Friday, Sept. 1, 2017, 1:00 p.m.
The Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, (1917–2015), longtime president of the University of Notre Dame, is considered one of the most important academic, religious and civic leaders of the 20th century.
Appointed to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in 1957, Hesburgh helped to compile reports on racial discrimination and the denial of voting rights that resulted in the Omnibus Civil Rights Act of 1964. He was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom the same year, and later founded the Center for Civil and Human Rights at Notre Dame.
A champion of causes ranging from education to immigration reform to the plight of underdeveloped nations, Hesburgh worked with many organizations that reflected his beliefs, including the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the National Science Board, the Overseas Development Council, and the Select Committee on Immigration and Refugee Policy. An advocate for limiting nuclear arms, he was the Vatican’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency from 1956-1970.
Ordained into the priesthood of the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1943, Hesburgh was appointed to the faculty at Notre Dame in 1945. He became Notre Dame’s 15th president in 1952, a position he held for 35 years, the longest presidential term in the university’s history. Hesburgh spearheaded successful efforts to strengthen the faculty and administration, improve academic standards and increase the university’s endowment.
In 1987, Hesburgh stepped down as Notre Dame’s president, devoting his time in retirement to supporting university initiatives, in particular the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies and the Kellogg Institute for International Studies, and serving on various boards and presidential commissions.
Hesburgh was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2000, one of many awards and honors received during his lifetime.