Alumni Association Launches Hesburgh Service Initiative

During his time as Notre Dame’s president, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., was a civil rights champion, an advocate for justice and world peace, and a friend to the poor and downtrodden. The Notre Dame Alumni Association now is inviting alumni, parents, and friends to honor the University president emeritus by partaking in service projects that align with his leadership, ministry, and vision. 

The Hesburgh Service Initiative is a collaborative Notre Dame movement to stand as a force for good in the world. Alumni, parents, and friends are encouraged to explore service opportunities offered through their local Notre Dame clubs and initiate their own means for improving the lives of others. 

“Through his own example, Father Ted has shown us the importance of offering support and comfort to the less fortunate,” says Dolly Duffy ’84, the executive director of the Alumni Association. “By performing service in his name in communities across the country and around the world, the Notre Dame family can honor his historic legacy and live out his vision and beliefs.”

The Hesburgh Service Initiative represents an evolution of the Alumni Association’s previous service program honoring the former president, the Hesburgh Month of Service. In recognition of the fact that Notre Dame clubs, alumni, parents, and friends give back all year round, the Alumni Association is expanding the opportunity to honor Father Hesburgh beyond just the month of May. 

Each January, the Alumni Association will announce a theme for the year that’s rooted in Father Hesburgh’s ministry. The theme establishes a lens with which to approach and design service initiatives.The Alumni Association also will make available resources to help alumni, parents, and friends better understand the issues surrounding the topic and inform their service.  

“The Hesburgh Service Initiative will emphasize the systemic issues which create the need for service through the inclusion of a strong educational component,” explains Molly Butler ’06, the Alumni Association’s service program director. “At the same time, it will continue to honor Father Hesburgh’s legacy of service through focus on a specific theme that was important to him.”

Participants in the Hesburgh Service Initiative are encouraged to share their experiences by submitting their stories on myNotreDame. Alumni, parents, and friends also are encouraged to post pictures and videos of their service projects on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram using the hashtag #ServeND. Your One and Only Life, the Alumni Association’s service blog, offers another outlet for the Notre Dame family to reflect on their service experiences and learnings. 

The Hesburgh Service Initiative theme for 2015 is “Community: Care for the Vulnerable.” In his autobiography, God, Country, Notre Dame, Father Hesburgh wrote, “Jesus said that when we feed the hungry, give drink to the thirsty, clothe the naked, visit the sick and the prisoner, open our hearts to the stranger, we are really loving and caring for Him, especially as He is found in the poor and abandoned.” 

While there are many vulnerable populations in the world, this year’s program will focus on three specific groups of people in need. In three stages throughout the year, the Alumni Association will offer educational resources and programming exploring: Homelessness, from January-April; Mental Illness, from May-August; and Immigrants and Refugees, from September-December. 

The “Serve” section of myNotreDame soon will include a subsection on the Hesburgh Service Initiative. Alumni, parents, and friends will be able to explore the issue of homelessness through videos, readings, and interactive webinars. The site will be updated throughout the year. 

Please answer the call to honor Father Hesburgh and give back to the less fortunate by participating in the Hesburgh Service Initiative. For questions, suggestions, or more information about the program,  please contact Molly Butler at