Former Notre Dame president Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., died Thursday night on campus. Father Ted was 97. He said his final mass on Thursday, the day he passed away.
“We mourn today a great man and faithful priest who transformed the University of Notre Dame and touched the lives of many,” said the Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s current president. “With his leadership, charisma and vision, he turned a relatively small Catholic college known for football into one of the nation’s great institutions for higher learning.”
Brian Kelly has cancelled his press conference scheduled for Friday to announce the changes to his coaching staff and to introduce the four new coaches on the Irish staff. So let’s take a few minutes to share some special stories that are being shared as people around the world honor the extraordinary life of Notre Dame’s greatest man.
I’ve linked to this video before, but it’s a favorite of mine. Father Ted opened his home—on the 13th floor of the library—to the WatchND team.
The man could tell a story, and managed to talk president Jimmy Carter into giving him a ride on the SR-71, the fasted manned aircraft in the world:
Among the decisions he made over his 35 years as the university’s president was the introduction of a coeducation undergraduate education, with women joining the student body in 1972.
“If we say we are educating for leadership, we ought to educate the other half of the human race.”
There may have been no more important American in the battle for civil rights than Hesburgh. Per a university biography, “Father Hesburgh was acknowledged as the principal architect of the Civil Rights Act,” and he was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom the same year.
Advice columnist Ann Landers asked Father Ted for advice back in 1975 when she announced her divorce.
Here’s what former president Bill Clinton had to say about Father Ted:
“Once he was criticized by some clergy for his emphasis on academic improvement, and he said, ‘Piety is no substitute for competent scholarship.’ The legendary Robert Maynard Hutchins of the University of Chicago once said that Father Hesburgh’s improvements at Notre Dame constituted ‘one of the most spectacular achievements in higher education in the last 25 years.’”
I’m not qualified to judge what makes a saint, but am very happy to have the memory of a private mass with my roommates and our moms in the library one Sunday morning.
Even as we nursed self-inflicted headaches that morning, it was a moment we knew would be a memory for a very long time.