As the University and the Notre Dame family from around the world gathers in South Bend this week to honor, celebrate and reflect upon the life of Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, we are reminded of a man who lived a great life and made a great impact, all while remaining true to his main goal in life: to be a great priest. We all have our stories of Father Ted. These are mine.

The second time I met Father Hesburgh was at a Notre Dame women’s basketball game on December 8, 2012. I remember the date exactly because December 8 is the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. I remember the year because we were celebrating 40 years of women’s athletics at Notre Dame (as an extension of 40 years of Title IX). I thought this was perfectly appropriate and fitting.

Father Ted was a champion of civil rights. He was also a champion of women’s rights. He made the unpopular decision to admit women to Notre Dame. In a video we showed at the basketball game that day (see below), Fr. Ted says of the decision, “Women are becoming more importing in the world, as they should….we’re the greatest Catholic University that ever existed and women should not be kept from having that experience.”

Most people know that outside of my family, my greatest accomplishment and sense of pride stems from being a Notre Dame student-athlete. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to have gone to Notre Dame and to swim for the Fighting Irish.

Today, as we say goodbye, we once again say, “Thank you Fr. Ted.”

Thank you Fr. Ted