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Tom Gatewood on Fr. Hesburgh

| Saturday, February 28, 2015

“A man cannot effectively lead until he masters the powers of observation, the embrace of knowledge, the understanding of the human condition and the faith that a higher spirit watches over him and shepherds his pathways.”

These words were handwritten by Fr. Ted Hesburgh in 1968 and handed to me on a sheet of paper during my freshman year at Notre Dame after the first semester.

He had summoned me to his office for a one-on-one meeting and I was a little nervous because I had no idea why I had been called.

He possessed such a strong aura of command, but he spoke almost in a whisper while asking about my adjustment to campus life and the rigors of balancing daily competition on the football field and in the classroom. Then he congratulated me on earning Dean’s List status, affirming that this was an excellent start, but that the challenges ahead stretched far beyond the classrooms, gridirons and campus of Notre Dame.

We talked for at least an hour and a half and agreed that major issues in the U.S. were heating up (Vietnam War, race relations, violence, drug-use explosion in inner-cities, etc.) and this unrest would surely continue to escalate, unless addressed in a firm atmosphere of understanding, enlightenment, intelligence and love.

As we concluded our discussion, turning attention to our campus, he wrote out the quote above and asked me to reflect on it from time to time during my time here and beyond. He wanted me to know he felt I was on the right path toward developing the leadership qualities that my generation and the generations to follow would need to survive in the global environment to come.

We shook hands and I remember feeling so much confidence in the man at the helm of the University of Notre Dame, because he was armed with the tools of leadership. I will always cherish the mentoring gift he gave me that day and I will carry the spirit of leadership in my heart forever.

Go Irish!

Tom Gatewood

Class of 1972

Former All-American Irish receiver 

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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