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Celebrating 50 Years of the Hesburgh Library’s Message, Mural, and Meaning

By Bill Schmitt

Book Signings

Bill Schmitt will be signing copies of WORDS OF LIFE on the following dates:

Friday, September 20 4:00p – 6:00p

(During 50th Anniversary Celebration)
Hesburgh Library Richard & Margaret Carey Courtyard

Saturday, October 19, 9:30am to 11:30am

Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore

Saturday, November 23, 9:30am to 11:30 am.

Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore




This book celebrates the University of Notre Dame's Hesburgh Library and its fifty years as a place of evolving service, powerful symbolism, and collaboration. It tells the history of the Library in terms of its meaning to all those who designed it, helped it to become a reality, imbued it with a distinctive identity, and pointed it toward the future. The text by Bill Schmitt and photographs from the University Archives, university photographers, and other sources give the reader a new appreciation for a building that is central to the university’s history and therefore important to supporters of Notre Dame as a place of special value—and values.

Schmitt begins with the Library's dedication day in 1964 and explores what the new building meant to Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., who as president of Notre Dame played a key role in its construction and in defining its characteristics and place at Notre Dame. The book focuses especially on the building’s best-known feature, the iconic mural named The Word of Life but better known to many as “Touchdown Jesus.” Included in the book are numerous photos that transport the reader to the past and enhance an appreciation of the mural and the building for us today.

This tribute to the Hesburgh Library offers insights into how it is still evolving and interacting with changes in the nature of information technology, the work of the university’s students and faculty, and the needs of society as they are distinctively addressed by Notre Dame.

"This story of Notre Dame’s library, built by and named for Father Ted Hesburgh, the university’s president emeritus, provides fascinating information about the impressive building and the great man who built it. The book is a must read for anyone associated with Notre Dame and others who come on fall Saturdays to see 'Touchdown Jesus' on the library and the Fighting Irish on the field." —Jack Colwell, South Bend Tribune columnist

"The story behind the Hesburgh Library’s The Word of Life mural speaks volumes about Notre Dame’s development and advancement as a university with a uniquely distinctive mission not only in America but also in the world. Through carefully chosen words and pictures, Words of Life documents how a single work of art came to symbolize the dreams and achievements of the school where it commands its warranted attention." —Robert Schmuhl, author of The University of Notre Dame: A Contemporary Portrait

“This is a book for all members of the Notre Dame family because so much of what’s beloved about the university, its mission, its traditions, and its vision for the future can be found somehow represented in the Hesburgh Library and its dynamic life of fifty years and counting. As with his previous book about Fighting Irish football gameday experiences, Bill Schmitt makes the connections that Notre Dame celebrates—connections between faith and fun, yesterday and today, and great learning and great living." —Chuck Lennon, retired executive director, Notre Dame Alumni Association

"The lessons I hope will be drawn from the story of this Library and from my role in its fifty-years-and-counting lifespan are a mixture of past, present, and future. I wanted in 1963, and still desire today, for the Memorial Library literally to stand for the future of Notre Dame as a place of unmatched intellectual achievement, free inquiry, and providential contributions to mankind. But I wanted, and still desire, that this be in the context of a distinctive pursuit of truth that is recognized in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart and in Our Lady atop the Golden Dome. The muralist Millard Sheets captured this pursuit in the Library’s Word of Life mural, too, showing that the pursuit is a legacy passed along since the dawn of human history, a legacy that has generated countless treasures of wisdom, many of which are preserved and accessible here." —Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., from the foreword


Bill Schmitt is communications and media specialist for the Alliance for Catholic Education at the University of Notre Dame. He is the author of Football Weekends at Notre Dame: Snapshots and Traditions (University of Notre Dame Press, 2008).

176 pages • 135 illustrations • 10” x 9” trade paperback • ISBN 978-0-268-01783-5 • $35.00



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Interview with the Author

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