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Emil Hofman on Fr. Hesburgh

| Monday, March 2, 2015

In 1974, Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C. organized a meeting of high-level Notre Dame administrators (provost, vice presidents and deans). The meeting was to be held at the Notre Dame property in Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin. Because the property is a beautiful wooded estate studded with many small lakes and ponds, it is readily recognized as an ideal place for families to combine University business meetings with vacation fun.

The vacation fun is mainly fishing in the many well-stocked lakes and ponds. Every afternoon, the Notre Dame administrators and families are free to fish in any of the waterways except Moccasin Lake, which is reserved as Fr. Ted’s personal fishing hole. Father frequently invited someone to be his guest on his boat in Moccasin Lake. What a wonderful treat to spend one or two hours with Fr. Hesburgh.

Now for the main point of our meeting with Fr. Hesburgh in 1974. The main point started that Thursday night. We were to have our last full day on Friday and then leave to return to South Bend on Saturday morning.

After Mass and dinner, Fr. Hesburgh walked along the beach of the lake, reading his office as he walked. Ten-year-old Michael J. Hofman also was walking the same route, picking up pebbles.

When Fr. Hesburgh and Michael met, they exchanged pleasantries, then Fr. Hesburgh told Michael that he liked to go fishing. It was his favorite sport and pastime. Michael told Father that he wished that he could fish. Father asked if he would like to learn from him. Michael said, “You bet I would.” Father said, “OK, I will arrange it.”

Once in the boat, Father helped Michael bait the hook and cast the line. After several tries, Michael got a bite from what was obviously a big fish. Father helped Michael reel in the fish. It measured to be 35 inches, 9 pounds. Father had several rules about fishing in Moccasin Lake. The final one, that was strictly enforced, was that all fish caught in Moccasin Lake would have to be returned to the lake. Father reasoned, “If I told Michael he had to turn it back, Michael would go back in with the fish; also, I would have to get a new Dean of the Freshman Year of Studies.” So Father told Michael he could keep the fish.

The question became what are we going to do with the fish. Michael agreed that we would have it mounted. It is now on display in Michael’s gallery in Asheville, North Carolina.

Emil T. Hofman

professor emeritus

chemistry and biochemistry

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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