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placeholder June 12, 2017   •   VOL. 55, NO. 11   •   Oakland, CA

Notre Dame: from left, Bill Joyce and Judge David Krashna.
MICHELE JURICH/THE CATHOLIC VOICE

Notre Dame alums honor Father Hesburgh

West Coast members of the University of Notre Dame family gathered at the Cathedral of Christ the Light in Oakland, about 2,000 miles from the Indiana campus, on May 21 to honor the centennial of the birth of Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, the Holy Cross priest who served as its president for 35 years.

With the first few rows of the cathedral reserved for alumni and friends, among them, two Alameda County Superior Court judges, and toddler children of young alumni. Blue and gold were the colors of the day.

At the beginning of Mass, the Very Rev. James Matthews, rector of the cathedral, welcomed the alumni club, commemorating the 100th anniversary of the man they affectionately call "Father Ted," noting "his vision, his charisma and his leadership" turned a small Catholic college known for football into the renowned institution of higher learning.

Educated at Notre Dame, ordained a priest in 1943, Father Hesburgh joined the faculty in 1945, serving as chaplain to the World War II veterans who came to the university on the GI bill. In June 1952, at the age of 35, he became president of the university.

Of all the accolades he received in his 35-year tenure, Father Matthews noted, "he truly remained a man of faith."

Father Hesburgh, he noted, served a community well beyond the campus. President Dwight Eisenhower appointed him to the U.S. Civil Right Commission, which he chaired from 1969 to 1972. President Richard Nixon fired him from the commission because of the priest's criticism of the Nixon administration's civil rights record.

"Father Ted stood on solid grounds of civil rights," Father Matthews said.

In the 1970s, as president of Notre Dame, Father Hesburgh commissioned two African American students to tour the country to recruit more students of color. One of them, Judge David Krashna, sat in the first pew.

"David gave Father Ted many sleepless nights during their time, Vietnam War and Free Speech Movement," Father Matthews noted.

The fruit of Father Hesburgh's ministry can be seen in its graduates, Father Matthews said, pointing out that they put the education they received at Notre Dame to work in the world.

Father Hesburgh, he said, was faithful to the message of knowing Christ and making Him better known.

"In the course of their lives," Father Matthews said of the graduates, "they are doing the same."

At the end of Mass, Judge Krashna elaborated on Father Hesburgh's legacy. "He wanted to be known first and foremost, as a Roman Catholic priest," he said.

Father Hesburgh held the world's record for honorary degrees — more than 150.

"We can use Father Ted as an example of someone who exemplified the mission to know Christ and make Christ better known," he said. "He gave us an example — each and every one of us in the room has gifts, and to use them."

Michelle Fanton Chan, Class of '84, recalled an encounter with Father Hesburgh when he was university president. "I met him at 2 in the morning, in front of the Dome," she said. She was on her way back from a long night at the computer lab. "He would always stop and talk to you," she said.

She spoke to him again at her 25th reunion, and was photographed with him.

"I used to study in the library on the upper floors," said Stephanie Valkovic, '04, recalled. "I'd see him in the elevator." His office was on the top floor of the Hesburgh Library.

Carol D, Anderson, MBA 2000, said even after Hesburgh's sight was fading, he knew people.

"He remembered everybody," she said. "He would hear your voice."

 
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