A professor and former dean of the Notre Dame School of Law will speak at the University of St. Thomas in the fifth of five lectures dealing with the challenges facing U.S. Catholic colleges and universities.

Patricia O’Hara will discuss “The Catholic University in the 21st Century” from 4 to 5 p.m. Thursday, April 18, in the Frey Moot Court Room, located in the School of Law building on St. Thomas’ downtown Minneapolis campus.

Patricia O'Hara.

Patricia O’Hara.

The program, free and open to the public, is co-sponsored by a coalition of eight St. Thomas centers and institutes. For more information and to register, visit this website or call (651) 962-4842.

O’Hara joined the Notre Dame Law School in 1981. When named vice president for student affairs for the university in 1990 she became the first woman to serve as an officer at Notre Dame. In 1999 she began a 10-year appointment as law dean and now teaches on the law faculty in the areas of corporations, securities regulation and higher education.

“While all institutions of higher learning are confronting economic and demographic challenges, Catholic colleges and universities face added pressures,” explained Elizabeth Schiltz, a professor at St. Thomas’ School of Law and co-director of one of the series’ sponsors, the Terrence J. Murphy Institute for Catholic Thought, Law, and Public Policy.

“We have additional challenges, but also opportunities,” she said. “Catholic universities like St. Thomas welcome a diverse student body. Some students are Catholic, some are from other religions and some are not from any religion. We strive to respect all students and to nurture this diversity, and at the same time we strive to protect our religious identity.

“This is a delicate and sometimes tricky balance to achieve. At St. Thomas, we found that many faculty and staff have been discussing as well as dealing with this challenge. It led us to create this series and bring to campus noted leaders in Catholic higher education from around the country.”

The series opened in March 2012 and has featured lectures by Father Robert Spitzer, former president of Gonzaga University; Lee Shulman, former president of the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching;  John Garvey, president of Catholic University of America; and Father James Burns, interim dean of Boston College’s Woods College of Advancing Studies of Boston College.

In addition to the Murphy Institute, the St. Thomas series is sponsored by the Center for Catholic Studies, John A. Ryan Institute for Catholic Social Thought, School of Law, Holloran Center for Ethical Leadership in the Professions, Koch Chair in Business Ethics, Center for Ethical Business Cultures and Veritas Institute.

Light refreshments will be served following the program.