Theodore Martin Hesburgh, CSC (May 25, 1917 – February 26, 2015) was an American priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross. He served as president of the University of Notre Dame for 35 years. TIAA–CREF's Hesburgh Award is named after him.
Theodore Hesburgh was born in Syracuse, New York to Anne Murphy Hesburgh and Theodore Bernard Hesburgh and had one brother and three sisters. He had wished to become a priest since early childhood. He enrolled at Notre Dame in 1934, but after three years he was relocated to Rome and in 1939 he earned a bachelor of philosophy degree from the Gregorian University. Because he was sent to Rome, Hesburgh never finished his Notre Dame degree. (He obtained it years later, in 1984, when the University awarded him an honorary degree, 32 years after he became university president.) He studied in Rome until he was forced to leave due to the outbreak of World War II. In 1943 he was ordained a priest in the Congregation of Holy Cross at Notre Dame's Sacred Heart Church, later renamed the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. He graduated from The Catholic University of America in 1945, having earned a Doctorate in Sacred Theology, and taught Religion at Notre Dame. In 1948 he was named head of the Department of Theology. In 1949 Notre Dame president Rev. John J. Cavanaugh, C.S.C. appointed him executive vice-president and Hesburgh served in that position for three years.
President of Notre Dame
Hesburgh served as Notre Dame's President for 35 years (1952–1987), the longest tenure to date. He supervised dramatic growth, as well as a transition to coeducation in 1972. During his term, the annual operating budget rose by a factor of 18 from $9.7 million to $176.6 million, the endowment rose by a factor of 40 from $9 million to $350 million, and research funding rose by a factor of 20 from $735,000 to $15 million. Enrollment nearly doubled from 4,979 to 9,600, faculty more than doubled 389 to 950, and degrees awarded annually doubled from 1,212 to 2,500. In 1967 he turned governance of the University over to a two-tiered, mixed board of lay and religious trustees and fellows.
In 1967, he led an academic movement which issued the so-called Land O'Lakes statement which insisted upon "true autonomy and academic freedom in the face of authority of whatever kind, lay or clerical". According to Rick Perlstein in Nixonland, Hesburgh was considered by George McGovern as his running mate in the 1972 presidential election. McGovern chose Thomas Eagleton.
Hesburgh was a key figure in anti-Vietnam War student activism. After discovering a student plot to burn the Notre Dame campus ROTC building in 1969, Hesburgh issued a letter to the student body outlining the University's stance. The letter was later reprinted by the New York Times and Washington Post. At the request of President Richard Nixon, Hesburgh advised Vice President Spiro Agnew regarding controlling violence on college campuses. Hesburgh generally disagreed with American policy in Vietnam and favored accelerated withdrawal of the troops.
Work in the US government
His career included sixteen presidential appointments involving most major social issues of his time, including civil rights, peaceful uses of atomic energy, campus unrest, Third World development, and immigration reform. In 1953 he created the Distinguished Professors Program to attract top scholars to Notre Dame. In 1954 he was appointed by President Eisenhower to the National Science Board.
Hesburgh served as a member of the United States Civil Rights Commission from 1957 (appointed by president Eisenhower), and Chairman from 1969, until his dismissal by President Richard Nixon in 1972 due to his frequent opposition to Nixon policies. He also served in a number of other posts on government commissions, non-profit organization boards, and Vatican missions, beginning with his appointment to a science commission by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1954. He was a contributor to the 1958 analysis of the U.S. education system, The Pursuit of Excellence, commissioned by the Rockefeller Brothers Fund as part of its Special Studies Project.
In 1964 he was awarded the Medal of Freedom, the nation’s highest honor, by President Johnson. The same year he joined hands with Martin Luther King Jr. in support for civil rights during a rally in Chicago.
From 1977 to 1982 Hesburgh was chairman of the Rockefeller Foundation. President Jimmy Carter appointed him to a blue-ribbon immigration reform commission in 1979; the commission's finding — that any national immigration reform proposals can succeed only if the American national border is properly secured beforehand — was cited by various opponents of illegal immigration to the United States, especially those who are Catholic or sympathetic to Catholic views.
Work for the Holy See
In 1968 he was appointed by Pope Paul VI as head of the Vatican representatives attending the 20th anniversary of the United Nations’ human rights declaration in Tehran, Iran. In 1972 he organized the establishment of the Tantur Institute for Ecumenical Studies in Jerusalem, at the request of Pope Paul VI. In 1974 Paul VI appointed him as a member of the Holy See’s U.N. delegation.
From 1956 until 1970 he served as the permanent Vatican representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency in Vienna.
In 1983 he was appointed to the Pontifical Council for Culture by Pope John Paul II.
In 1994 he was elected to Chair the Harvard Board of Overseers, the first priest to do so.
He was one of the founders of People for the American Way. Hesburgh served on the Knight Commission that overhauled college sports from 1990 to 1996. Hesburgh was a major figure in American politics and Church politics from the 1950s to the 1990s. He was a strong supporter of interfaith dialogue.
In 2000 he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal, the first person from higher education to receive the honor. In 2004 he was named the first recipient of the NCAA’s Gerald R. Ford Award for leadership in intercollegiate athletics.
In 2009, he supported the invitation for Barack Obama to speak at Notre Dame, which was controversial because of Obama's strong endorsement of pro-choice legislation.
Hesburgh died on February 26, 2015, aged 97. His death, funeral and memorial gained media widespread attention. Attendees and speakers at the memorial included Jimmy Carter, Condoleezza Rice, Lou Holtz, cardinals Theodore McCarrick and Roger Mahony, former senator Harris L. Wofford, governor Mike Pence, First Lady Rosalynn Carter, former senator Alan K. Simpson, senator Joe Donnelly, William G. Bowen, and a video message from Barack Obama.
Honors and awards
Hesburgh attained many accomplishments, honors, and awards in his public career and he was "the recipient of over 150 honorary degrees, the most ever awarded to one person." He became the first individual from post-secondary education to be awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 2000. He served in over sixteen presidential appointments "involving him in civil rights, peaceful uses of atomic energy, campus unrest, and immigration reform — including the American policy of amnesty for immigrants in the mid-1980s." He was the first priest to be elected to the Board of Overseers at Harvard and for two years served as president of the Harvard Board. He also served as a director for the Chase Manhattan Bank. While serving on the Board of the United States Institute of Peace, he "helped organize a meeting of scientists and representative leaders of six faith traditions who called for the elimination of nuclear weapons." He served as a trustee and later Chairman of the Board of the Rockefeller Foundation. He was appointed as ambassador to the 1979 UN Conference on Science and Technology for Development.
Other awards include:
- Honorary member of the Austrian catholic fraternity KÖHV Alpenland (1961)
- Presidential Medal of Freedom (1964)
- The Award for Greatest Public Service Benefiting the Disadvantaged, an award given out annually by Jefferson Awards (1976)
- Sylvanus Thayer Award from the United States Military Academy (1980)
- F. Sadlier Dinger Award by educational publisher William H. Sadlier, Inc. in recognition of his outstanding contributions to the ministry of religious education in America. (1982)
- Public Welfare Medal from the National Academy of Sciences (1984)
- Four Freedom Award for the Freedom of Worship (1993)
- NCAA Gerald R. Ford Award (2004) (inaugural recipient)
- Honorary Navy chaplain (2013)
He holds the Guinness Book of World Records title for "Most Honorary Degrees", having been awarded 150.
He also holds the world record for the fastest any civilian has ever flown, having ridden in an Lockheed SR-71 Blackbird at 2,200 MPH as a favor owed to him by President Jimmy Carter.
The University of Notre Dame's library opened on September 18, 1963 as the Memorial Library. It was renamed the Theodore Hesburgh Library after Father Hesburgh in 1987. He had a private office on the thirteenth floor with the Olympic Torch from the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.
The University of Notre Dame has named several buildings and programs after Fr. Hesburgh, including the Hesburgh Library, the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholarship, the Hesburgh Institute for International Studies, the Hesburgh International Scholar Experience, and more.
Father Theodore Hesburgh received more than 150 honorary degrees, a world record for most honorary degrees given to one individual. These include:
- Honorary degrees
|New York||1954||Le Moyne College|
|Chile||1956||Pontifical Catholic University of Chile|
|Kansas||1958||St. Benedict's College|
|New Hampshire||1958||Dartmouth College|
|Rhode Island||1960||University of Rhode Island|
|New York||1961||Columbia University|
|New Jersey||1961||Princeton University||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)|
|Massachusetts||1962||Brandeis University||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)|
|Indiana||1962||Indiana University||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)|
|Illinois||1963||Northwestern University||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)|
|Pennsylvania||1963||Lafayette College||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)|
|Austria||1965||University of Vienna||Honorary Citizen|
|California||1965||University of California Los Angeles|| |
|Philippines||1965||Saint Louis University|
|Pennsylvania||1965||Temple University||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)|
|Quebec||1965||Université de Montréal|
|Illinois||1966||University of Illinois||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)|
|Georgia (U.S. state)||1966||Atlanta University|
|New York||1967||Fordham University|
|Rhode Island||1968||Providence College|
|California||1968||University of Southern California|
|Michigan||1968||Michigan State University||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)|
|Indiana||1969||Saint Mary's College|
|Missouri||1969||Saint Louis University|
|District of Columbia||1969||The Catholic University of America||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)|
|Indiana||1970||Anderson College||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)|
|New York||1970||State University of New York|
|Utah||1970||Utah State University||Doctor of Arts (HD)|
|Connecticut||1971||Yale University||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)|
|New York||1973||Syracuse University||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)|
|New York||1973||Marymount College|
|New York||1973||Hobart and William Smith Colleges|
|Ohio||1973||Hebrew Union College|
|Massachusetts||1974||Tufts University||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)|
|Tennessee||1974||The University of the South|
|Oregon||1975||University of Portland||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)|
|Connecticut||1975||Fairfield University||Doctor of Public Service|
|North Carolina||1976||Davidson College|
|New York||1976||College of New Rochelle|
|Colorado||1976||University of Denver|
|Wisconsin||1976||Beloit College||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)|
|Pennsylvania||1977||Dickinson College||Doctor of Sacred Theology (STD)|
|District of Columbia||1977||Georgetown University|
|New York||1977||Queens College|
|Belgium||1978||Katholieke Universiteit Leuven|
|South Carolina||1978||University of South Carolina|
|Pennsylvania||1978||University of Pennsylvania||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)|
|Belgium||1978||Université catholique de Louvain|
|Nova Scotia||1978||St. Francis Xavier University|
|Indiana||1979||University of Evansville|
|Utah||1979||University of Utah||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)|
|Virginia||1980||College of William and Mary||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)|
|Maryland||1980||Johns Hopkins University||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)|
|New Jersey||1980||Seton Hall University|
|New York||1980||Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute|
|California||1980||University of San Diego|
|Texas||1980||University of the Incarnate Word||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)|
|New York||1981||St. John Fisher College|
|Ohio||9 May 1981||University of Toledo||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)|
|Iowa||1981||St. Ambrose University|
|Pennsylvania||1981||University of Scranton|
|Ohio||1981||University of Cincinnati||Doctor of Letters (D.Litt)|
|Michigan||1981||University of Michigan||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)|
|Michigan||1981||Hope College||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)|
|Brazil||1981||University of Brasília|
|New York||1982||New York University|
|Indiana||1982||Indiana State University|
|California||1982||Loyola Marymount University|
|Pennsylvania||1982||Hahnemann Medical College and Hospital|
|Michigan||1982||Kalamazoo College||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)|
|Colorado||1982||Loretto Heights College|
|Dominican Republic||1982||Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra|
|Thailand||1983||Ramkhamhaeng University|| |
|Indiana||1983||Saint Joseph's College|
|New Jersey||1983||Rider College|
|New York||1983||Colgate University|
|New Jersey||1983||Immaculate Conception Seminary|
|Florida||1984||St. Leo College|
|West Virginia||1984||West Virginia Wesleyan College|
|Indiana||1984||University of Notre Dame|
|Ohio||1985||College of Mount St. Joseph|
|Pennsylvania||1985||Holy Family College|
|North Carolina||1985||Duke University||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)|
|Tennessee||1985||Christian Brothers College|
|New Brunswick||1985||St. Thomas University|
|Iowa||1986||Briar Cliff College|
|Michigan||1986||Aquinas College||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)|
|Nebraska||1986||University of Nebraska||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)|
|Pennsylvania||1987||University of Pittsburgh|
|Guatemala||1987||Universidad Francisco Marroquín|
|Malta||1988||University of Malta|
|West Virginia||1989||Wheeling Jesuit College|
|Maryland||1989||Mount Saint Mary’s College|
|Rhode Island||1989||Brown University|
|Minnesota||1990||St. Olaf College|
|District of Columbia||1991||Defiance College||Doctor of Public Service|
|Louisiana||1991||Our Lady of Holy Cross College|
|Iowa||1993||Mount Mercy College|
|New Hampshire||1993||Notre Dame College|
|North Carolina||1993||Wake Forest University||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)|
|Illinois||1995||North Park College|
|Pennsylvania||1996||Saint Vincent College|
|Illinois||1996||University of St. Francis||Doctor of Laws (LL.D)|
|Connecticut||1996||Albertus Magnus College||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)|
|Australia||1997||University of Notre Dame Australia|
|New York||1997||The College of Saint Rose|
|Kentucky||1998||University of Kentucky||Doctor of Letters (D.Litt)|
|New York||1998||Touro College Law Center|
|New York||1999||State University of New York Polytechnic Institute|
|Indiana||2000||University of Saint Francis|
|Indiana||2000||Holy Cross College|
|New Jersey||2000||Saint Peter's College|
|North Carolina||2000||North Carolina State University||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)|
|Texas||2001||St. Edward's University|
|New Jersey||2001||Georgian Court College|
|Ohio||2002||Ohio State University||Doctor of Humane Letters (DHL)|
|Indiana||2002||Ivy Tech State College|
|California||2002||University of San Diego|