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Goodbye, Father Hesburgh. And Thank You


Being one of those often looked-down-upon subway alumni of Notre Dame, I find myself constantly tracking news of the university, whether it’s the highly publicized triumphs and defeats in football, the great and near-great achievements of women’s basketball, the highlights of men’s hockey, or even lacrosse victories. So it was with a particular sadness that I read about the passing of, arguably, the university’s most famous and successful president, Reverend Theodore Hesburgh. Father Hesburgh, besides elevating Notre Dame’s academic reputation, championed (“champion” being used here in its truest sense) the rights of the poor and mistreated, as well as world peace. He was an advisor to six presidents and served on sixteen presidential commissions. He was even fired by Richard Nixon, a fact, I think, that helps to cement each of their respective historical standings.

“Father Ted” (hey, I’m just about entitled to be so familiar, having spent 12 years in parochial school and eventually graduating from Fordham – that “other” Jesuit university) even had an impact on Notre Dame’s financial position, raising the endowment from $9M in 1952 – when he first took office – to $6B today. Financially adept, in tune with each and every major social issue of his day, Father Ted was someone to admire, and even aspire to be. He once wrote,

“My basic principle is that you don’t make decisions because they are easy; you don’t make them because they are cheap; you don’t make them because they’re popular; you make them because they’re right.”

A lesson primarily aimed at morality? Agreed. But I think, whether intended or not, it can also be aptly applied to business decisions. Too often, a corporate decision to invest, acquire, expand, is based on what is easiest, cheapest, or most popular. It may be based on internal political maneuvering, or the efforts of external parties with self-serving influences. More often than not, the easy, cheap, and popular decisions cost more in the long run.

For more information on the life of Father Hesburgh, you can visit the page on the Notre Dame web site.