FRONT ROYAL, Va. — Warren H. Carroll, the founder and first president of Christendom College, died at home July 17 at the age of 79 after a series of strokes.
He had received the last rites the prior week, and a priest brought him holy Communion the day before he died peacefully in his sleep.
“He was a great man,” said Timothy O’Donnell, current president of Christendom. “He was a convert. In 1968, the time of great chaos, when many were leaving the Church, he came in. He had a deep love for Our Lord and our Blessed Mother and the Church. That’s something that was communicated in everything he did after his conversion.”
O’Donnell sees Carroll as among those unsung heroes who stood in the breach when people started leaving after Humanae Vitae came out.
With another papal document, Carroll was a pioneer Catholic educator with the perspective of a visionary.
“The example of Christendom as one of the few early colleges to really embrace the message of Ex Corde Ecclesiae even before it was issued,” said Patrick Reilly, president of the Cardinal Newman Society, “has given rise to a whole series of new Catholic colleges modeled after Christendom — schools that have embraced a strong Catholic identity in reaction to the decline of Catholic identity elsewhere.”
Reilly sees Carroll’s big contributions as “global” in reach — and “particular” in the way Christendom and Carroll’s personal influence has had a tremendous impact on students. Over and over, the Newman Society hears from graduates about how much Carroll’s example and personal attention has meant to them.
That influence started the day Christendom opened its doors in September 1977. Carroll served as president from that time until 1985, when he became chairman of the history department until his retirement in 2002.
Donna Bethell, chairwoman of the board of trustees at Christendom, remembered: “As the founding president of Christendom College and a professor of history for some 30 years, Dr. Carroll never wavered in his energetic devotion to the truth and the gift of Catholic faith he had embraced. His constant touchstone was: ‘God exists. The Incarnation happened!’ The way he lived his life added, ‘Deal with it!’”
Deal with it Carroll did as both educator and historical author, often in memorable ways that have become found remembrances.
Reilly pointed out the “real personal influence he had on me and the Cardinal Newman Society. In the early years, after some of my volunteers had drifted off, he stepped in and helped to recruit a number of his best students and graduates from Christendom to help move the society forward and, in some ways, insured the Cardinal Newman Society would succeed.”
Even though he and his wife, Anne, didn’t have any children, there was a real paternity in the college.
“The college was his baby,” O’Donnell said. “Thousands took his courses, and, to this day, alumni talk about his lectures.” And what a family it produced for them: 2,640 alumni, which include 300 alumna-to-alumnus marriages producing thousands of children so far, 63 priests, and 43 religious sisters and brothers.
Carroll also has an additional legacy. He was a superlative Catholic historian and author, which was naturally derived from his teaching.
Among his several popular books on history and historical movements are Isabel of Spain, Our Lady of Guadalupe, and The Rise and Fall of the Communist Revolution. His major work is the five-volume History of Christendom.
As Ronald McArthur, president of Thomas Aquinas College in California from 1971-91 and currently a tutor there, sees it: “Dr. Carroll did yeoman work presenting an apology of the Church and its contributions to Western civilization.”
Joseph Pronechen writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.
Editor's note: Read the entire obituary here.