My Six Words ... Ted Hesburgh's Legacy: Putting People First.
I come from a Notre Dame family. My Dad went to Notre Dame; my older sister went there as well. In fact, that's how they met.
That joke is one of the first things I think of when I think of the University of Notre Dame. When I think of Notre Dame, I think of people associated with their football, basketball and marching band programs. The name I associate to Notre Dame more than any other is that of former university president, Rev. Theodore "Ted" Hesburgh. Father Ted passed away late Thursday night in South Bend, Indiana, at the age of 97.
Hesburgh served as president of the University of Notre Dame from 1952 to 1987 and was a major national and religious figure. If you were to google Hesburgh, pictures like the one below of him and Martin Luther King would pop up. You would also see pictures of him standing with past and former U.S. presidents from Eisenhower to Obama. You would see pictures of him with popes. But the picture that comes to my mind is of him and my grandfather in the 1950's when my Dad was an incoming freshman at Notre Dame. It is a picture in my mind only, but as clear as any of the images I can pull off the web.
My grandparents were dropping off their oldest son at ND and father Hesburgh had met with some of the parents at a social. He was introduced to my grandfather and the next day, he saw my grandfather again and remembered his name and other aspects of their conversation. This is the picture in my mind, it may not be exactly how it went down almost sixty years ago, but all I know is my dad was very impressed that such an important man as Hesburgh would recall talking to his father.
Ted Hesburgh was many things: one of the greatest educators of the 20th century, a civil rights champion, and a Congressional Gold Medal recipient, just to name a few. However, his greatest achievements come from his ability to relate to ordinary people like my grandfather and be a model of leadership to ordinary people like my Dad.
Hesburgh didn't always want to be president of a major university. He had hoped to serve the Navy and his country as a chaplain on an aircraft carrier. In 2013 at the age of 95, the Navy made Hesburgh an honorary chaplain. While we don't all get the opportunity to advise presidents and march with historical icons, but we do have the opportunity to serve ordinary people in any way we can. In this way, we can make Father Hesburgh's greatest legacy our own.
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