Friday has been a sad day for those who loved The University of Notre Dame and its beloved Emeritu president, Theodore Hesburgh. He died at 97 years after a fulfilling life that changed thousands of perspectives and life directions. He is the one who succeeded in transforming this university into an academic power and also a football elite that shined brightly from 1952 to 1987. Additionally, he is one of the heroes considered to define the piles of legislation in the U.S.: the civil rights. The evolution of the school has been a number one priority to Mr. Theodore Hesburgh, even if he had to face the opposition and the power of popes, famous football coaches or even presidents.
His plan of supporting developing nations has made him become an expert in human rights all around the world, as he studied and worked with all kinds of legislation mastered civil rights, as well as immigration reforms, and everything that everyone else didn’t dare to confront. His indestructible force of going to any length for the work he was involved in caused him to travel across the Earth and back. Those who knew him came up with a joke saying that, although God was everywhere, Hesburgh was everywhere but Notre Dame.
The Times described him as being “the most influential figure in the reshaping of Catholic education”. His 150 honorary degrees are an undeniable proof of the respect that people had for him during the years spent at the University of Notre Dame. His death couldn’t have happened in any other place but the university’s campus, as school spokesman Paul Browne said. Unfortunately, the cause of death wasn’t identified as soon as the media had wanted it to.
Theodore Hesburgh has been a different kind of a priest. He used to have the same simplicity and natural charisma as different heads of states, identical to the attitude that he was showing towards students. His purpose in life has been stated many times: to make people’s lives better, in any possible way. An extract from an interview given in 2011 highlights this particular aim of his:
“I go back to an old Latin motto, opus justitiae pax: Peace is the function of justice. We’ve known 20 % of the folks in the world have 80 percent of the goodies, which implies the other 80 percent have to scrape by on 20 percent.”
Rev. John Jenkins, Notre Dame’s current president said about him that he succeeded in turning a relatively small Catholic university that was being famous for its football program into one of the nation’s best institutions that promoted great study.
Bill Clinton himself has always admired Thomas Hesburgh and he was able to express that feeling during the ceremony where the priest received the Congressional Gold Medal, which is actually the highest honor of the government. At this event, Clinton has defined him as being “a servant and a kid of God, a genuine American patriot and a citizen of the globe.”
Furthermore, one of the most important accomplishments of Mr. Hesburgh is becoming a member of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in 1957. As a consequence, he has been found to be one of the people who joined hands with Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964 at a special even such as a civil rights rally that took place in Chicago. The motto of the rally was “We Shall Overcome”, and Father Hesburgh believed in it in every way.
On the other hand, where the evolution of football at the university was concerned, legendary football coach Frank Leathy was asked by Hesburgh, who was, at the time, the executive vice-president of the school, to reorganize the whole athletic division. Also, he convinced the university to conform to the church dogma, telling the Vatican that his purpose is that the University of Notre Dame remain a intellectual center where the main attention is the theological debate.
Moreover, he has remained an enthusiast in all domains of his activity. For instance, when he was fired from the Civil Rights Commission in 1972 by President Richard Nixon, he stated that we would end the job the way he began 15 years earlier: fired with enthusiasm. This particular story has been told by Hesburgh himself, in an interview given in 2007.
Another important detail about Mr. Hesburgh is that he authored several books, one of them becoming a best-seller: “God, Nation, Notre Dame”. In all of his writings, he wanted to design and leave as legacy his visions of a modern Catholic university. He strongly believed that this institution should be a place where all the fantastic concerns are asked, where the progress of an important and interesting conversation is not interrupted and where the thought are able to follow their own evolution and become values and powers of intelligence and wisdom. Also, he supported that the wisdom is exercised in full freedom. Furthermore, he had a great hope that women were treated differently in time, saying that the nation couldn’t be ran by males alone; he thought that women should been given the same possibilities to develop their talents just as men do.
“I am certain I get credit for a lot of things that I’m element of but not necessarily the complete of. We began a great university, and those who followed continued the motion forward.”
Image Source: My Notre Dame