O'Brien, Michael 1943–

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O'Brien, Michael 1943–

PERSONAL: Born August 22, 1943, in Green Bay, WI; married Sally Pratsch (a corporate nurse), August 20, 1966; children: Timothy, Sean, Jeremy, Carey. Education: University of Notre Dame, B.A., 1965; University of Wisconsin, Madison, M.A., 1966, Ph.D., 1971.

ADDRESSES: Office—c/o Author Mail, St. Martin's Press, Thomas Dunne Imprint, 175 5th Ave., New York, NY 10010.

CAREER: University of Wisconsin, Menasha, WI, former professor of history.


McCarthy and McCarthyism in Wisconsin, University of Missouri Press (Columbia, MO), 1981.

Vince: A Personal Biography of Vince Lombardi, Morrow (New York, NY), 1987.

Philip Hart: The Conscience of the Senate, Michigan State University Press (East Lansing, MI), 1995.

No Ordinary Joe: The Biography of Joe Paterno, Rutledge Hill Press (Nashville, TN), 1998.

Hesburgh: A Biography, Catholic University of America Press (Nashville, TN), 1998.

John F. Kennedy: A Biography, Thomas Dunne (New York, NY), 2005.

SIDELIGHTS: Michael O'Brien is a historian who has written biographies of senators Joseph McCarthy and Philip Hart and football coaches Vince Lombardi and Joe Paterno. Perhaps inspired by his education at the University of Notre Dame, O'Brien also authored Hesburgh: A Biography, the life story of Reverend Theodore Hesburgh, the university's president from the 1950s through most of the 1980s. In addition to expanding the university both physically and financially, Hesburgh was also appointed to committees by three different popes and six U.S. presidents, most notably the U.S. Civil Rights Commission, and was instrumental in the formation of the Peace Corps. Through it all, Hesburgh became known as one of the most important U.S. Catholics of the twentieth century. A writer for Publishers Weekly called O'Brien's biography "detailed but accessible" and full of "significant insight."

O'Brien's next work, John F. Kennedy: A Biography, takes on a subject already familiar to many readers. In scouring the large body of newly unclassified government documents devoted to Kennedy, O'Brien distilled the information into what he felt was an accurate picture of Kennedy as a political leader, putting aside the legend of Camelot and speculation about the darker side of the Kennedy legacy. The result is a "singularly inclusive" portrait, according to a Publishers Weekly reviewer. Ultimately, O'Brien considers Kennedy a formidable president, and in this "well-written and empathetic biography," in the words of Library Journal reviewer William D. Pederson, Kennedy "emerges … as an active and flexible politician."



Booklist, December 1, 1998, Mary Carroll, review of Hesburgh: A Biography, p. 624.

Library Journal, December 1, 2004, William D. Pederson, review of John F. Kennedy: A Biography, p. 130.

Publishers Weekly, November 16, 1998, review of Hesburgh, p. 69; January 3, 2005, review of John F. Kennedy, p. 44.

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