Dr. Frederick D. Wilhelmsen
A UD Legend
Generations of UD students remember Professor Wilhelmsen as one of the legendary figures
in the history of the university. Along with the likes of Louise Cowan, Melvin Bradford,
and Willmoore Kendall he helped shape the intellectual character of the University
of Dallas over several decades. Moreover, Dr. Wilhelmsen had a special pedagogical
giftthe ability to make philosophy come alive in lectures that drew his students in
because they felt that their teacher had committed himself in an existential way to
the quest for philosophical truth. We are publishing this brief biography for the
benefit of the many alumni who still remember Dr. Wilhelmsen fondly.
One of the noted American Catholic metaphysicians and Thomist philosophers of the
second half of the twentieth century, Dr. Frederick D. Wilhelmsen was also a political
thinker. Born in Michigan, in 1923, he died in Texas, in 1996, after a distinguished
forty-five year career as a professor, lecturer, and writer.
Professor Wilhelmsen held full-time appointment at four Catholic institutions of higher
learning: the University of Santa Clara, in California, the University of Al-Hikma,
in Baghdad, Iraq, the University of Navarra, in Pamplona, Spain, and the University
of Dallas, in Irving, Texas, where he had a dual appointment in Philosophy and Politics.
When Dr. Wilhelmsen taught at Navarra in the early 1960s, he was the only foreigner
to hold a chair at a Spanish university. In the eighties, he spent three years in
Italy at the University of Dallas Rome campus.
A tall man with a booming voice and a charismatic personality, Frederick D. Wilhelmsen
was a dramatic classroom performer. He received teaching awards from several universities
and six grants from the U.S. government to teach abroad. His summer teaching included
nine intensive sessions at various universities in California, many in Texas, appointments
in Mexico, Peru, and Argentina, as well as almost twenty summer sessions at various
institutes in a number of towns in Old Castile, Spain. Wilhelmsen also lectured in
over forty universities and institutes of various kinds in many countries. A good
number of his students became priests, high school teachers, university professors,
attorneys, and political analysts. In 2009, three were Catholic bishops. Wilhelmsens
three daughters and one son-in-law were his students and also followed him into the
Frederick D. Wilhelmsen published seventeen books, four of them in Spanish. The Metaphysics of Love appeared in Spanish and French, as well as English. Mans Knowledge of Reality was used as a textbook in various universities for forty years. The War in Man (co-authored with Jane Bret) won the Broadcast Preceptor Award. Wilhelmsen also wrote
over two hundred and fifty articles. Some of these texts are gathered together in
Christianity and Political Philosophy, Citizen of Rome, Being and Knowing, The Best of Triumph, and Los saberes polticos (published posthumously).
Dr. Wilhelmsens scholarly work was in the fields of philosophy, political thought,
and communications. Dozens of his popular articles span a broader spectrum, particularly
the religious and political scene of the second half of the twentieth century. He
contributed to many journals in the United States, Europe, and Spanish America, and
was one of the founding editorswith L. Brent Bozell and Dr. Thomas Molnarof the Catholic
monthly Triumph. In June of 1970, Wilhelmsen was one of the speakers in Washington, D.C., at the
first anti-abortion rally in The United States, which was organized by Triumph. The story of this journal has recently been told by Dr. Mark D. Popowski in The Rise and Fall of Triumph. The History of a Radical Roman Catholic Magazine, 19661976
(Lexington Books, 2012).
The American traditionalist intellectual who lived in Spain for many years was held
in high esteem by the Carlists (Spains traditionalist, Catholic, legitimist monarchists).
Various Carlist institutions and associations published two of Dr. Wilhelmsens books
in political theory, made him an honorary member, declared him philosopher-in-residence,
and honored him in other ways.
On the occasion of Wilhelmsens seventieth birthday, colleagues, friends, and former
students presented him with a Festschrift entitled Saints, Sovereigns, and Scholars. Studies in Honor of Frederick D. Wilhelmsen, edited by Dr. Robert A. Herrera, Fr. James J. Lehrberger, O. Cist., and Dr. Melvin
A. Bradford (Peter Lang, 1993).
At the time of his death, Wilhelmsen was remembered in some sixty obituaries and printed
eulogies, published on three continents. An award was given in Frederick D. Wilhelmsens
name in 1997 by the Hernando de Larramendi Foundation (Madrid). The Galardn Profesor
Federico Wilhelmsen was for research in the fields of Carlist history and political
thought. In 1998, the University of Dallas produced an illustrated volume in his memory
entitled Frederick Daniel Wilhelmsen (Eminent Professor and Catholic Intellectual). A Tribute
from the University of Dallas. Chapters about Wilhelmsen have been included in a number of books published in the
United States about influential twentieth-century intellectuals. Since his death,
some of Frederick Wilhelmsens articles and excerpts from his books have been translated
and published in Spanish, German, Czech, and Polish.
Soledad Drive, a short lane on the University of Dallas campus, is named in memory
of Dr. Wilhelmsens little sailboat, Nuestra Seora de la Soledad, in which he spent many afternoons on Lake Dallas with colleagues and students.