Kathleen Andrews was, and still remains, a well-known and respected figure throughout the Notre Dame community for her many accomplishments both at the University and throughout her life. She served on the University’s McGrath Institute for Church Life Advisory Council and the Ireland Advisory Council, and she was a respected member of the University’s Board of Trustees, to which she was elected in 1993. Three years later, she made history as the first woman to serve as a Fellow of the University. In 2003, Notre Dame bestowed Kathleen with an honorary degree, and in 2004, she was presented with the Rev. Edward F. Sorin, C.S.C Award, which is presented annually to a graduate who has embodied “the values of Our Lady’s University” in his or her service to the community.
A native of Ashtabula, Ohio, and the youngest of seven, Kathleen knew her future dreams depended on getting an education. Through her hard work, she received a full-ride scholarship to Notre Dame College in Cleveland. She later earned a master’s degree in mathematics in 1963 from the University of Notre Dame, during which time she met her beloved husband, James (Jim) Andrews.
The Andrews, together with John (another Notre Dame alumnus) and Susan McMeels, founded Universal Press Syndicate, now Andrews McMeel Universal, in 1970. Kathleen served as chief financial officer and secretary of the company until she paused her full-time involvement in order to take care of her two young sons, Hugh and Jim. After the passing of her husband, Kathleen returned to the company and, with the McMeels, helped to grow it into the largest independent newspaper syndicate in the world and a renowned publishing powerhouse behind such classics as Ziggy, Doonesbury, and Calvin and Hobbes. She served as the chief executive officer until her retirement in 2006.
To honor her late husband, Kathleen and the McMeels created two endowments that helped launch and sustain the University’s Summer Service Learning Program (SSLP). SSLP is an initiative of the Center for Social Concerns and Notre Dame Alumni Association. The program allows Notre Dame students to engage in summer-long service projects with non-profit organizations related to healthcare, poverty, immigration, education, and other social issues. These projects are both enriching and life-changing, and they benefit communities across the country.
David Dias, a current junior at the University of Notre Dame, said of his SSLP experience:
“This past summer (2021), I had the chance to immerse myself in the community of L’Arche Noah Sealth in Capitol Hill Seattle. L’Arche strives to highlight the gifts that those with intellectual and physical disabilities have through fostering community. L’Arche is part of a greater organization around the world that currently has 154 communities globally. Specifically, in the Seattle community, there are 3 homes in the same vicinity that engage in daily activities and community events regularly…Every week my responsibilities included cooking, cleaning, driving people to and from work, community events, outings, and prayer…I found myself having time to live in the moment and spend quality time with the folks and people living with me. One particular quote I loved that explains the beauty of L’Arche is, ‘The world says change and be accepted. L’arche says accept and be transformed.’”
Thousands of students like David can attribute their transformational SSLP experiences to Kathleen, and countless others, including her friends and family, continue to remember her loving and generous spirit.
“She gave in all directions. It’s been a little since April last year when she passed, and I’ve received a lot of requests and letters and follow-ups from all around the country that I never knew anything about,” said her son, Hugh Andrews. “She just felt very blessed and loved. She used to claim that she never worked a day in her life because she loved the career, she loved the people we dealt with and, as she got older, one of the biggest things in our life was the scholarship program. She was proud of it and her association with the University of Notre Dame.”
While history will always remember Kathleen as a pioneer, she serves too as an enduring inspiration: a “gal from Ashtabula” who, through her hard work and generous spirit, has impacted the lives of thousands of students, as well as the lives of tens of thousands of community members helped by the SSLP.