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John McGreevy on Fr. Hesburgh

| Saturday, February 28, 2015

In losing Fr. Hesburgh Notre Dame has lost the most important figure in its modern history.

He was not self important. Many people on this campus, and far beyond, are now telling stories of his generosity, his insistence that everyone mattered and his willingness to speak with anyone about his love for, and hopes for, Notre Dame. But he was important. No one is more responsible for inspiring, pushing and rallying colleagues to make Notre Dame the premier Catholic research university, and indeed one of the country’s leading research universities.

A smart observer scanning the world of higher education in 1952, when Fr. Hesburgh became president of Notre Dame, would have smiled at the thought of Notre Dame as a leading private research university. Only Fr. Hesburgh’s determination and vision made Notre Dame’s ascent possible.

Even more remarkably, he did it with an enthusiasm and openness that proved enticing to the many people from around the world, from diverse ethnic and religious backgrounds, he enticed to join the Notre Dame experiment. He knew that laypeople needed an ownership stake in the University, that women needed to be admitted as students and to become university leaders and that his own work outside the university helped build the university’s reputation.

That confidence, that buoyant optimism about the University, the United States and the Church is something to sustain us as we mourn his death and reflect on his legacy.

John T. McGreevy

I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean
College of Arts and Letters

The views expressed in this Letter to the Editor are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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