By Rear Adm. Mat Winter
Chief of Naval Research
As the current senior active-duty Navy flag officer from the University of Notre Dame, I would like to take a moment of your time to share with you a few thoughts about a man that truly made a difference; a difference in my life and in the lives of literally millions of people around the world. Today, we share in a solemn remembrance across our Notre Dame and Naval family of
Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C, the longest serving president of the University of Notre Dame, who passed away peacefully Thursday night after 97 years of celebrated life.
I can state without hesitation that my four collegiate years under Notre Dame’s Golden Dome provided me the education, relationships and moral character development that has guided my military service path for three decades. Influenced by Father Hesburgh, the sincerity of our priests, brothers, seminaries, lay people and University professors, teachers, staff and students remain an enduring memory for me. Men and women committed to serving others and setting an example of “service above self.” The same cultural beacon that we find across our Naval service and within all our Sailors and Marines.
Father Hesburgh will long be remembered for “service above self” with his championing of the Civil Rights movement, serving on the Civil Rights Commission, walking arm-in-arm with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and personally breaking the barriers of apartheid in America. Yes, Father Hesburgh made a difference on a very large scale. He also made a difference right here at home with the thousands of Notre Dame students he taught, mentored, guided and led. He was no less committed to our Notre Dame/Naval family as well. I experienced first-hand his admiration and support for our military communities. Father Hesburgh and our entire Notre Dame community has never forgotten, nor will we, the commitment from the U.S. Navy in the mid-1940s that saved the University enrollments by establishing a dedicated Naval Science and Training Center allowing the University to continue to operate and regain its academic footing. Father Hesburgh’s visionary leadership leveraged that strong relationship in transforming the University during his tenure as president, 1952-1987, to the premier academic research institution of today…that, my friends, is making a difference
For his “service above self” and commitment to our great Navy, he was made an honorary Navy chaplain in April 2013 on the occasion of the 70th anniversary of his ordination. My fellow Sailors and Marines, Father Hesburgh was truly an amazing man, teacher, friend and spiritual leader. Though you might not have known him personally, I can assure you that we are all better men and women from his dedicated life to making a difference. May he fly with the angels and rest with God.