Stamp honors ‘Fr. Ted,’ former University of Notre Dame president

SOUTH BEND, Ind. — A postage stamp honoring Holy Cross Fr. Theodore M. Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame from 1952 to 1987, was issued during a ceremony at the school Sept. 1.

The hourlong event featured several speakers, including Condoleezza Rice, former secretary of state and a 1975 Notre Dame graduate, Postmaster General Megan Brennan and Holy Cross Fr. John I. Jenkins, university president.

Holy Cross Fr. John I. Jenkins, president of the University of Notre Dame, addresses a Sept. 1 ceremony at the school where a new postage stamp honoring Holy Cross Fr. Theodore Hesburgh was issued. Father Hesburgh was president of the university for 35 years. The stamp honors his contributions in education and as an adviser to U.S. presidents on social issues for more than 50 years. (CNS photo | courtesy Barbara Johnston, University of Notre Dame)

Digger Phelps, a former basketball coach at the school who once served on the Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee for the U.S. Postal Service, was master of ceremonies.

The stamp honors Fr. Hesburgh, who was born May 25, 1917, in Syracuse, New York, for his role as an educator and his service as an adviser on civil rights, peaceful uses of atomic energy, immigration reform, campus unrest and development in poor countries to presidents from Dwight Eisenhower to George W. Bush.

Fr. Hesburgh died Feb. 26, 2015, at age 97.

Brennan called Fr. Hesburgh a “champion of social justice, an advocate for international aid and an emissary for peace” as he advised presidents and popes “on the tough issues facing people and government.”

She said it was a privilege for the postal service to commemorate Fr. Hesburgh, who “epitomizes the ideal of service to others, to community and to country.”

Father Jenkins used the Latin word “pontifex,” or bridge builder, in describing Fr. Hesburgh.

“As a priest, Fr. Ted devoted his life to building bridges. Bridges between people who are estranged, bridges between man and woman and God, bridges between nations, bridges between faiths. His lifelong commitment to civil rights was an expression of that calling to be a bridge builder,” Fr. Jenkins explained.

Rice said the ceremony celebrated Fr. Hesburgh’s “transcendence.”

“For more than a century, the United States Postal Service has honored Americans who are transcendent, Americans who transcended the place they were born, the titles that they held, the work that they did,” she said.

“To be part of a timeless transmission of the values that we so admire, the values of faith and justice and belief in equality, and not just to tolerate those who are different, but to really admire and embrace them, that transcendence is also a part of Fr. Hesburgh’s heritage because it is who he was,” Rice said.

The stamp is based on a 1980 photograph of the priest on campus with the school’s iconic Golden Dome in the background.

The 49-cent “forever” stamp comes in two formats: a pane of 20 and a coil of 50. The coil is an experimental format that tests the possibility of issuing stamps in a way to better to meet customer demand.