At the age of 35, Father Hesburgh became president of the University of Notre Dame. It was the beginning of a 35-year career as president and marked a large portion of his nearly 70 years in a position of leadership over the course of his life. He was responsible for a great many changes at Notre Dame, including coeducation and the transfer to lay governance. He would leave the University a very different place, but in his autobiography, he was quick to point out the enormous help he had over the years.
From the very beginning I realized that I could not run Notre Dame all by myself, and so I placed heavy reliance on the people around me—the vice presidents, the deans, the department chairmen, and the directors of the important academic functions. I appointed the best person I could find for every position and then let him or her do the job.
Under his leadership, Notre Dame grew from a well-respected undergraduate college, to a major research university. Father Hesburgh had an enormous impact on this University, not simply through sweeping changes in academics and the administration, but through his daily interactions with people.