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Thanking Father Ted’ e-book debuts

Katie McCarty | Wednesday, November 6, 2013


For the past six years, female freshmen have received a hardcover copy of “Thanking Father Ted,” a compilation of stories and memories women at Notre Dame have submitted since the University became coeducational in 1972.

Just as Notre Dame changed to fit the times when it began admitting women, it does so now by making “Thanking Father Ted” available as an e-book, which will make the collection more easily accessible and will cut production costs.

The book is a product of the Thanking Father Ted Foundation. The group worked through the Alumni Association to ask all 17,001 undergraduate alumnae worldwide to submit letters thanking University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh for the gift of coeducation and telling him the difference a Notre Dame education has made in their lives. The foundation compiled the letters into the book.

University President Emeritus Fr. Theodore Hesburgh, said “Thanking Father Ted” takes a unique approach to the subject of coeducation at Notre Dame.

“There are thousands of books published each year, but this [book] is special because it is written by Notre Dame graduates,” Hesburgh said. “I do get a lot of credit for things that happened during my tenure, but it’s the people who are to thank.”

Hesburgh said he would like to thank Ann Therese Palmer, editor of the book, for her work to memorialize Notre Dame’s acceptance of women.

“I’m very grateful to the people who collaborated with Anne Therese Palmer, who made the book ‘Thanking Father Ted’,” Hesburgh said. “Anne Therese is a great organizer and a good person at getting something done. I do indeed thank her and all those who wrote me, because there’s nothing better from getting a letter or gratitude from someone.”

Junior Cristin Pacifico, co-chair of Hall Presidents’ Council (HPC), said HPC will distribute the e-book to freshman women using the group’s email listserv.

“By working with the Student Activities Office, we have been able to obtain a list of freshmen women through the Registrar so that we could email electronic versions of the book to the new female members of the Notre Dame community,” Pacifico said. 

Pacifico said “Thanking Father Ted” affected her own experience as a woman at Notre Dame.

“As a freshman, when [my rector] gave me this book, I remember sitting in her room and talking to her about my hopes and aspirations for my time at Notre Dame,” she said. “It is one of the first instances I remember feeling truly welcome to the community in my dorm, as well as the community of women at Notre Dame.”

As a graduate of the first class of women in 1973, Angie Dahl Rocca said she donates to the fund that provides each female freshman with a copy of the book. Dahl Rocca attended Saint Mary’s until her junior year, when she received a surprise notice in the mail.

“At this time, Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s were talking about a merger, but then the merger fell through,” she said. “A group of us found out from a postcard in our mailboxes from the Registrar at Notre Dame that since the merger fell through and we took so many classes at Notre Dame, we were now considered Notre Dame students. 

“We were thrilled but didn’t know what it meant. The rest of the women at Saint Mary’s had their reservations. Men at Notre Dame didn’t want us and alumni didn’t want us.”

Dahl Rocca said the experience of being one of about 80 female students at Notre Dame was challenging. She said a professor once asked her to leave class after telling her, “I don’t teach women.”

“It was frightening, awkward, but we realized that we were part of a great change,” Dahl Rocca said. “I don’t think we ever appreciated how big it would be. My daughter graduated from Notre Dame, and it’s wonderful to see pride in generations of women graduating.”

Patrice Purcell, a 1984 Notre Dame graduate, also donates to the fund that provides each freshman with a copy of the book. Coincidentally, the firm where Purcell works in Chicago, JPMorgan Chase, hired Pacifico as an intern this summer, an opportunity Purcell said points to the continuing strength of women at the University.

“Cristin worked in my group, which represents small worlds of Notre Dame women connecting,” Purcell said. “Different generations [of Notre Dame women] are trying to accomplish the same thing.”

Dahl Rocca said the book helps freshman women to understand the full impact women have had on the University.

“Many freshman incoming students don’t know that we weren’t even allowed in the [Rockne Memorial Gymnasium initially],” Dahl Rocca said. “The book is wonderful. It gives some insight into what was happening at the University at the time [coeducation began], the social impact on us and the climate of the University. 

“Women have made the University a much gentler and open place.”

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