Media Gallery

  • Hesburgh: Priest of God

    "Hesburgh: Priest of God," a documentary on Fr. Hesburgh produced by Notre Dame at the time of his retirement in 1987. It is narrated by Walter Chronkite.
  • Newsreel

    Newsreel report on the Illinois Rally for Civil Rights held at Soldier Field, Chicago on June 21, 1964. Fr. Hesburgh and Martin Luther King, Jr. both spoke. This report has a narrator but no audio of the speeches.
  • 1987 Commencement

    Final remarks and blessing by Fr. Hesburgh at the 1987 Commencement, May 17, 1987. This was Fr. Hesburgh's last commencement as University President. He received the Laetare Medal at the ceremony.
  • Notre Dame President's Dinner Speech


    Ben Duffy: Hello, folks. This is Ben Duffy talking. On December 9th, 1953, the Notre Dame President's Committee of New York held its annual dinner. And believe me, it was a most enjoyable event. Father Theodore Hesburgh, president of the university, proved himself to be a most gracious host. Now, before the dinner, we made arrangements to record the proceedings. It was our intention to reproduce the program in a little booklet and to distribute copies to the committee members. But while I was sitting there, listening to Father Hesburgh talk, it occurred to me that many of us would enjoy hearing Father Hesburgh's report and have our friends and families hear him.

    On this record therefore, you will hear portions of Father Hesburgh's talk and that of Father John J. Cavanaugh, former president of Notre Dame and now, director of the University of Notre Dame Foundation. I am sure you will find them interesting. This is Father Hesburgh speaking.

    Theodore Hesburgh: Thank you, Ben. Gentlemen, it's a great pleasure to come to New York each year and to have the privilege of addressing as august and distinguished a group as this. I cannot tell you how heartened we are at the university that it is possible for us be associated with you gentlemen in the work which we are undertaking out in South Bend, Indiana. I think this evening we've all had the great pleasure of hearing Ambassador Murphy. And on behalf of all of you, and on behalf of the University of Notre Dame, I want to thank him for his wonderfully gracious and inspiring talk. Thank you Ambassador Murphy.

    I often feel at a meeting like this when I have the opportunity to bring to you gentlemen the notice of some of these things that are going on at our university, I may perhaps miss the most important things because they are so obvious and because we live them day by day. I thought perhaps this evening I might just trace out a few statistics first of all, to give you in a sense the dimensions of our job this year. This year, we are beginning our 112th year at the university. We have this year more students than we've ever had before in our history, about 5,400 students. You might be interested in knowing that those students come from every state in the union and from some 30 foreign countries.

    To give you some idea of the spread of these students, we have over 600 students from New York State and about 100 from California. And some from all the states in between. Where are these students studying? What are they taking? This year, something happened that is rather new in our history. The largest number of students this year are in our College of Commerce. There are almost 1,500 boys this year studying in our College of Commerce, distributed over the four years. We have about 1,400 students in our College of Arts and Letters, about 1,200 in our College of Engineering. I might add that the greatest demand this year for students was in the College of Engineering. We had about 900 applications for the College of Engineering this year and only room for about 350 applicants.

    We have about 650 students in our College of Science, men who are in physics or chemistry or mathematics, or perhaps taking pre-medical work or pre-dental work. And about close to 250 in our College of Law. Finally bringing up the total, we have about 400 students in our Graduate School working for various degrees, masters and doctors in various colleges. Another interesting sideline is that about 300 of these students are veteran, many of them Korean War veterans. And also about 2,000 of these students are in uniform several times a week because they are in preparation for commissions on the day of their graduation, either the Army or the Navy or the Air Force or the Marines.

    The main problem I can think of in looking over this campus this year is that we still have about 1,000 boys living off campus even though we're one of the largest boarding schools in the country. We have felt for a long time that the real Notre Dame education is only obtained by living on the campus, because on the campus you have the companionship of all of some 300 boys coming from every state of the union and from all various social and economic conditions.

    You have a chapel where there are services morning and night. You have the companionship of a priest on every floor, who's there for counseling service at all times. And of course, you have the possibility of taking part in all the various campus activities. A big problem around Notre Dame in the evening is which activity to attend. As you know, any institution, especially an education institution, will be great if it has great facilities, if it has a distinguished list of professors, a great faculty. And finally, of course, if it has superior students. The formula is that simple, if you want a great university, you need three things such as these. Fine students, a fine faculty, and fine facilities for education.

    During the past year, we commissioned some new facilities. I'm not taking credit for these facilities, because they were planned and organized long before I appeared on the scene. The first facility and perhaps the greatest is the new O'Shaughnessy Hall of Liberal and Fine Arts. This enabled us to bring our whole liberal arts college together in one building, together with our art and music facilities and our fine art galleries. And I think this building has done more for the internal improvement of the university than any single building that we have had in our history.

    As you gentlemen have perhaps noticed, throughout the country today, the liberal and fine arts are in somewhat a sad situation. There are many strictly liberal arts colleges that are languishing and are losing students, that are really threatened to go out of existence. We, of course, can always depend upon our other colleges, commerce, science, and engineering, and law, for extra students. But we feel that our real tradition and our real strength is in the College of Liberal and Fine Arts. Because it is only in this college that the young man addresses himself to the really important questions in life.

    The questions of what is man and what is his place on this earth? What is the meaning of life? And what is the difference between truth and error? Or knowledge or opinion? Or war or peace? Or justice or injustice? Or beauty or ugliness? Or all of these seemingly abstract and yet hard-centered problems that face each man as he goes through life. These are really the subjects that a boy faces when he studies philosophy and theology, and literature and language, and the social sciences and history. And even, to some extent, in the study liberally of the physical sciences today.

    This fall, we inaugurated and dedicated our science building, which is dedicated to the pursuits of mathematics, physics, and chemistry. This building brings us up to the moment in our pursuit of the sciences. It's quite possible in recent negotiations we have been having with the Atomic Energy Commission that we will be able to rebuild our atom smasher, commonly so-called, or Van de Graaff generator. It was one of the first of its type built 14 years ago. And with which during the past 14 years, we have been doing some very valuable research in conjunction with the Atomic Energy Commission and the other commissions that preceded it, as well as some important investigations on the Manhattan Project during World War II. We have some other rather valuable work going on in the fields of radiation, especially radiation chemistry, where people today think they may have a clue to the study of cancer and cancer problems. There's one more building but I would like to tell you about it later.

    During the summer, we managed to shake loose -- I say loosely, we managed to liberate two of our professors who have been working in research at the university to go to Europe to try to confer with scientists in Europe on matters of basic research. One of these men I'm sure is acquainted with many of you, Professor James Reyniers, who has been the founder and the principal investigator and director in our laboratories of bacteriology, commonly known as germ-free life studies.

    And Professor Reyniers, with the backing of the government and the National Science Foundation, traveled through most of countries of Europe for six weeks this summer, so that he might bring up -- bring Europe scientists up-to-date on the latest techniques in germ-free life. During the course of the summer, we had a meeting in Washington with the National Research Council and the National Science Foundation. And I was amazed at the vast interest that was elicited in our project by all of the top research units in our government. Most of them expressed at the meeting that day that they felt that Notre Dame and its work in the past 25 years has elaborated a tool for research that is perhaps the most exciting tool in biological research that has been developed to date. They are eager in their efforts to use this tool on all sorts of medical and biological and physical problems.

    We also received recently from the Atomic Energy Commission $165,000 as a grant to further our studies in radiation, radiation work in chemistry and biology and physics. I might also add that another of our distinguished professors, Professor Waldemar Gurian, who has been the director of our Committee on International Relations, a committee which works in conjunction with the Rockefeller Institute and Rockefeller Foundation, spent the whole summer in Europe conferring with many government leaders there. And I received some very fine letters from European political officers who thanked us for the fine help and assistance that they received during the summer from Dr. Gurian's counsel.

    We have a few immediate problems at the university that I would like to discuss with you this evening, to try to give you some idea of the type of immediate problem that faces us in the day by day routine of running the university. One such immediate problem is the problem of television. As you know, there were several -- I should not say several, there were actually over 200 channels set aside for educational television in this country.

    After discussing this matter with our Board of Trustees and with a special committee, many members of whom -- which are in this room tonight, we decided that the university would not be able to support a television station run on purely educational auspices with no income. However, they did suggest to us that we try to get a commercial station in South Bend, since two such stations were allocated to the area, and then use whatever profit would come from this station to further the study in the arts of communication and to give our students practical experience in communication arts.

    We have presently before the Federal Communications Commission in Washington an application for such a station. And our basic idea is this: that television will be a tremendous factor in the culture of this country in the years to come. And we want to do all in our power to see that our students are not only given the best in the techniques of television and telecasting, but that they're also given the substance of an education, so they will not only know the techniques of communication, but that they will have something to communicate. And it is our hope that in the years to come if we are allocated this channel and are able to construct this station and operate it, that we'll not only be able to produce some fine educational programming that will be for the good of the country, but we also feel that we will be able to provide to the medium and to the industry some men who are trained in what is perhaps the newest of communicative arts.

    There's another problem that faces us in a rather immediate way and that is the problem of bowl games. During the past year, we have been approached no less than five times with rather fantastic offers to participate in bowl games. This puts a very difficult problem to a university and I think it must be faced honestly and with integrity. The problem briefly is this: we work rather hard at football during the season. We think that we don't have to apologize for being interested in football. We think that if we are going to participate, we want to participate well, and we want to compete with the best wherever they are in this country.

    But we feel that our primary purpose is to give our students an education and I'm very happy to tell you, gentlemen, that in the past 10 years, there has been to my knowledge only one boy of Notre Dame who has gotten a monogram without getting also a diploma. And I think that record is unparalleled in educational institutions in this country. And this is the problem clearly as it faces us when we are asked to participate in a bowl game. There are all sorts of reasons given why we should participate. One obvious reason is great financial emoluments. Sometimes $150,000, $200,000 for a single game, added to the television rights and many other special concessions.

    They say, "You need money, you're an educational institution that has a great deficit every year, so here's the chance to pick up the money you need." And I often quote to them an old saying of Father Cavanaugh's, "Because we need money, we can't go down to South Bend and rob the banks." They talking about something that we are not free to sell. They're talking about the education of our students and our athletes. And we try to be honest with these young men and tell them that at Notre Dame, we offer them only one thing for participating in athletics. And that one thing is the opportunity to get a fine education.

    And we tell them that we don't want them to participate in athletics unless they are actually getting a fine education in recognized and real courses. We tell them to make this very clear that unless they maintain a 77 average which is seven points above passing at Notre Dame, they won't be allowed to participate in any given season. And to make sure there is nothing inadequate about this, we always have the executive vice-president check those marks each semester. And if a boy is below 77, he simply does not play. During this past summer, several of our good players were dropped for reasons of inadequate averages.

    A second thing that is put up is charity. And to this I think we have a rather simple answer. That charity means loving God fundamentally, and God is best loved by doing the things we're supposed to do in life. And what we're supposed to do is educate young men. We're not set up to merely run a football team. That is incidental to the main problem of educating young men. And therefore, we feel that charity for us is in doing what we are supposed to do. And if closing a season with inadequate limits is part of that job, then that is what we are going to do. And we don't care how many side issues come up, how many good causes are proposed to us, we think that there is no sense of doing a lot of charity here and there if we're not doing the charity that is required of us at home.

    Lastly, everyone says, "Well, this will be good public relations." And we think it would be the worst kind of public relations. Because for us, public relations means publicizing something you're proud of. And we would not be proud of publicizing that we are not giving our young men an adequate opportunity to have every possibility of a good education. Now, perhaps this seems foolish in some ways, but I am sure that to all of you gentlemen who know what it is to have a sense of integrity about the job you are doing, you can see the wisdom of doing this job right. Because there's no work in the whole world more important than forming young men to be the citizens upon whom this country will depend tomorrow.

    I would like in conclusion to perhaps highlight this purpose of ours by telling you one short story of one boy who graduated from our university only two or three years ago. This boy was a New York boy and his name was Elmore Smith. He was a good student at the university. He majored in sociology and had the thought that after he was out of school, he might go into some type of social work for the benefit of his fellow men. I think you might say that he was an above-average student. He was a boy of fine character. He was a rather frequent attendant to our religious exercises at school, and he certainly took part in our extracurricular activities.

    He was a boy indeed that gave great promise as a coming young man with a fine future before him. Soon after he was graduated, he was called to service in the past Korean conflict. He went to Quantico and eventually got a commission with the Marine Corps, and was rather immediately assigned to one of the Marine Corps units in Korea. On the way to Korea, he stopped off at South Bend. He came out to the university and visited many of his friends among the priests and lay faculty at the university. And then as he left the last priest on the front porch of the main building, he went down the steps rather quickly, the priest stood there rather wistfully watching him go down the steps.

    And when he got to the bottom of the steps, he suddenly whipped around, and he gave the priest on the top of the steps first a nice clean Marine Corps salute to the priest, and then he stepped back and he gave a second salute to the lady on the dome, Notre Dame, our mother. And then he turned and walked down to the bus station and went off to Korea. And after a rather short career there, he was killed.

    And that is not the end of the story, because several months after that, I received a communication from a lawyer in New York City. And he rather apologized for writing and he said, "I know that you're busy man and this is rather a minute matter to write about. But it happens that there is a will that has come in to my office from a certain Elmore Smith who I believe was a student of yours some years ago." And he said the man didn't leave very much money, it was about $1,200 but he has in his will that he wants that to go to the University of Notre Dame to further the work with young men that he enjoyed so much when he was there.

    And when that money arrived and we thought within ourselves what we might do with it, it gave birth to what I think was a wonderful idea, the idea that this money should be used for something very specifically that would benefit the student body at the university. In other words, a building totally dedicated to all our student activities that lead towards forming leadership in young men and promoting social life. Well, $1,200 isn't very much money but sometimes it's just enough to give you an idea. And so we thought that with the advent of this new science building, we had vacated an old building that was built during the 1880s at Notre Dame, a old building that had served several uses, architecture, law I believe at one time. Science, it was presently a museum. And so we thought perhaps we can make something of this old building if we really tear it down and go to work on it.

    And so we opened up a contest, and we asked our student architects to see what they could do to reconvert this old building into a student center. And they did a marvelous job. And one boy came up with an idea that gave us 8,000 more square feet of space for a dance floor on the second floor. And other boys came up with various novel ideas that we had never thought of and certainly I don't think most architects would have thought of. Because their heart was in it because it was something that they were going to use.

    And so we awarded the prize to the man who provided all the extra space, and the students then went to work to see what they could do about getting some money to furnish it. They raffled off a car. They had a Mardi Gras celebration. They -- the wives of our married students over in Bethel baked cakes and raffled them off. And all told the students raised in the area of $17,000 dollars to help furnish this building. And I told them that the first bit of money that was going to this building was Elmore Smith's $1,200.

    And then the Women's Council at the university got interested and lo and behold, sometimes women are very quick to take a task and do it, they raised $35,000 to help furnish this building. And then our good friend and trustee, Mr. Joseph LaFortune of Tulsa, said that he would take care of the renovation. Well, the result was that within a year of the time this check came from Elmore Smith, then deceased in Korea, the students had a student center that was the dream of their hearts. And already, we have had several large dances, and dozens and dozens of class meetings, and so many private dates that I fear to count them. And a great deal of fun and social life in this building that was all inspired by the thought of this young man who in dying left his money to the university.

    And I have thought myself that there is perhaps no greater benefit we can receive, perhaps no greater encouragement that we can look for, than that our students after they leave think of continuing the work in which they have participated and benefited during their years at Notre Dame. And so tonight, I want to thank all of you and to tell you that you too participate in this work. It would be difficult to list the many direct and indirect benefits that come from a group such as this.

    But I look around the room, I can see so many of you that I have come to on personal and private matters of advice. I see so many of you that have helped us in so many ways that the best I can do tonight is to thank your chairman, Mr. Ben Duffy, the chairman of your executive committee, Mr. Jim Mulvey. We thank all of you from our hearts for all you have done for us, and to hope that if in heaven there is some reward for this type of work, and I'm sure there is, that you will be the participators in it to the fullest extent.

    And now, in closing, I want to present to you a man who is my ideal of what a college president ought to be and I hope that in some small measure I can live up to the wonderful example he gave me during the years I was working with him. Father Cavanaugh was assigned to the university on January the first of last year. And that was the greatest benefit that I received since the beginning of my term as president. When Father Cavanaugh was assigned as director of the Notre Dame Foundation, he wasn't on the job very long when he got an idea which I think is one of the most fruitful ideas that has been presented to an educational institution today. And so in closing, I want to present him to you and to ask him to say just a few words about his work so that he might share his idea with you. Thank you very much.

    Fr. Hesburgh's speech to the Notre Dame President's Committee, New York City, 1953. Fr. John J. Cavanaugh, CSC speaks after Fr. Hesburgh.
  • Olympic Torch

    Fr. Hesburgh carries the Olympic Torch at Notre Dame, January 4, 2002.
  • 50th Anniversary Mass

    Fr. Hesburgh's sermon from the Mass celebrating the 50th anniversary of his ordination to the priesthood, May 6, 1993
  • Laetare Medal

    Fr. Hesburgh receives the Laetare Medal at commencement, May 17, 1987
  • 25th Anniversary of Coeducation

    Fr. Hesburgh talks about coeducation at Notre Dame on the 25th anniversary, 1997.
  • Under the Golden Dome

    Father Hesburgh narrates a film about Notre Dame, "Under the Golden Dome," while he was Executive Vice President in the early 1950s.


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