Leading beyond Notre Dame
“If our lives in education have any meaning or significance, it will be in our reading the signs of the times and in educating the young of our times in the visions and values that will civilize and make for reasonable human progress and lasting peace on earth.”
—Father Hesburgh, in The Hesburgh Papers*
By elevating the academic quality of his own institution, Father Hesburgh drew the attention of his peers in higher education. In the 1960s the Ford Foundation selected Notre Dame (along with Stanford, Vanderbilt, Johns Hopkins and the University of Denver) as one of five rapidly improving institutions for a series of generous challenge grants. Presidential appointments and leadership roles beyond campus earned the respect of leaders outside academia. But it was Hesburgh’s stand on 1960s student activism, the Vietnam War and university life that brought the priest into the national spotlight. He continued to be a prominent voice in national affairs, justice and human rights issues, even intercollegiate athletics.
In 1970, the American Association of University Professors bestowed on Father Hesburgh the Alexander Meiklejohn Award for his support of academic freedom.
As described in a biographical essay by Thomas Stritch, Father Hesburgh has been known as a champion of civil discourse and open discussion of all topics. At Notre Dame, he was host to two particularly controversial speeches on matters of international importance: President Carter's speech on U.S. foreign policy and New York Governor Mario Cuomo's speech on abortion and the Catholic public official.
*Hesburgh, Theodore Martin. The Hesburgh Papers: Higher Values in Higher Education. Kansas City: Andrews McMeel Publishing, 1979. Print.