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Leadership: Leaders, Followers, Environments by Art Padilla

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Introduction

When Father Theodore (Ted) Hesburgh became president of the University of Notre Dame in 1952, one month after his 35th birthday, he already had a clear vision about his objectives. He was determined to turn Notre Dame’s image around, from a Knute Rockne “win one for the Gipper” football school to one of the leading research universities in the world. At his first off-campus press conference as president, he was asked to pose with a football for photographers. “Would you ask the president of Yale to do that?” he asked sharply.1 Father Ted refused to pose with the football.

Hesburgh understood that substance was important but that image mattered, too. Even as a very young president, he somehow knew that as soon as he became the leader, people would look at him differently. He crafted and refined his message, or vision, for the university and began to communicate it and to sell it relentlessly. Over the next three decades, he and his associates transformed the “football factory” into a distinguished American research university, albeit one with a continuing football tradition. Father Hesburgh invariably would point out to visitors that the university’s library (the one with the famous Touchdown Jesus mosaic—now named the Hesburgh Library) cost more than the football stadium. In the process of turning Notre Dame into a major academic institution, Father Hesburgh himself became a major force in higher education: the first university person awarded the Congressional Gold ...

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