Who Was Joseph Buttigieg, Mayor Pete's Beloved Dad and a Notre Dame Professor?

He had a huge impact on his only son, now a 2020 candidate.

White, Photograph, White-collar worker, Dress shirt, Suit, Formal wear, Tie, Businessperson, Photography, Outerwear,
(Image credit: Getty Images)

Rising 2020 candidate Pete Buttigieg, a.k.a. "Mayor Pete," has drawn comparisons to Barack Obama for his calm, unflappable, and sensitive demeanor. And that sensitivity and appreciation extends to his family, which includes Buttigieg's husband Chasten Glezman, the couple's adorable dogs, and Buttigieg's family in South Bend, Indiana. An only child, Buttigieg has always been close with his parents and particularly with his father, Joseph Buttigieg, a University of Notre Dame professor who sadly passed away not long ago.

The senior Buttigieg, a household name in the area, was a respected professor and beloved family man. His last words were “It’s been a good trip," according to an obituary in the South Bend Tribune. Announcing the news of his father's passing, Pete, his only child, wrote on Facebook: "So it has. We love you, Dad."

Since announcing the possibility that he'd run for president, Buttigeig has proved unexpectedly popular with donors. It's clear that the senior Buttigieg had a profound impact on "Mayor Pete," who is now carrying on his father's legacy in South Bend and, as of this spring, taking his talents to the national stage.

Joseph was a respected professor at the University of Notre Dame.

Professor Buttigieg, a.k.a. "JAB" or "Prof. B," was born in Malta, came to the U.S. to pursue his doctorate, and became a well-known literary critic.

Passionate about the pursuit of learning from the start of his formal education, Dr. Buttigieg earned both a bachelors and a masters degree at the University of Malta. He went on to earn a Ph.D from New York's Binghamton University before moving southwest after being offered a teaching position at New Mexico State University, where he met fellow faculty member Jennifer Montgomery—the woman who would later become his wife and mother to his son Pete.

The professor started working at Notre Dame in the '80s and was an English professor at the prestigious university until 2017, even serving as the department chair at one point. (A personal note: Though I never met him, he was a certified legend by the time I went to ND for undergrad. Everyone, including non-liberal arts majors, knew and loved him, and his courses were always in crazy-high demand.) You can read the school's tribute to him here.

But he had time for silliness too.

They used to play video games together—and there's photographic evidence.

He passed on a love of learning.

Fellow English professor Sara Marcus wrote about their relationship after Joseph's death:

In Shortest Way Home, Joe comes across not as a tenured radical but as a brilliant and caring father who received his son’s coming-out with equanimity, kept a Creedence Clearwater Revival cassette on years-long repeat in his Chevy Cavalier, and made sure Pete knew what a big deal it was to be studying at Harvard with the famed literary scholar Sacvan Bercovitch.

He walked Pete down the aisle.

It's clear that Joseph and wife Anne Montgomery were beaming with pride on the day of Pete's wedding to Chasten Glezman (just look at those smiles!).

He was proud of his son's aspirations.

When Pete went on The View earlier this month, he shared the interaction with his father. "I told him I hoped I would make him proud,” Pete said. “And he was on a ventilator by then, but around it, he mouthed the words, ‘You will.’” (sobs)

According to a Washington Post article, the timing was particularly close—Joseph knew about Pete's plans, but wasn't there to watch his campaign. "With encouragement from his dad, Pete headed to Washington to announce an exploratory committee for a presidential campaign. Four days later, Joe Buttigieg was dead."

Pete posted a sweet, sad tribute.

After Joseph passed away, Pete said, "[W]e are left with memories of his powerful intellect, his extensive legacy, his personal warmth and his deeply felt love for Mom, me, and all those close to him."

"The last thing he said to us was, 'it’s been a good trip.' So it has. We love you, Dad."

He also spoke about his father at a Notre Dame memorial. "A bit cruelly, it is in preparing for an occasion like this that I would be most likely to turn to Dad for advice...I look back, I followed his suggestions so often, and found that they always led me somewhere I needed to be—and wanted to be."

He's been talking about his father on the campaign trail.

Pete spoke about his father's illness and the tough decisions he and his family had to make in the last weeks of Joseph's life. It connected to his thoughts about Medicare and health care access:

He hasn't talked about his dad as much as his husband, Chasten, but it's clear that his father is still very much in his mind. His mom, Montgomery, travels to his speeches and to events; In addition to supporting her son, she says, it's also a helpful distraction for the grief she feels about losing her husband. "If I didn’t have his career secondhand, I don’t know what I would do. I would be in anguish," she explains. Chances are as Pete heads farther into the primaries, we may hear more about his father and the importance of family to him.

For more stories like this, including celebrity news, beauty and fashion advice, savvy political commentary, and fascinating features, sign up for the Marie Claire newsletter.



Spokesperson, Speech, Public speaking, Orator, Technology, Event, White-collar worker, Businessperson, Official, Smile,

(Image credit: Alex Wong)
Katherine J. Igoe
Contributing Editor

Katherine’s a contributing syndications editor at Marie Claire who covers fashion, culture, and lifestyle. In her role, she writes stories that are syndicated by MSN and other outlets. She’s been a full-time freelancer for over a decade and has had roles with Cosmopolitan (where she covered lifestyle, culture, and fashion SEO content) and Bustle (where she was their movies and culture writer). She has bylines in New York TimesParentsInStyle, Refinery29, and elsewhere. Her work has also been syndicated by ELLEHarper’s BazaarSeventeenGood Housekeeping, and Women’s Health, among others. In addition to her stories reaching millions of readers, content she's written and edited has qualified for a Bell Ringer Award and received a Communicator Award. 

Katherine has a BA in English and art history from the University of Notre Dame and an MA in art business from the Sotheby's Institute of Art (with a focus on marketing/communications). She covers a wide breadth of topics: she's written about how to find the very best petite jeanshow sustainable travel has found its footing on Instagram, and what it's like to be a professional advice-giver in the modern world. Her personal essays have run the gamut from learning to dress as a queer woman to navigating food allergies as a mom. She also has deep knowledge of SEO/EATT, affiliate revenue, commerce, and social media; she regularly edits the work of other writers. She speaks at writing-related events and podcasts about freelancing and journalism, mentors students and other new writers, and consults on coursework. Currently, Katherine lives in Boston with her husband and two kids, and you can follow her on Instagram. If you're wondering about her last name, it’s “I go to dinner,” not “Her huge ego,” but she responds to both.