Walter R. Collins '51 | May 24, 2017
Before he was president of Notre Dame, before he appeared on the cover of Time magazine, before The Nation named him “the most inﬂuential cleric in America,” before he was chair of the U.S Civil Rights Commission or served as the Vatican’s representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency, before he became a conﬁdant of presidents and a familiar of popes — before all that, he was a boy growing up in Syracuse, New York, who built model airplanes and crystal-radio sets, joined the Boy Scouts, played baseball in neighborhood pickup games, did well in his classes at Most Holy Rosary parish school, and was once suspended for playing hooky on the ﬁrst day of pheasant season.
Born May 25, 1917, he was christened Theodore Martin Hesburgh, but mostly he was known as Ted. The second of ﬁve children, he had one older and two younger sisters, and about the time he was ready to give up on praying for a brother, he got one — just as he was preparing to leave home for the seminary. His parents, Theodore Bernard and Anne Marie Hesburgh, endowed him with a mixture of German and French heritage, with a touch of Irish through his mother’s side.
Young Ted with his older sister Mary Monica and younger sister Betty.
Something else he inherited from his mother was a keen sense of social justice. One day he came home from school to ﬁnd her comforting a sobbing neighbor. Later his mother explained that she was Jewish in a neighborhood antagonistic to Jews and blacks.