The Washington Post

Jenny Shank | The Washington Post 


Father Theodore Hesburgh, who died Thursday at 97, was no longer Notre Dame’s president by the time I enrolled in 1994, yet he remained a campus legend, instantly recognizable in his crisp black shirt and clerical collar and with his shock of white hair. I knew he’d done important things — advised six presidents, chaired the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights under Nixon until his policy disagreements got him demoted, and transformed Notre Dame into an academic powerhouse, independent from Rome.

Still, Father Ted remained an abstraction to me until I recognized him at O’Hare airport in 2001. I was 24, waiting for a plane home to Denver. He would have been unmistakable even without his blue and gold Notre Dame bag, bedecked with shamrocks. I introduced myself, and he asked whether the flight attendant could switch my seat to be next to his. He told me he suffered from macular degeneration, was blind in one eye and could barely see out of the other. Despite near-blindness, he was traveling across the country without an assistant.

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 by Daily Domer Staff

Posted In: Features