Dear Friends of AHD,
As I am sure you have heard by now, our beloved Fr. Ted Hesburgh passed away on February 26 at the age of 97.
Over the last 20 years, Fr. Ted’s commitment to AHD never wavered, and he remained as Board Chair until last year. To my knowledge, AHD was the only organization, outside of Notre Dame, that Fr. Ted supported so extensively. He helped in every way, creating an AHD board of advisors second to none. This organization would not have achieved what it did without him.
For me personally, it is not an overstatement at all to say that I would not be the person I am today if it were not for Fr. Ted’s guidance and support. From my first random meeting with him as a college senior, he challenged me to do something different with my life and connected me with an organization called the Working Boys Center in Quito, Ecuador, where I spent two years after college as a volunteer. He had a deep love for Latin America.
Following that life-changing experience, I chose to pursue medicine to return one day to Ecuador. Fr. Ted made it happen. He brought me back to Notre Dame for pre-med, and helped me find financing for my medical studies, monitoring my progress along the way.
Ten years later, as a young doctor running a walk-in clinic in rural Ecuador, I realized that this community needed a real hospital. Sharing the Notre Dame Library story, Fr. Hesburgh told me “to think big and build one.” He gave great advice, but he got to work as well. We formed Andean Health & Development with him as the Chair of the Board and me running things on the ground in Ecuador. Together, we built not one, but two hospitals in Ecuador, and now we are operating a medical residency program that has the potential of transforming health care in Ecuador and beyond. The people of Ecuador insisted that we name our second hospital Hesburgh Hospital in Fr. Ted’s name.
But he paid close attention to the personal side as well. In the early years, he once asked my wife, Elizabeth, how things were going. She said very well, “but our kids and I don’t see my husband very much.” Fr. Ted said, “I’ll take care of that, dear.” He pulled me aside and said very simply but effectively, “David, if I can say mass every day of my life, you can get home by 6pm. Just tell people you have a very important meeting, which you do. It’s with your family.”
He was a global citizen for humanity and a dear friend to me and many others.