Slice of Life

Syracuse native Rev. Theodore Hesburgh commemorated on stamp

Courtesy of Roy Betts

Rev. Theodore Hesburgh's Forever stamp honors the Syracuse native 100 years after he was born in the city.

The Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh of Syracuse was featured on the cover on TIME magazine for the week of Feb. 9, 1962. Now, 55 years later the Syracuse native is being honored again — on a United States Postal Service Forever stamp for his lifelong accomplishments.

“Father Hesburgh was considered one of the most important academic, religious and civic leaders of the 20th Century,” said Roy Betts, USPS representative. “This is why we are honoring Father Hesburgh on this Forever Stamp. It is one of the nation’s highest honors.”

The Forever stamps, sold in post offices across the nation or online for 49 cents each, are commemorative stamps typically issued twice a month.

Born in Syracuse in 1917, Hesburgh lived on 609 Charmouth Drive and began his education at Most Holy Rosary High School. He was ordained into the priesthood of the Congregation of Holy Cross in 1943 at the age of 25.

Father Hesburgh joined the University of Notre Dame faculty two years later, which led him to take the position of Notre Dame’s 15th president in 1952 that he would carry out for 35 years.

Throughout his lifetime, Hesburgh worked with various reform organizations such as the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, the National Science Board, the Overseas Development Council and the Select Committee on Immigration and Refugee Policy.

“This stamp is a lasting testament to his pioneering contributions as a champion of social justice, an advocate for international aid and an emissary for peace,” said Postmaster General and CEO Megan J. Brennan during a dedication ceremony on the campus of Notre Dame.

After being appointed to the United States Commission on Civil Rights in 1957, Hesburgh gathered reports on racial discrimination and denial of voting rights. His hard work led to the Civil Rights Act of 1964 that started the improvement in the quality of life for minority groups in America.

Hesburgh served popes and U.S. presidents — going on to receive 16 presidential appointments — and in 2000, he was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal.

People send in thousands of suggested subjects of Forever stamps to USPS every year, Betts said, and USPS’s Citizens’ Stamp Advisory Committee review the suggestions and narrow them down to a group of 20 to 25 subjects each year to submit to the postmaster general.

The subjects of this year’s Forever stamps include President John F. Kennedy, the eclipse of the sun and Henry David Thoreau.

“Father Hesburgh has great popularity both nationally and internationally, so the idea comes from the public through that process,” Betts said.

Although he died in 2015 at the age of 97, his legacy lives on at Notre Dame, in American history and as an international activist.

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