The Law School Remembers Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C.

Author: Susan Good

Fr. Hesburgh reflects upon his founding of CCHR at Notre Dame Law School in 1973.

For more information about Fr. Hesburgh, go to

Share a memory about Fr. Hesburgh by completing the form below. Upon review, we will enjoy sharing these stories on the The Law School Remembers Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., web page.

Remembering Fr. Hesburgh

Once when driving him home to Holy Cross House after we had dinner at Sorin’s Fr. Ted gave me a “drive-by” blessing at the Grotto. He instructed me to park in front of the Grotto (by that time he had lost most of his sight) and said a lovely prayer to our Lady and a blessing for me. Then, off we went to Holy Cross house.
Nell Jessup Newton
Joseph A. Matson Dean and Professor of Law

Father Theodore M. Hesburgh played an important role in every part of my life. When my natural father died in 1956, my sophomore year at the University of Notre Dame, Father Ted volunteered to become my surrogate father. He has been my active surrogate father for almost three times as long as my natural father cared for me. When he appointed me as Dean, Fr. Ted became not only a colleague but a principle adviser. When I was chosen to serve as the president of the University of Notre Dame Australia, he taught me what it meant to be the president of a Catholic university. I was able to follow his advice to achieve a high level of success for that university. When I was discerning, and eventually ministering, as a priest, he became an even more valuable mentor. Father Ted is a great man, a great friend and a great priest who in his time served God. He paves the road from success to significance for generations of Notre Dame alumni.
Fr. Dave Link, a.k.a. Dean Link

BEN MAMMINA, N.D. FINEST 44…………………….

Father Hesburgh’s life has been publicly celebrated by many important people. It is also privately celebrated by those of us who are important to only a very few.

On three of the most significant times of my life Father Hesburgh was kind to me.

The first was in 1965 during my initial week at Notre Dame. At a reception for new faculty and their wives, yes there were only wives, Father Ted shook my hand and asked about my family. I said we had two daughters. Later that week, my husband Tom Swartz, and I saw Father at a picnic for students, “How are the girls?” he asked.

A decade passed and in 1975 I was graduated from the Law School. Our five girls were there. At the end of the ceremony as the dignitaries were walking down the aisle, Father stopped when he came to me, gave me a warm hug and kiss, and asked whether I had heard the girls cheering.

In 1991, we saw Father Ted at OHare. By then, our five girls were young women, I was part of the judiciary, and Tom and I had been divorced for seven years – we were reconciling, returning together from a trip. We chatted with Father as we waited for the plane. I excused my self; in my absence, Father Ted asked Tom, “How come you’re traveling with the judge?” After the plane landed we asked Father for his blessing. “Oh, he said, you’re too late. I already gave it to you.”

Father Hesburgh treated the very important and those important to only a few as important to him. It was his genius. I am grateful. – Jeanne Jourdan

I was fortunate enough to know Father Hesburgh from when I was a boy. My grandmother died of ovarian cancer in January of 1965 and her funeral mass was at Notre Dame. Father Hesburgh presided at her funeral. One thing I remember was how cold it was especially at the cemetery. Father Hesburgh consoled my grandfather who lost his wife when she was only 61 years old.

My best Father Hesburgh remembrance is as follows: Notre Dame had just been voted National Champion after beating Alabama by one point in the Sugar Bowl on New Year’s Eve of 1974. When I returned to Notre Dame from Las Vegas in January of 1974 my flight was from Las Vegas to Chicago O’Hare with a connecting flight to South Bend. While at O’Hare with other returning students Father Hesburgh showed up as he was on the same flight to South Bend. We students all gathered around him and he asked how our Christmas breaks had gone and then what classes we would be taking in the spring semester. He then asked us if any of us had gone to the Sugar Bowl and none of us had. He then told us that he had gone and then stated words to this effect: “They say that we have a pretty good quarterback, what is his name?” Someone said “Tom Clements.” Then Father Hesburgh went to talk to some other people on the flight. We were a little perplexed that Father Hesburgh didn’t know the name of the Notre Dame quarterback, especially because Clements had carried the team on his shoulders and preserved the win by completing a long pass on third down and 8 on his own two-yard line.

Now fast forward to January of 1978: Notre Dame had just been voted National Champion by beating Texas in the Cotton Bowl. Again I flew to Chicago O’Hare with a connecting flight to South Bend. Again Father Hesburgh was on the same flight. As we waited to board — just as he had done four years earlier — he asked we students about what we had done on Christmas break and what classes we were going to take in the spring semester. Then he asked if any of us had gone to the Cotton Bowl. One of the students had. Then Father Hesburgh asked, "They say we have a pretty good quarterback; what is his name?” Someone said “Joe Montana.” It then struck me what Father Hesburgh’s real message was: The quarterback of Notre Dame was not what was most important to him, but rather our families over Christmas break and our classes in the upcoming semester.

Father Hesburgh was very close to my family. His first big development success was working with my grandparents on the Hammes Bookstore. Father Hesburgh was a close friend of Sargent Shriver, President Kennedy’s brother-in-law. Father Hesburgh was instrumental in working on the blueprint for the Peace Corps. The two of them used my grandparents’ house on Diamond Lake, which is just over the Michigan border, to have quiet study time to put things together.

Father Hesburgh used his contacts with the Ford Foundation to assist my father in establishing the public defender system in the entire state of Nevada. They secured a grant to provide the seed money to get the program off the ground and running. Richard Bryan was the first public defender who later became governor and U.S. Senator from Nevada.

Father Hesburgh touched countless lives in many ways. What I have told people who ask me about Father Hesburgh is that not only was he a member of the Greatest Generation but that he was the Greatest Priest of the Greatest Generation.

Jerry H. Mowbray, ’75 BA, ’78 JD

My first visit to the Notre Dame campus was for a few days in early August of 1971, in preparation for entering the Law School later that month. I went first—of course—to the Golden Dome, and simply walked around inside the building. Because it was early August, I suspect, there seemed to be no one there, and I made my way to the top floor where I encountered the immediately recognizable Fr. Hesburgh walking the hallway. He was, literally, the very first person I ever met on the Notre Dame campus! I introduced myself, and as Fr. Hesburgh had recently received an honorary degree from my college alma mater and knew personally the Newman chaplain there, we had a very convivial conversation. What a way to begin my Notre Dame experience!
When I subsequently went over to the Law School I met the unforgettable professor Jack “Chief” Broderick. When I told him I had just met Fr. Hesburgh, he replied with his inimitable sense of humor: “What! The last time I saw him was five years ago, and that was on television!”
As it happened, I never met with Fr. Hesburgh in person again.
Noel J. Augustyn, ’74 JD

Fr. Ted had an ENORMOUS impact on my life, hiring my father in New York from being a CBS Executive to being a co-founder of WNDU-TV & Radio when I was 8 years old. My life would never be without Fr. Ted in it one way or another until a few days ago.
Dad and Fr. Ted smoked the same kind of cigar from Havana, Cuba. I think they both supplied each other with them. You could always tell where either one of them was but when they were together, it was almost insufferable.
When Fr. Ted promoted the acceptance of students from Latin America to come to Notre Dame, most of them came from prominent or wealthy families.There was no financial aid for foreign students of course. So, Fr. Ted asked my father if he would finance and provide room and board to two poor, but brilliant Ecuadorian boys for them to get an excellent education at Notre Dame. He said yes of course. One eventually became Minister of Public Works in Ecuador.
My social life changed dramatically with that and I married one of those 100 students who arrived in 1965. From which came my passion for Latin American politics, human rights, Spanish, international law, and justice.
I remember through Fr. Ted, that Notre Dame became the language preparatory location for the original Peace Corp volunteers during the summer months and they got to come here free.
There are many more stories but these experiences have impacted who I am today. For this Fr. Ted, I am VERY grateful.
Susan Hamilton, Staff, Notre Dame Law Library.

I took my Civil Rights Law students to meet Fr. Ted each year. He regaled them with stories of his time on the Civil Rights Commission. It was a profound thing for these students to meet one of the principal architects of our modern civil rights laws. Fr. Ted brought our legal theory to life and tied our legal studies to truths about human dignity. I — and they — will be forever grateful.
Jen Mason McAward, Associate Professor of Law

My special memory of Fr. Ted occurred in early April 1972. I was teaching at St. Joe High and I was a few months pregnant with my son. St. Joe hadn’t distributed the notices that your contract wasn’t renewed by the deadline of March 1. Then the first week of April, the teachers at St. Joe came in on a Monday morning to find their contracts for the following year in their mail boxes. But I got a letter which stated my contract was going before the Diocesan School Board because I was pregnant and it was not going to be renewed.
After school ended, I raced over to campus to tell Jim what happened and that I was losing our medical insurance. After parking illegally in the Morris Inn parking lot, I cut across the drive heading for the Law School. Who should walk out of the Morris Inn just then but Fr. Ted. I went up to him and said “Father, I’m a wife of one of your 3rd year law students and guess what the Bishop just did.” After telling him my story, he looked at me and said “The Bishop can’t do that! You tell him the Chairman of the President’s Commission on Civil Rights said it is illegal! Go tell Dave Link I said to appoint a law prof to represent you before the Diocesan School Board.” Dave appointed Frank Beytagh, my Admin Law prof and former Assistant U.S. Solicitor General, as my lawyer. When the Superintendent heard that Fr. Ted had taken a personal interest, I got my contract for the following Fall and the baby was paid for!
Eileen McAssey Groves, ’82 JD

Most people do not know what a phenomenal memory Father Ted had. When I was a Freshman at ND and spending my first evening at Farley Hall, Father Ted came into my room, spoke to me for a few minutes, and welcomed me to ND. Two years later, while taking my date to the bus stop for her return to Saint Mary’s around midnight, we walked behind the Admin Building Building.
There was Father Hesburgh going to work. He stopped and turned to me and said to me " Hi Dan. How is everything in Farley Hall" I was flabbergasted. What a Great Man!
Dan Burke, ’73 BA

Most people do not know what a phenomenal memory Father Ted had. When I was a Freshman at ND and spending my first evening at Farley Hall, Father Ted came into my room, spoke to me for a few minutes, and welcomed me to ND. Two years later, while taking my date to the bus stop for her return to Saint Mary’s around midnight, we walked behind the Admin Building Building.
There was Father Hesburgh going to work. He stopped and turned to me and said to me " Hi Dan. How is everything in Farley Hall" I was flabbergasted. What a Great Man!
Dan Burke, ’73 BA

I will forever remember the The Great Books Seminars that Father Hesburgh conducted in the Law School in 1952—his first year as President.
LeRoy C. Brown, ’51 BSC ’52 JD

While going through ND Law School I worked on campus delivering supplies from the warehouse to the offices and Father Ted was always gracious and inviting when I would deliver packages to his office. I was also a security guard at the main gate on weekends and he would stop his car and come into the gatehouse to chat. A remarkable human being!
Phil Newton ’74 M.A.; ’78 JD; ’79 M.Th.

As a 1st-year law student, who had grown up with the legend of Notre Dame and Father Hesburgh, I was amazed to find him one Sunday evening giving mass to the law students in the basement of the school. There he was, bigger than life, and at the same time so human, humble and accessible to everyone. Kipling once extolled if you could walk with kings and not lose the common touch, you would achieve the ideal of becoming a "man.” No one has personified this ideal more than Father Ted. We have lost a great man, one for the ages. We will all dearly miss him. Que descansa en paz.

I will never forget meeting Fr. Hesburgh at the Center for Civil Rights where I worked as a law student. Having helped prepare some Congressional testimony for him, he graciously thanked me and talked to me and me and my wife about our plans for after graduation. Fr. Hesburgh was not only a great man, he was a kind man.
John Bannon, ’76 JD

As I was reading one of my casebooks on the 13th floor of Hesburgh Library, Fr. Hesburgh walked up and asked me if I wouldn’t mind reading something to him. I agreed, thinking that he was having a hard time with some particularly small print. I followed him into his office, where he directed me to sit in a chair across from his desk. Fr. Hesburgh handed me a book about a pilot during World War II, and asked me to start reading. I read aloud as he listened. We read for hours. At various points, he told me to stop, only so that he could tell me a story about one of the individuals then mentioned in the book. When we would come across a Notre Dame alumnus in the book, he would always describe that person as “one of us,” and tell me a story about the individual. At one point he motioned me over to one of his windows, and we looked across the campus as he talked about it. He talked about what he was proud of, and about his vision for the future of the University. We read and we talked, and we read some more.

Once evening came, he apologized that he had to leave for a scheduled dinner with alumni…as if any apology was necessary. It was such a privilege and honor to spend the time with him. Though he invited me back at any time I wished, I never went back. The moment was too precious. We spoke only once after that, in passing, as I made my way up to the library while he was leaving one day. That afternoon left a lasting impression; it was truly a blessing.

Jeremy Kennedy Thornton, ‘10 JD
Deputy Public Defender, San Diego County

Fr. Ted’s memory always astounded me. I met him the first time when I was a senior. I was introduced to him at a reception in the Morris Inn. Three years later I was back on campus visiting while in graduate school in Galveston. I ran into him leaving the Dome at midnight. He greeted me by name. When I told him I had met a friend of his the University of Texas Med. Branch in Galveston, his retort was, “And how is Truman?” exactly identifying the person to whom I was referring.

I will always remember the famed “scooter ride” celebrating the joint retirements of Fr. Hesburgh and Fr. Joyce in 1987!

On a beautiful day in the spring of 1972 I was in my first year of Law School and studying on the grass outside the school when Father Hesburgh approached me and sat down on the grass to visit. He asked many questions about my interests, my background, my thoughts about Notre Dame and the kind of educational and emotional support available at the Dome. I was truly surprised and amazed with his humanity, interest in others and his intellect.

When I took Professor Jennifer Mason’s Civil Rights Law class, we took one heck of a field trip — we went to Father Hesburgh’s office on the 13th floor of the Hesburgh Library. He went around the room and asked everyone to introduce him or herself individually — and chatted with me a bit in Italian when I told him my very Italian-sounding last name! We spent an unforgettable afternoon hearing his stories about his years on the Civil Rights Commission — an amazing eyewitness account of some of the same material we were studying in Professor Mason’s class. What a wonderful memory, and what a wonderful man.

Father Hesburgh stood next to me at the welcome reception for first-year law students on Labor Day 1974 and I’ve carried his comments with me to this day. He reminded us that Notre Dame lawyers are different, that we should view ourselves as lawyers at that moment and never tolerate mediocrity from ourselves. Father Hesburgh was one of the core reasons I chose to attend Notre Dame and his performance throughout his life validated my respect for his legacy.

I arrived Notre Dame as a JSD student in August 2002 along with other students at the CCHR, and one evening, Father Ted attended a brief function with us. I was overwhelmed as the frail-looking old man took turns to shake our hands one by one and to ask about our countries. You know what? The old monk had one story to share about every country represented that evening. It was amazing. Eternal rest grant him, O Lord, and let Thy perpetual light shine upon him! Adieu!!

A few months before the 1984 ND Law Class graduated, Father Hesburgh welcomed back the priest who was part of the Chicago 7 protesting the Vietnam War. As best I can remember, there were no speeches or such; Father Hesburgh simply allowed him to serve Mass in Sacred Heart Church on campus. I was lucky enough to have a seat close to the front and attend Mass. I often wonder how this Priest finished up his calling. If you know, please share.
Larry Sirhall, ‘84 JD

I graduated from ND Law School in 1954. I believe it was in my senior year that several of us were invited to a discussion group with Fr. Hesburgh. As I recall these meetings occurred from time to time. They were enlightening meetings. I now feel very lucky to have had these opportunities to talk with Fr. Hesburgh in a classroom setting. I learned what an exceptional man he was.
Stanley R. Herrlinger, ’54 JD

On a beautiful day in the spring of 1972 I was in my first year of Law School and studying on the grass outside the school when Father Hesburgh approached me and sat down on the grass to visit. He asked many questions about my interests, my background, my thoughts about Notre Dame and the kind of educational and emotional support available at the Dome. I was truly surprised and amazed with his humanity, interest in others and his intellect.

My fondest and strongest memory of Father Ted is the strength and power of his memory. His memory bank rivals my 5TB external hard drive except Father Ted also had equal amounts of passion and wisdom. In 1972 he considered running for the President of the USA. I was a student assistants of the Center for Civil and Human Rights and along with my colleagues, Millard Arnold and The Honorable Ann Jones, we serviced the information needs of Father Ted and his close advisors (Grace Olivarez, William May, Earl Graves, Marion Wright Edelman, Howard Glickstein, William Taylor and others) as they deliberated over a weekend the feasibility of Father Ted running for President. Wow!
Clark Arrington ‘74 JD

Fr. Ted and Fr. Joyce on motor scooters rolling through campus is unforgettable. These real men still being boys relayed a real connection to many of us young men still being boys ourselves. Thanks for the wave and smile Fr. Hesburgh. Keep smiling on us and waving.
James M. Niemann, ’90 BA

I was privileged to be both an undergrad and law student while Fr. Ted was President so he signed both of my diplomas. My graduation from Law School had Jimmy Carter as the commencement speaker in large part due to the close relationship between the President and Fr. Ted, which existed from that date until Fr. Ted’s passing.

On a personal level, I have had the privilege of attending Mass in his private chapel many times. When I was President of the Alumni Association I picked up Fr. Ted at his office with my wife Mary Pat and we took him to the Eck Center for an alumni event there, and then dropped him off at Holy Cross House afterwards. On our way to Holy Cross House we passed the Grotto and he asked if we could stop and say a prayer to the Blessed Mother. He needed to stay in the car as we prayed, but it was the most moving experience my wife and I have ever had.

Richard A. Nussbaum, II ’74 BA, ’77 JD
Sopko, Nussbaum, Inabnit & Kaczmarek

His reception in Heaven gives new and real meaning to the Victory March!
Tom Curtin ’68 JD

I met Father Hesburgh for the first time on my freshman orientation weekend, running back from the golf course in the pouring rain. A small car pulled over and the driver asked if I wanted a ride. I said “sure” and jumped in, only to see that it was Father Hesburgh. He was so kind and friendly as I got his front seat soaking wet.
Jared des Rosiers ’89 BS, ’92 JD