Who is Theodore Hesburgh?
Rev. Theodore Martin Hesburgh, CSC (May 25, 1917 – February 26, 2015) was a native of Syracuse, New York, who became an ordained priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross and is best known for his service as the president of the University of Notre Dame for thirty-five years (1952–1987). In addition to his career as an educator and author, Hesburgh was a public servant and social activist involved in numerous American civic and governmental initiatives, commissions, international humanitarian projects, and papal assignments. Hesburgh received numerous honors and awards for his service, most notably the United States’s Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964) and Congressional Gold Medal (2000). As of 2013, he also held the world’s record for the individual with most honorary degrees with more than 150.
Hesburgh is credited with bringing Notre Dame, long known for its football program, to the forefront of American Catholic universities and its transition to a nationally respected institution of higher education. He supervised the university’s dramatic growth, as well as the successful transfer of its ownership from Holy Cross priests to the Notre Dame Board of Trustees in 1967. During his tenure as president, the university also became a coeducational institution. In addition to his service to Notre Dame, Hesburgh held leadership positions in numerous groups involved in civil rights, peaceful uses of atomic energy, immigration reform, and Third World development. Hesburgh was also active on the boards of numerous businesses, nonprofits, civic organizations, and Vatican missions.