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Bernard W. Sheehan, R.I.P.

Bernard W. Sheehan, 81
Feb. 24, 1934—June 13, 2015
BLOOMINGTON — Bernard W. Sheehan died June 13, 2015, at Hospice House in Bloomington, Indiana. He was born February 24, 1934, in New York City. He graduated from Fordham University (1957); received an A.M. from the University of Michigan (1958); and completed a Ph.D. at the University of Virginia (1965). He taught at Regis College, the University of Virginia, Madison College, the University of Alabama and the College of William and Mary before joining the Indiana University history department in 1969. During his tenure, Bernard established himself as a specialist in American Colonial, Revolutionary, Intellectual and Indian History.
Following his retirement in 1998, Bernard served as editor of the Indiana Magazine of History. He was an active member of The Heritage Foundation, The Philadelphia Society and the Acton Institute.
Bernard married Janina Urich in 1957. They raised three children and he was a constant and devoted husband and loving father. He was humble, dry-witted, patient, generous and kind — loved good conversation, classical music and opera, oriental carpets, antique delft, old movies and beer. He loved to sit and read all day with our cat.
Bernard lived a life of the mind, pursued truth, loved beauty. He held a deep faith, but was neither pious nor sentimental. Beloved by family, friends and students and an example to all.
He is preceded in death by his parents, Margaret (Chidwick) and William J. Sheehan; aunt, Helen Chidwick; sister-in-law, Marjory Gamache Sheehan; brother-in-law, Joseph Urich and numerous relatives that an Irish Catholic family so often provides. He is survived by his wife, Janina U. Sheehan; his children, Neil J. Sheehan (Pauline) of Evanston, Illinois; Manya Sheehan Basile of Beverly Hills, Michigan; Jessica Haines (Andrew) of Phoenix, Arizona; grandchildren, Drew and Charles Basile and Ian and Aidan Haines; brother, John C. Sheehan of Maryland; and brother & sisters-in-law, Kenneth and Virginia Driver and Margaret S. Urich, also many cousins, nieces and nephews.
If desired, donations can be made to Hospice House, IU Bloomington Hospital Foundation, P.O. Box 1149, Bloomington, Indiana 47402 or St. Charles School, 2324 E. 3rd Street, Bloomington, Indiana 47401. A Memorial Mass will be celebrated at St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in Bloomington on Thursday, June 25, at 11 a.m. Family will receive visitors prior to the Mass at the Church from 10 to 11 a.m.
Our gratitude to Drs. J. Jesseph, D. Joyce, T. Sharp and the exceptional staff of Hospice House for their compassionate care.

6 comments on “Bernard W. Sheehan, R.I.P.”

  1. A lovely tribute. I remember Prof. Sheehan fondly during his visits to the Heritage Foundation where he was an adjunct scholar. He was quite “dry-witted.” My regards to his daughter Jessica, an intern during my time at Heritage.

  2. This is something of a shock. I just went to the IU history department page to find Prof. Sheehan’s email so that I could send him a note. The fact that he was not listed on the Emeritus Faculty page told me that he had passed. One month ago…had I but looked him up sooner…

    The occasion of my desire to write was, appropriately in one sense, listening to a rather poor rendition of “Danny Boy” (Londonderry Air, as Bernie would have – and did – correct me!) I listened and said to my wife, “That’s nothing like Bernie Sheehan sang it,” recalling a St. Patrick’s day dinner years ago in the basement of the IU Newman Center basement, with Walt Nugent and the rest of the choir. I have never forgotten that evening, least of all the silvery, pure tone of Bernie’s singing voice. Something I didn’t even know he had prior to that evening.

    Requiescat in pace, magister.

  3. I was in his Colonial American History class in 1969-70. He was the best professor I ever had. I even subscribed to the “William & Mary Quarterly” after taking his class. I am happy that he was a loyal Catholic.

  4. Bernie was at Regis College in the early 6os. I was in his American history classes for several semesters. A sharp sense of humor which titillated male students. One antidote, during freshman orientation in the fall of 1960, he picked up several Regis boys on their way to a local drinking hole. He told them he expected them to be in classes on time the next morning–especially his class if any were in it! Our paths crossed in 1964 when I entered the University of Virginia and at conventions throughout the decades. He will be missed.

  5. I taught as an AI for Bernard Sheehan from 1977-1978, and that experience led me to take classes from him, read his books, and get a minor in Early American History. Professor Sheehan along with Jack Balcer in an earlier era were the best lecturers I ever heard at IU. Sheehan was dry, funny, acerbic, witty, and brilliant. I certainly argued with him in class quite often, and I am certain he realized I was often out of my depth and not quite certain what he was actually saying, but he was patient and I did learn something from him which has remained with me in my teaching and writing throughout my own career. I only regret that I did not look him up before he died.

    One story may be insightful. I was not close to Sheehan but he certainly knew who I was and sat on my graduate committee. One day, after I had finally finished my Ph.D. in 1987 under the direction of Bill Cohen, as I was walking across the street in front of Ballantine Hall, Sheehan and his wife drove by. He stopped the car, opened the window, and we chatted briefly. He congratulated me and said: “The money doesn’t start coming in until much later.” I never forgot that line, that meeting, or all the hours I spent taking notes from his lectures, the most interesting lectures in my years at IU. As long as his students live and his books are in print, memories of Sheehan will survive.


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