in our investigation to date, have confirmed that belief. For those reasons I am confident that Coach Kelly has a bright future leading our football program."

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