Hesburgh's birthday honor planned

Book to highlight women graduates.

Article published Nov 29, 2006

Tribune Staff Report

SOUTH BEND -- University of Notre Dame women graduates, your help is needed.

Some Notre Dame alumnae are collecting letters of thanks and reminiscences about co-education at the university and how women's lives have been changed by the opportunity to attend the university.

The book will be published in 2007, to coincide with the 90th birthday of the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh and the 35th anniversary of co-education at Notre Dame.

The book project was launched last spring after an alumnae luncheon in Chicago to honor Hesburgh, Notre Dame's president from 1952 to 1987, and to thank him for the 1972 decision to begin admitting women undergraduates.

At the lunch, Hesburgh was given 350 letters of thanks and memories from women graduates describing the impact Notre Dame has had on their lives. The organizers have decided to publish a book of such letters and are seeking additional submissions.The group has a Web site: www.thankingfatherted.com. Letters and photos can be submitted through the Web site. The deadline for submissions is Dec. 18.

In order to contribute a letter or photo for publication, the writer must sign a publication release form. The forms also are available on the Web site.

Hesburgh, who will turn 90 on May 25, 2007, knows about and is agreeable to the book project.

At the luncheon last spring, Hesburgh said there were two decisions he was most proud of during his presidency: transferring governance of the university to a board of lay trustees and admitting women.

"It does my heart good. The experiment was right," Hesburgh said about the decision to admit women. "I think we are a much healthier place today. We certainly are a more intellectual place today," he said.Profits from the book will fund a scholarship in Hesburgh's name.

The book organizers said they realized women students today have no idea what it was like to be a pioneer of co-education. So they are asking writers to include eyewitness accounts of what it was like to be one of the early women students on campus.

For more information: www.thankingfatherted.com.