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Father Theodore Hesburgh, president of the University of Notre Dame from 1952 to 1987, has died at age 97. Widely acknowledged as the most influential college president of his generation, Hesburgh was also a founding member of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights and served as Vatican representative to the International Atomic Energy Agency for 14 years during the height of the Cold War. He received the Medal of Freedom from President Lyndon Johnson in 1964.

Hesburgh was a pioneer in higher education governance as well. He shifted control of Notre Dame from the Congregation of Holy Cross, a religious order, to a mostly lay board of trustees -- a process described in a 2009 doctoral dissertation at Seton Hall University,

His actions and words in support of academic freedom were sometimes controversial, especially in church circles. “The Catholic university should be a place where all the great questions are asked,” he wrote in his autobiography, “where an exciting conversation is continually in progress, where the mind constantly grows as the values and powers of intelligence and wisdom are cherished and exercised in full freedom.”

More information about Father Hesburgh is available on the University of Notre Dame website.

Many obituaries have already been published. Two that are available online were published in Inside Higher Ed and the New York Times

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