With the Feb. 26 passing of the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., president emeritus of the University of Notre Dame, it is fitting that to remember the time that he visited the Culver Academies campus – and the time he asked not to.
Nearly 25 years ago Father Hesburgh gave the Baccalaureate address to the Class of 1990. Superintendent Ralph N. Manuel presented Father Hesburgh with the Culver Distinguished Service Award for his role “as not only one of the most outstanding citizens of the United States, but one of the most outstanding citizens of the world.”
During his address, Hesburgh talked about the two C’s: compassion and commitment.
“There’s a big difference between these two words,” he said. “Compassion is to suffer with someone; commitment is to do something about that suffering. And compassion isn’t worth a hoot unless you’re committed to doing something (about injustice).”
Hesburgh cited Mother Teresa and Dr. Tom Dooley as people exemplifying compassion and commitment. He visited Mother Teresa’s mission in Calcutta, and he prayed at Dooley’s death bed.
He also challenged the graduates to become involved, no matter where they go:
“You can’t go anywhere in this bleeding world without finding someone who needs you. God knows, when you look at the world today, there are 40,000 people – mainly babies – who die every day due to lack of food: a Hiroshima every other day.
“There are one billion people – that is, one-fifth of humanity – who go to bed hungry every night. There are one billion people who can’t read or write.
“Twenty percent of the world’s population has 80 percent of the goodies: education, health, housing, jobs. It’s not enough to say I’m sorry; you got to something about it,” he concluded.
Father Hesburgh also served on the first board of advisers of Culver Academies’ Global Studies Institute, giving the program instant credibility.
GSI founder and instructor Harry Frick said he paid a visit to Hesburgh in his office atop the library named for him. When Frick asked if he could list Hesburgh as an adviser, Father Hesburgh agreed with one stipulation.
His only condition was “that we never ask him to attend a meeting,” Frick said. His stipulation was readily accepted. As part of the Global Studies Institute, Culver and Notre Dame have shared guest lecturers, Notre Dame professors have spoken at the Academies, and GSI students have also attended lectures at the university, most notably meeting Bishop Desmond Tutu in 2003.
Baccalaureate remarks and photo came from the July 1990 Culver Alumnus Magazine.