Cheers, cheers were for old Notre Dame last night and for the Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, who is completing his 30th year as its president. His is the longest tenure served in the school's 138-year history, and Hesburgh, who originally was to retire this year, said recently he'll stay for another five.

Sporting blue ties embroidered with the gold ND insignia and school rings the size of golf balls, 500 Notre Dame alumni, spouses of alumni and colleagues gathered at the Capital Hilton ballroom to honor the venerable president who helped shape their lives.

"He stands for academic excellence and conveys a source of faith and human values," said 1971 graduate John Paul Tolson, a technical assistant coordinator for the Commerce Department.

"He's one of the top five people I know," said Jerry Hogan, class of '72, whose father, brother, sister, two uncles and "five or six cousins" graduated from the university. "He's a genuine person who really succeeded in raising it from a good college to a great college."

Father Ted, as he is called, has been awarded 83 honorary degrees; the nation's highest civilian honor, the Medal of Freedom, and the Meiklejohn Award of the American Association of University Scholars. As well as the various improvements he has made for the school, he has been involved in national studies of race relations, higher education, campus unrest, world hunger and immigration and refugee policy. Recently, he has been speaking against nuclear proliferation and last month helped supervise elections in El Salvador.

"The education we try to give at Notre Dame is competence. We don't want to turn out second- and third-rate people," Hesburgh said. "Trying to teach people to really think, life and death, love and hate--we think about those things at Notre Dame."

His advice to himself about living with the praise: "Like Adlai Stevenson once said, 'Listen to it, but don't inhale it.' "