Ralph Matthew McInerny was born on February 24, 1929, in Minneapolis, the son of Austin Clifford McInerny, a mechanical engineer, and Vivian Rush McInerny. He was heir to a midwestern directness and an Irish Catholic sense of wit and humor. He served in the United States Marine Corps from 1946 to 1947 and then returned to school to continue his education. He received a bachelor of arts degree from St. Paul Seminary in 1951, a master of arts degree from the University of Minnesota in 1952, and licentiate (1953) and doctoral (summa cum laude, 1954) degrees in philosophy from Laval University in Quebec, Canada.
As McInerny’s schooling suggests, his original goal was the priesthood, but he instead became a philosopher and, thereafter, a teacher. He was married to Constance Terrill Kunert on January 3, 1953, and they had six children: Cathleen, Mary Hosford, Anne Policinski, David, Elizabeth, and Daniel. He taught philosophy at Creighton University in Omaha, Nebraska, during the school year 1954-1955. In 1955, he joined the faculty of the University of Notre Dame, beginning as an instructor in philosophy. He moved up to assistant professor (1957-1963), to associate professor (1963-1969), and to full professor in 1969. In 1978, McInerny was named the Michael P. Grace Professor of Medieval Studies and served as director of the Medieval Institute from 1978 to 1985. In 1979, he became director of the Jacques Maritain Center.
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