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viewpoint

Dr. Joseph J. McGowan on Fr. Hesburgh

| Saturday, February 28, 2015

I’m a Double Domer (BA in 1966/MA in 1968) and was an admissions officer from 1966-1968.(I later received a Doctorate from Columbia University). I got to know Fr. Ted in particular over my last four years at Notre Dame, especially during my stint in admissions, when my office was a couple floors below his in the Administration building.

I was immensely impressed by his person and leadership, and he inspired my career in Catholic higher education, not only in the beginning but throughout, including to this very day.

I had the good fortune to keep in touch with him as our paths crossed throughout my life, especially over my career as a dean and vice president at Fordham University, and for the past 25 years as president of Bellarmine University.

Three interactions are particularly memorable for me. The day I received a seven-figure gift to complete funding for Bellarmine‘s new library and was headed to an NCAA Presidents Council meeting, I met Fr. Hesburgh in the US Air terminal at Washington DC’s National Airport and had coffee together. He congratulated me and said that the new library would transform Bellarmine as Notre Dame’s Library transformed Notre Dame, and it has.

A second special interaction was when my wife Maureen and I were living in New York City and had fraternal twin sons. He came to our apartment for a visit and to give his blessing to the two newborns, Matt and Joe.

And the third was just a few years ago on the occasion of Bellarmine‘s 60th anniversary and my 20th as president, when we had an exchange of correspondence that was especially poignant and beautiful.

My favorite prayer is the one Fr. Jenkins mentioned in his recent email as a favorite of  Fr. Ted’s, “Come, Holy Spirit….” Fr. Hesburgh’s heart was full of the Holy Spirit, and it did enkindle in him the fire of God’s Divine Love, a love that many of us throughout the world have been blessed to experience over the years of our friendship with this distinguished and very special man, priest and leader. May he now rest in peace and in our memories, forever.

Thank you, Fr. Ted Hesburgh, for your inspirational, formative presence in my life and in the lives of all who knew you. Notre Dame and the world is a better place because of you.

Dr. Joseph J. McGowan

Class of 1966, MA 1968

President, Bellarmine University

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