Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC (1917–2015), was a theologian, public servant, and the fifteenth president of the University of Notre Dame, serving from 1952 to 1987.
He is considered one of the most influential figures in higher education, national and international affairs, and the Catholic Church in the twentieth century Hesburgh would say, however, that his only vocation was to be a priest. “The happiest day of my life was when I was anointed a Catholic priest,” he said.
Hesburgh was ordained a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1943 and celebrated Mass almost every day after that. As president of Notre Dame, Hesburgh is recognized for opening enrollment to women in 1972, increasing minority representation in the workforce, doubling enrollment, and increasing faculty salaries, student aid, research funding, and endowment to the university.
Hesburgh is the recipient of 150 honorary degrees, a Guinness World Record. He was given sixteen presidential appointments and he served on the International Atomic Energy Agency, the National Science Board, and the Civil Rights Commission. He joined Martin Luther King Jr. at a civil rights rally at Soldier Field in 1964, an event memorialized in a now-iconic photo and statue of the two men holding hands.
Among his many awards and honors, Hesburgh was bestowed with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and a Congressional Gold Medal.