YAFers are known to rabble-rouse on campus; faculty chapter advisors, on the other hand, typically operate quietly behind the scenes. But that was not case with Marquette University chapter’s advisor John McAdams. McAdams passed away on Thursday, April 15, 2021, at the age of 75.
For decades, McAdams was the professor to whom ideologically marginalized students turned to for advice and assistance, especially when the university administration was busy selling out the Catholic identity and transforming Christian-centered pedagogy into trendy materialist reforms and warming over socialist dialectic.
A decade ago, I was serving as chairman of the College Republicans and a founding member of the Marquette Young Americans for Freedom chapter. An enthusiastic bunch of conservative students united under the banner of YAF found– in short order–more than our fair share of controversy. And John McAdams was always there to defend and support us with his logic, his wit, and his fearless blog.
More than once, McAdam’s blog, the Marquette Warrior, got him into trouble. As Marquette went from ignoring our Catholic faith to selling it out to progressive anti-faith constituencies on campus, McAdams served as Becket to the administration’s Henry II. His reporting shined a light on the deteriorating situation on campus, and his insightful commentary was featured in The New Guard and various state and national news outlets.
It was his blog that would get him banished from campus for nearly four years. In the fall of 2014, McAdams blogged in defense of a persecuted student’s right to have and express his opinion about gay marriage in a philosophy class. The graduate student teaching the class threatened that any view on the subject except her own would not be tolerated. For defending a Catholic student at a Catholic university expressing an opinion in lock-step with Catholic theology, McAdams was fired, despite having tenure.
McAdams didn’t back down. He sued the University for breach of contract and for undermining academic freedom. It took years for the case to make it to the Wisconsin Supreme Court, where a majority of justices strongly rebuked the Marquette administration, handing McAdams a decisive victory and reinstatement to his professorship. The Catholic administration, exposed nationwide for its venality and its pandering to anti-Catholic faculty, could not find it in their Christian hearts to offer as much as an apology.
McAdams was a respected teacher, known for his open-mindedness, and was one of the country’s foremost experts on the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. I’ll never forget attending a regional YAF conference in Dallas in 2017. While there, Professor McAdams took to email and virtually accompanied as I made my way to Dealey Plaza and the grassy knoll.
In recent months, McAdams served on the board of directors of Free Speech for Campus, a committee dedicated to protecting free speech on Wisconsin campuses. To the very end, Professor McAdams was a stalwart defender of free speech for each and for all.
McAdams was such a crusader for truth and justice that I can’t keep all of his various battles straight in my head. Luckily, his blog posts are all archived. When a loud-mouthed leftist Marquette theologian backed out from a YAF sponsored-debate with the great Mike Adams, McAdams blogged. When the 9/11: Never Forget Project was making news, McAdams blogged. When Marquette welcomed to campus with open arms the Communist and domestic terrorist Angela Davis, but threw up every conceivable barrier to keep Ben Shapiro from speaking, McAdams blogged. And last summer, when liberals tried to cancel an incoming freshman because of her support for Donald Trump, McAdams blogged.
There is not a single Marquette political science student over the past forty years who was not influenced by McAdams. He did not care what you thought; he only cared that you thought.
McAdams’s conservative fighting spirit will not be replaced at Marquette. The progressives in charge will not make that mistake again. And the loss will be to the students—especially the progressive ones who now will never hear an opinion that challenges the liberal orthodoxy on campus. I already miss my former chapter advisor. Because of him, I remain involved in the conservative fight for equal representation on campus.
Fortunately, some Marquette YAFers have started the Eagle Free Press. Cheers to them for continuing our professor’s bold, conservative blogging legacy.
Rest with the Angels, Professor McAdams, I have no doubt you’re giving them a blessed earful.
Ethan Hollenberger was a founding member of the Marquette University Young Americans for Freedom chapter.