Congressional Gold Medal
President Bill Clinton awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to Fr. Hesburgh on July 13, 2000. One of the nation's highest civilian honors, it was presented in recognition of Fr. Hesburgh's many distinguished contributions to civil rights, higher education, and service to the global humanitarian community. First awarded to General George Washington in 1776, other notable recipients include Winston Churchill, Mother Theresa, Nelson Mandela, and General Colin Powell.
Presidential Medal of Freedom
Following Fr. Hesburgh's work with the Commission on Civil Rights, President Lyndon B. Johnson awarded Fr. Hesburgh the Medal of Freedom on Sept. 14, 1964. This is the highest award the President can bestow upon a civilian.
Pope Paul VI ring
A gift from Pope Paul VI. Fr. Hesburgh appreciated the gift but never wore the ostentatious ring on his finger. In his autobiography, Fr. Hesburgh wrote, “of all the Popes, I knew Paul VI the best.” Pope Paul VI, when he was still known as Cardinal Montini, presided at the Baccalaureate Mass and received an honorary degree at the 1960 Notre Dame Commencement.
Fr. Hesburgh was awarded the Laetare Medal, given annually by the university to an American Roman Catholic of distinction, at the Commencement ceremony on May 17, 1987, when he retired. Established at Notre Dame in 1883, the Laetare Medal’s previous recipients include President John F. Kennedy, Catholic Worker foundress Dorothy Day, novelist Walker Percy, and Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.
On Jan. 4, 2002, Fr. Hesburgh carried the Olympic Torch a fifth of a mile through Notre Dame’s campus (the Juniper Road stretch that used to run between the stadium and Joyce Arena) as part of its 13,500-mile route to Salt Lake City. Fr. Hesburgh jogged the route at age 84 in 18-degree weather. The torch was a favorite picture prop for students visiting the office.