Nationally Renowned Scholar Peter Lawler Passes Away

Nationally Renowned Scholar - Peter LawlerPeter Augustine Lawler, a distinguished political philosopher, teacher, and public intellectual, died on May 23. At the time of his death, Dr. Lawler was Dana professor of political science at Berry College in Rome, Georgia. He was also the editor of the prestigious journal Modern Age. He also was editor of a leading journal of political thought, Perspectives on Political Science. A prolific author, Dr. Lawler published countless books, essays, articles and lectured at colleges and universities throughout the country on topics ranging from the political thought of Alexis de Tocqueville, bioethics, contemporary American politics, Walker Percy and Flannery O'Connor, the crisis of higher education, and popular culture. In his writings, Dr. Lawler perfected in a seemingly effortless way the ability to present complex ideas and incisive analysis in a clear and accessible style. His most recent book, American Heresies and Higher Education, is a trenchant critique of the problems faced by higher education and an insightful recommendation to students and professors of ways to counter the negative trends in education. 

Present in all of Dr. Lawler’s work was the fullness of his Catholic faith and its intellectual tradition. His scholarship affirmed the vital relevance of our classical inheritance and the reality and goodness of the present world while also acknowledging that our true home is in the world to come. In his book Postmodernism Rightly Understood he argued that the rejection of the modern conception of truth allows for a return to the Catholic Thomistic philosophy that reveals for us how reason points beyond itself to the divine.   

Dr. Lawler received a bachelor's degree from Allentown College (now DeSales University) and pursued graduate studies in government at the University of Virginia, where he earned his Ph.D. He quickly established himself as a dedicated and dynamic teacher. As Berry College president Stephen Briggs noted in his message to the college, Dr. Lawler was a “vital member of the Berry community and a devoted teacher.” His courses on political philosophy, American political thought, and constitutional law were among the most popular courses at Berry. The college recognized his teaching and scholarly excellence by granting him the Mary S. and Samuel Poe Carden Award as well as naming him a Dana professor. 

Dr. Lawler received numerous external awards as well, most notably in 2007 the prestigious Richard M. Weaver Award for Scholarly Excellence. He was also named the George Washington Distinguished Professor of the American Founding by the Society of the Cincinnati. 

Besides his work for Berry College and his academic achievements, Dr. Lawler was engaged in public service. His expert wisdom on bioethics earned him an appointment on the President's Council on Bioethics. He served on the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and more recently the Georgia State Advisory Committee of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights.

Dr. Lawler will continue to have a profound and lasting influence on his colleagues and students. He was actively involved in the life of the college, serving on important committees and also being a key mentor to many a junior faculty member. He was especially noted for his tireless efforts on behalf of his students, who were deeply inspired by his teaching and mentorship. His love of Berry, especially of his students and their openness to intellectual inquiry, was obvious to all. Many of his students pursued academic careers and are currently professors of political philosophy. But whether his students entered the academic world, public service, or business, all recognize with deep gratitude the formation, both intellectual and moral, that they received from this extraordinary teacher and scholar who upheld virtue and shared with his students and friends all that is good in the world. 

The Funeral Mass will be at St. Mary’s Catholic Church, 911 Broad St., Rome, Georgia on Friday May 26 at 11am. Graveside service and interment will immediately follow the Mass in the Parish Memorial Garden. Following this, there will be a reception with family and friends in the parish hall, lower level of the church.

In lieu of flowers, contributions would be appreciated to the Peter Augustine Lawler Scholarship at Berry College, DIGS, Inc. support organization for special needs, P.O. Box 1053, Rome, GA 30162, or the Network Day Service Center, 402 W. 10th Street, Rome, GA 30165.

A beloved husband, father, grandfather, and brother-in-law, Dr. Lawler is survived by his wife, Rita Lawler, daughter Catherine Lawler Jackson, son-in-law Patrick Jackson, sister-in-law Sara Schnuck, grandson Henry Augustus Jackson and granddaughter Molly Jackson, brother Thomas A. Lawler and sister-in-law Rosemary of Leesburg, Virginia, and brother Gregory F. Lawler and sister-in-law Marcia Lawler of Chicago, Illinois, brother-in-law Don Marshall Schnuck and sister-in-law Rebekah. His parents, Thomas C. and Patricia F. Lawler predeceased him. He leaves us all impoverished in our loss yet enriched by his memory and life.