Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C.
Founding Co-Chairman, 1989-2001
The Reverend Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, founding co-chairman of the Knight Foundation Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics in 1989 with William C. Friday, president emeritus of the University of North Carolina. He stepped down from the commission in 2001.
Under Friday’s and Hesburgh’s leadership, the Commission successfully advocated for presidential control of intercollegiate athletics, rigorous academic standards for athletes, and a certification process requiring athletics departments to prove that they were running fiscally responsible, equitable, and ethical sports programs.
Father Hesburgh was named president of Notre Dame in 1952, at the age of 35, and served until 1987. During his tenure, he became one of the pivotal figures in higher education of the 20th century. Furthermore, Father Hesburgh advised presidents, popes, and politicians on issues far beyond academe. In 2000, President Clinton bestowed on him the Congressional Gold Medal, 26 years after President Johnson gave him the Medal of Freedom, the highest civilian honor awarded by the United States government.
He held 16 presidential appointments during his tenure, including terms as charter member and then chairman of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. His work in civil rights includes membership on the board of the Overseas Development Council, on President Ford’s Presidential Clemency Board, and the Selection Commission on Immigration and Refugee Policy. He also chaired the International Federation of Catholic Universities from 1963 to 1970 and was a member of Harvard University’s Board of Overseers.
Pope John Paul II named Father Hesburgh to the Pontifical Council for Culture in 1983, one of a variety of Vatican posts he has held. He has also served as a member of the Holy See’s delegation to the United Nations and as its permanent representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency.
In 2004, he was the inaugural recipient of the National Collegiate Athletic Association’s Gerald R. Ford Award for significant leadership as an advocate for intercollegiate athletics over the course of his career. The following year, he received the Dick Enberg Award for promoting the interests of student-athletes while advocating for the values of education and academics. The award is presented by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).
Father Hesburgh studied at Notre Dame and graduated from the Gregorian University in Rome in 1939 with a bachelor’s degree in philosophy. Ordained a priest of the Congregation of the Holy Cross in 1943, he received his doctorate in sacred theology in 1945 from the Catholic University of America and returned to Notre Dame to teach religion and serve as a chaplain to World War II veterans. He was named executive vice president in 1949 and three years later became Notre Dame’s 15th president.