Todd Leopold | CNN
Father Theodore M. Hesburgh, who led the University of Notre Dame to national academic prominence and became an influential figure in both the spiritual and political worlds, has died. He was 97.
Hesburgh died Thursday. His death was confirmed by a posting on the university's website.
"We mourn today a great man and faithful priest who transformed the University of Notre Dame and touched the lives of many," said the Rev. John I. Jenkins, Notre Dame's current president, in a statement. "With his leadership, charisma and vision, he turned a relatively small Catholic college known for football into one of the nation's great institutions for higher learning. In his historic service to the nation, the Church and the world, he was a steadfast champion for human rights, the cause of peace and care for the poor."
Over the course of a career that spanned more than seven decades -- 35 of them as president of Notre Dame -- Hesburgh ended up at the highest levels of both church and state.