A Notre Dame prof cited by the Buffalo shooter planned to give millions to the university

SOUTH BEND — John Gaski, the Mendoza college associate professor whose writing was cited in the screed of the suspected Buffalo grocery store shooter, has dedicated millions of dollars to Notre Dame through a family estate.

Internet archives of the university's Gift Planning website show Gaski to be the first faculty member to "provide for his own successors in perpetuity" through an endowed professorship agreement established in 2008.

The "Gaski Professorship" — funded through the estate of Gaski and his parents, Edwin J., and Jane R. Gaski — is estimated to reach "well over $4 million" when fully realized, according to an archived version of the university website.


The story remained online as late as May 13, the day before the mass shooting in Buffalo, but has since been removed.

A Notre Dame official said the story was removed to avoid confusion about university endowments, but confirmed that Notre Dame entered an agreement with the associate professor in 2008 to create an endowed professorship to be funded upon his death.

Officials further said the Gaski family's planned contributions had no effect on the their handling of the faculty member's writing after it was linked to the Buffalo shooting suspect.

What did Gaski write? Here's what we know about the associate professor 

Gaski's writings came to light last week after social media posts drew attention to a 2013 story published by Investor's Business Daily, and referenced as one of dozens of citations used by the suspected Buffalo shooter to justify his white nationalist views.

The FBI is now investigating the mass killing, which happened in a predominantly Black neighborhood in Buffalo, as a hate crime and as racially motivated violent extremism.

Gaski on Monday declined to answer questions about his and his family's planned contributions to Notre Dame, saying "I don't think it's a proper time for me to be doing an interview."

Notre Dame issued a public statement last week after word spread of the associate professor's connection to the Buffalo shooting. Officials, however, stopped short of condemning Gaski's published work.

"We are appalled that a 2013 article by John Gaski, an associate professor at Notre Dame, was cited by the perpetrator of the heinous murders of innocent people in Buffalo," the university said in a public statement on May 19. "Whatever Professor Gaski's intentions, we deeply regret that his words were used to support a doctrine of racial hatred. We urge all, at Notre Dame or elsewhere, to speak and act in ways that never give harbor to hatred and violence."

A Notre Dame spokesman declined on Monday to answer questions about why the university had not addressed the content of Gaski's writing in its statement last week.

The associate professor is a Notre Dame graduate and has been a faculty member since 1980, according to the university.

Gaski's name, photo and resume still appeared on the Mendoza College of Business directory Monday afternoon. References to the marketing instructor's university phone number and email address appear to have been removed, though. A spokesman confirmed on Monday that Gaski is still an employee of the university.

The Gaski family estate

Notre Dame's Gift Planning website once prominently featured Gaski and his parents alongside other notable donors. University officials confirmed the webpage, accessed by The Tribune through a cached screenshot, was removed from the Gift Planning page.

"We had seen reports that seemed to indicated that Gaski was an endowed professor, when in fact, he had created an endowment in his family's name," said Dennis Brown, a spokesman from the university. "In order to avoid confusion there, the page was taken down."

A cache, or archived version of a webpage, accessed through Google, includes a 400-word description of the Gaski family's planned contributions along with a photo of the associate professor. The website cache was captured on May 13, the day before the Buffalo shootings.

The website describes in detail the creation of a "Edwin J., Jane R., and John F. Gaski Professor of Marketing Science" in the Mendoza College as a means to ensure a greater legacy for the faculty member.

As described by the website, Gaski encouraged his parents in 1975 to include Notre Dame in their will, leading the couple to commit half of their estate to an endowed scholarship.

A screenshot of an article no longer listed on the Notre Dame website about John Gaski.
A screenshot of an article no longer listed on the Notre Dame website about John Gaski.

Then, in the mid-2000s, the family revised their intended donations after meeting with a university gift planning officer who suggested the Gaskis' combined estates would be large enough to fund a university-level professorship at a sum of $3 million or more.

Edwin Gaski worked for more than 40 years in Gary, Ind. steel mills, and Jane Gaski was a Catholic grade-school teacher, according to the website.

Obituary records show that Jane Gaski died in November 2016 in South Bend and that her husband died years before in February 2000.

A joint will between Edwin and Jane Gaski, obtained by The Tribune, shows the couple left their assets to their son, John F. Gaski.

If John Gaski were not to survive his parents, the will directs the Gaski estate to Notre Dame for the creation of a "Edwin J., Jane R. and John F. Gaski Scholarship Fund," supporting "worthy students" in the business college.

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The university's overall endowment, supported through different alumni and donor contributions, is valued at about $13.3 billion.

Funding for the Gaski Professorship, as explained by the archived Gift Planning website, will be funneled to Notre Dame through the younger Gaski.

Brown confirmed in an email that the university entered an agreement with the associate professor in 2008 to establish an estate gift distributed to the university upon Gaski's death.

The spokesman said the Gaski family's planned contributions had no effect on how the university responded to their employee's writings and its use by the Buffalo shooting suspect.

Gaski writings not disavowed

Days before social media posts about Gaski's writing spread, Notre Dame issued a statement of mourning for those killed both in Buffalo and in a second mass shooting in Laguna Woods, Calif. That shooting is also being investigated as a hate crime after authorities say a gunman opened fire on congregants of a Taiwanese church.

"The racial animus that inspired the murders in Buffalo is the antithesis of all that we as a people stand for, as was the targeting of members of the Asian American community while at church," the statement reads. "We pray for an end to the divisive rhetoric that has led to a growing and unacceptable environment of hate and violence that is tearing at the fabric of our nation."

Notre Dame officials, however, have not explicitly denounced Gaski's writing, which painted racial justice advocates like Rev. Al Sharpton, Jesse Jackson, the NAACP and former President Barack Obama as "the real bigots" in the context of the 2013 trial of George Zimmerman, who was acquitted of the murder of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin.

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In 2019, when a Kelley School of Business professor's comments drew ire for their denigration of women, people of color and gay men, then IU-Bloomington Provost Lauren Robel authored a lengthy statement titled "On the First Amendment," condemning the professor's writings and describing what actions the public university could and could not take against its faculty.

University officials confirmed Monday that Gaski is still employed by Notre Dame. They have not spoken publicly to whether any suspensions or other actions have been explored.

Brown provided The Tribune a link to the university's academic articles, which govern administrative action at Notre Dame. The university may impose a "severe sanction" such as a suspension, salary reduction or dismissal from employment for serious cause, including "continual significant disregard for the Catholic character of the University" and "causing notorious and public scandal."

These actions, however, cannot be used to deny a faculty member's right to "academic freedom," defined as "freedom to teach and to learn according to one's obligation, vision and training; freedom to publish the results of one's study or research; and freedom to speak and write on public issues as a citizen," according to the articles.

When asked if any policies prevent university officials from expressing how they feel about the content of Gaski's writing, Brown said, "I'm not going to have anything more to add on this beyond what we provided last week."

The university's failure to disavow Gaski's writing hasn't sat well with members of the Notre Dame community. Charlice Hurst, an assistant professor at Mendoza who is Black, wrote a letter to The Tribune likening the university's response to Martin Luther King Jr.'s critique of white moderates' refusal to take a strong moral stance on civil rights.

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"In the midst of blatant injustices inflicted upon the Negro, I have watched white churches stand on the sideline and merely mouth pious irrelevancies and sanctimonious trivialities," Hurst wrote quoting from King's famous "Letter from Birmingham Jail. "So here we are moving toward the exit of the twentieth century with a religious community largely adjusted to the status quo, standing as a tail-light behind other community agencies rather than a headlight leading men to higher levels of justice."

Though Gaski has declined multiple requests for interviews, Notre Dame's Office of Media Relations shared a statement last week on the associate professor's behalf.

“It is sobering that a portion of an article I wrote in August 2013 was cited in the document composed by the Buffalo shooting suspect," the statement reads. "It was, of course, never my intent to in any way incite violence — in fact, just the opposite. I also am appalled and deeply distressed that the information I provided is associated in any way with this young man’s horrific actions.”

Gaski is quoted on the university archived Gift Planning website discussing the high visibility and prominence of a named chair position within the business college.

With the creation of the business professorship, the website reads, "Gaski's name will remain a part of the student experience for a long as there is a Notre Dame."

Email South Bend Tribune education reporter Carley Lanich at clanich@gannett.com. Follow her on Twitter: @carleylanich.

This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: Notre Dame prof John Gaski to give millions to university