Father Theodore Hesburgh, president of Notre Dame University, passed away recently. Father Hesburgh was famous for being accessible to most anyone if you saw the lights on in his office on the 3rd floor of the gold-domed administration building. Just walk up, knock on the door and he’d have the time for you whether you were a student, teacher, parent or maintenance man.
In his autobiography, Fr. Hesburgh noted that being a priest meant service. Hesburg was about nothing if not service. Though not an alumnus of Notre Dame, I’ve had enough friends tell me of the many events on campus over the years where Father Ted would never simply say grace or offer a matter-of-fact prayer. He always made his remarks a teaching moment.-usually about the obligations of those who have to those who have not.
What can leaders of nonprofits learn from this? Leaders listen, they’re accessible, they are there when needed. They anticipate needs.
I was reminded of this as I read of the era of the ’60s at Notre Dame and the importance of Father Hesburgh’s personal care and attention to black students who were, especially in those early days, an almost miniscule minority. Everyone I’ve spoken to about this man say that even though his legend may take on heroic proportions, he was, by contrast a common man–a man of the people.
Hopefully, what will live on is the impact in hundreds of thousands of individual lives his service to God and man had.