Theodore Hesburgh, longtime Notre Dame president, dies at 97

March 12, 2015

Theodore Hesburgh, the longtime president of the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, died February 26 at age 97.

For more than 50 years, he engaged is­sues such as civil rights, nuclear weap­ons, and abortion.

The National Cath­olic Reporter wrote that in 1968 he said, “Theology must be free, for it will be ac­cepted as a true university discipline only if operates under the same kind of freedom and autonomy as do other disciplines.”

He was ordained as a priest of the Con­gregation of the Holy Cross in 1943 and became president of Notre Dame in 1952. He held the position for 35 years. He received the Presidential Medal of Free­dom in 1964, and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2000. He was a founding member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and marched with Martin Luther King Jr.

At Notre Dame, NCR reported, he “was not able to find a balance between the male and female faculty, for the latter complained of unequal treatment and opportunities.”

Michael Wear, who served in the Obama White House, met Hesburgh when Presi­dent Obama accepted an invitation to de­liver the commencement address at Notre Dame in 2009, sparking protests because of Obama’s support of abortion rights.

“Hesburgh believed providing space for different viewpoints was a testament to one’s confidence in his or her beliefs,” Wear wrote. —Religion News Service, added sources