The U.S. Institute of Peace (USIP) mourns the loss of Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., better known as “Father Ted.” Father Ted served as president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame and as a member of the Board of Directors of the United States Institute of Peace from 1991 - 2000. Father Ted dedicated his life to education, justice, civil rights and peace at home and abroad.
“Father Ted’s life and work have inspired so many of us. His contributions to peace and human rights made our country, and our world, a better place. His optimistic vision for the world and of humanity, and his determination for justice live on in the work of the United States Institute of Peace. We are forever grateful for his vision, his passion and his support,” said USIP President Nancy Lindborg.
“Throughout his life Father Ted championed the cause of peace, and even as he accomplished so much he was always filled with grace and humility. This is a mark of a great leader and noble person,” said USIP Chairman Stephen J. Hadley.
If religious persons are committed profoundly to one simple reality all around the world, it must be peace. . . . And without justice, especially to the poor, the homeless and the hopeless, there will be no peace,”
Father Ted Hesburgh
Address at the Lincoln Memorial, 1979
Father Ted became president of the University of Notre Dame when he was 35 years old, serving from 1952 to 1987, the longest serving president of the University to date. Hesburgh founded the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies at Notre Dame with philanthropist Joan Kroc, wife of the late founder of McDonald’s Corp.
“Father Ted was a master at convening people of opposing views and finding common ground. He did this with civil rights, with Soviet, Chinese and U.S. scientists, and through his ecumenical center at Tantur. His commitment to how research and training must reinforce one other invigorated many institutions, including USIP.” George A. Lopez, USIP’s vice president of the Academy for International Conflict Management for and Peacebuilding and Hesburgh Chair in Peace Studies Emeritus, University of Notre Dame.
In awarding Father Ted the Medal of Freedom in 1964 for his role in the civil rights movement, President Lyndon Johnson praised Hesburgh, saying how "he has inspired a generation of students and given of his wisdom in the struggle for the rights of man." President Dwight Eisenhower had appointed Hesburgh to the Civil Rights Commission upon its inception in 1957, and he became chair in 1969.
Father Ted served both on the Board of Directors of USIP, a presidentially appointed position, and also as co-chairman of the USIP Building Campaign. At the groundbreaking ceremony, Hesburgh said, “Amidst all these reliquaries of wars, we are going to commit a temple of peace.”
A hall was named in honor of Father Hesburgh to house the Institute's Religion and Peacemaking Center.
Hesburgh held 16 presidential appointments, including the USIP board and the United States Civil Rights Commission, and received more than 150 honorary degrees, the most ever awarded to one person.
In addition to the Medal of Freedom, Hesburgh received numerous other distinctions, including the Gerald R. Ford Award for leadership in intercollegiate athletics by the NCAA in 2004 and the Congressional Gold Medal in 2000.
He was the first priest to be elected to the board of Overseers at Harvard University, and in 1994, became president of the Harvard Board.
Father Hesburgh frequently found himself the first Catholic priest to serve in such national positions, and he was the first priest to serve in a formal diplomatic role for the U.S. government when he was named ambassador to the 1979 U.N. Conference on Science and Technology for Development.