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Alumnae commemorate Hesburgh legacy

| Friday, February 26, 2016

It has been one year since University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh died, but his legacy as one of the most influential figures in higher education and social issues continues.

Mike Cloonan, a 1995 alumnus, said in an email that Hesburgh included the decision to allow women into the University among his greatest achievements.

“In an interview with him, he told me that making Notre Dame coed was his greatest accomplishment and when he would eventually meet the Blessed Mother, he would have had some explaining to do, if he had not done so,” Cloonan said.

Every year, the Thanking Father Ted (TFT) Foundation provides a copy of the 2007 book “Thanking Father Ted” to all Notre Dame freshmen women. Ann Therese Palmer, one of the first female alumna of Notre Dame and chairman of TFT, said the book consists of a collection of letters to Fr. Hesburgh.

“This is the last year our foundation will be donating books to the freshmen women,” Palmer said in an email. “With Father Ted’s death, our foundation’s reason to exist has ceased. So, we’re folding our foundation. Notre Dame Women Connect will pay for and distribute the books starting in Fall 2016.”

In the past, the book was distributed by Hall President’s Council (HPC) in the fall. This year, the distribution was postponed to coincide with the one-year anniversary of Hesburgh’s death.

Senior Meredith Fraser, co-chair of HPC, said she has been working with Palmer to prepare for this “celebration of coeducation and book dispersal.” The women of Notre Dame’s freshmen class will receive their copy of “Thanking Father Ted” today.

Fraser said she gained glimpses of Fr. Hesburgh’s legacy while participating in his funeral procession last year. She said partaking in this legacy with those closest to him made her feel out of place as well as part of a community at the same time.

“Those minutes of displacement and somehow simultaneous belonging will remain with me for my life,” Fraser said. “I thank Fr. Ted for his welcome to this home.”

TFT also put together a video of a panel that Kathleen Cummings, director of the Cushwa Center, chaired for the fortieth anniversary of Notre Dame coeducation four years ago. Cloonan, who produces the “What Would You Fight For?” spots during Notre Dame football games, edited the video.

“I offered to do the project for free, but was told they needed to empty their foundation’s account and it contained $100,” he said. “Like Fr. Ted, I enjoy a fine cigar once in a while and was told to spend the money on remembering him with a fine cigar and beverage or two, which I intend to do.”

The 26-minute video features Hesburgh’s audio reflection on the coeducation of Notre Dame, as well as Cummings’s analysis and remarks by Kathy Cekanski-Farrand, the first female rector of Badin Hall, and Palmer.

Cekanski-Ferrand, now an attorney for the South Bend City Council, spoke at Breen-Phillips Hall Wednesday night to commemorate Fr. Hesburgh. She will also speak at Howard Hall, Pangborn Hall and McGlinn Hall through Monday night.

“Several female halls are using the video as the centerpiece for their celebrations of Father Ted this month,” Palmer said.Our Foundation has established a YouTube channel and put the video on it so generations of Notre Dame women to come can hear from him and us what it was like.”

Cloonan also said he hoped future generations of Notre Dame students would be aware of all that Fr. Hesburgh accomplished.

“Fr. Ted was a hero of mine and symbolized all that is good about Notre Dame and the potential we all have to make a positive difference in the world,” he said.

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About Megan Valley

Megan Valley is one of the Associate News Editors for The Observer. A junior majoring in English and the Program of Liberal Studies, she hails from Flushing, MI and lives in Flaherty Hall.

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