Father Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, died Thursday night, February 27 on the campus of the University of Notre Dame where he served as president for 35 years and served as Notre Dame's inspiration ever since. He was 97.
As Notre Dame president, a member and chairman of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, presidential advisor and member of federal and higher education commissions, Hesburgh was, perhaps, the most influential Catholic churchman of his time. His portfolios ranged from world hunger to atoms for peace to academic freedom for Catholic universities to cleaning up college athletics. Presidents, both Democrats and Republicans, named him to commissions on everything from Vietnam amnesty to immigration reform. For years, Hesburgh carried a Vatican diplomatic passport as the Holy See's representative to the International Atomic Energy Commission. Hesburgh also stood up to presidents and pontiffs during his career. At home, the Holy Cross father created the modern University of Notre Dame recruiting it top faculty members, building dozens of buildings and bringing it coeducation.
In 1982, Harry Reasoner traveled to Notre Dame, Indiana to meet "Father Ted," five years before Hesburgh stepped down as president. What ensued was a classic Harry Reasoner conversation with one of the most remarkable men of the 20th century.