Notre Dame’s Alumnae before 1972

On June 11, 1917, Notre Dame added a new demographic to its alumni base – women.  According to Scholastic, the first two women to earn degrees from Notre Dame did not go unnoticed.  During commencement, it was reported that “[t]here was an enthusiastic outburst of applause in Washington Hall when the names of Sister Francis Jerome and Sister Lucretia (Holy Cross Sisters of St. Mary’s College) were read out as recipients of the M.A. [Greek] and M.Sc. [Chemistry] degrees [respectively]” [Scholastic, September 29, 1917, page 6].  The graduation of these two women at Notre Dame were not a one-off occurrence, but rather marked the beginning of a historic tradition of coeducation at Notre Dame.  Except for the 1919 commencement, women have graduated from Notre Dame every year since 1917.

Article regarding Commencement, 1917 [Scholastic, September 29, 1917, page 6]

Further research is needed to know when Sister Francis Jerome and Sister Lucretia began their studies at Notre Dame to earn these degrees, whether any of their time was in the classroom alongside their male counterparts, or if it was mostly independent study.  In 1918, Notre Dame established the summer school program, which was the gateway for women to study at Notre Dame.

Students and faculty of the Music Department Summer School Program, July 1919. They are posed outside, in front of Rockefeller Hall and the St. Edward statue.

The history of coeducation at Notre Dame is a fascinating and complex one.  The view of Notre Dame as an all-male bastion often leaves out the story of Notre Dame’s female students who were here before their more traditional female counterparts moved in for the fall semester of 1972.  A cursory overview of the commencement programs done in the 1980s gives us a glimpse of these pre-1972 women:  324 bachelor degrees, 4128 masters degrees, 184 PhDs, and 2 law degrees.  However, these numbers only tell part of the story.

Summer School Students, including nuns, priests, brothers, and lay men and women, posed on the steps of Bond Hall, 1929.  Photo by H.C. Elmore.

Going back through the commencement programs today, we gathered more personal information on these women to help humanize them.  Many women studied at Notre Dame but did not complete their degrees.  They, unfortunately, won’t be on this list, which was created to give a flavor of who these women were.  It is for informational purposes only, not to be used as the sole source of serious research.  Please contact the Registrar to verify student information.

At the time of this posting, we still have a ways to go to complete this list, but the data gathered thus far is quite interesting.  Perhaps there are more laywomen in the mix than what people assumed.  Sisters from Saint Mary’s comprise only a fraction of the other orders represented.  Notre Dame’s female graduates follows the diversity of the general student population, with women represented from across the country and internationally, including Nova Scotia and the Philippines.  The number of multiple degrees the women earned is a bit surprising, as was discovering two triple-Domers thus far.

Hopefully these lists will help to shine more light on Notre Dame’s pioneer alumnae, as they are an important part of the Notre Dame family and history.  There are many other resources available to do further research on these women, such as University RecordsNotre Dame publications, and the alumnae directories.

Three sisters looking at books on campus with the Main Building in the background, c1950.

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Hesburgh & Kennedy at 100

As an adviser to presidents, special envoy to popes, theologian, author, educator and activist, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, who would have turned 100 today, was for decades considered the most influential Catholic priest in America.  Although his career included sixteen presidential appointments, his relationship with President John F. Kennedy was especially noteworthy.  Born just four days apart in May 1917, their paths would cross multiple times in the 1950s-1960s.  One of the more memorable Notre Dame moments was when Fr. Hesburgh presented President Kennedy with the Laetare Medal in the Oval Office on November 22, 1961.

Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, CSC, (left) and Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, (right) presenting President John F. Kennedy with the Laetare Medal in the White House, 1961/1122.

When John F. Kennedy took the oath of office of the President of the United States on January 20, 1961, he was the first Catholic to do so.  As such, his name quickly rose to the top of nominations for the Laetare Medal, an honor Notre Dame has bestowed on exemplary American Catholics since 1883.  Fearing a loyalty to the Vatican, factions in America were apprehensive of a Catholic president.  Traditionally, the recipient of the medal is announced on Laetare Sunday in Lent, which was on March 12th in 1961.  Not wanting to ruffle feathers so early in his presidency, Notre Dame was hesitant to bestow Kennedy the the honor during his first year in office.  Breaking tradition of keeping the name secret until Laetare Sunday, University President Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh notified Kennedy in advance on February 14th, giving him the option to decline if it would cause too much public consternation (https://www.jfklibrary.org/Asset-Viewer/Archives/JFKPOF-030-011.aspx).

Telegram from Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh to United States President John F. Kennedy informing him that he was named the year’s Laetare Medal recipient, 1961/0310.

Kennedy accepted the offer, but the presentation wouldn’t occur until November 22, 1961.  The Laetare presentation ceremony was not yet a staple of commencement exercises, and Notre Dame officials more often took the medal to the recipients rather than have them come to campus.  On November 22, 1961, Fr. Hesburgh happened to be meeting with Kennedy and others for a Commission on Civil Rights meeting.  Later that afternoon, Fr. Hesburgh and Notre Dame Vice President Rev. Edmund P. Joyce presented Kennedy the Laetare Medal in the Oval Office.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh (right) and Rev. Edmund P. Joyce (left) presenting President John F. Kennedy with the Laetare Medal, 1961/1122.  (White House Photograph, John F. Kennedy Presidential Library)

The Laetare Medal presentation was not Kennedy’s first or last interaction with Notre Dame and Fr. Hesburgh.  Kennedy attended several Notre Dame football games, was the commencement speaker for winter 1950, and received the 1957 Patriot of the Year Award, and served on Notre Dame’s Liberal and Fine Arts Council.  During Kennedy’s administration, Fr. Hesburgh served on the Commission on Civil Rights and the board of the National Science Foundation.  Fr. Hesburgh played a significant role shaping in Kennedy’s 1961 Peace Corps initiative, making Notre Dame one of the first university sponsors and training centers for the program.

Winter Commencement – Rev. James E. Norton (far left) and University President Rev. John J. Cavanaugh helping Congressman John F. Kennedy with his academic hood as he receives an honorary degree, 1950/0129.

Kennedy’s untimely death exactly two years after the presentation of the Laetare Medal brought an abrupt end to the relationship.  There is always room to speculate what might have been, but it is highly likely that Kennedy would have continued seeking the council of Fr. Hesburgh as so many other United States Presidents did.

Football Game Day – Notre Dame vs. Michigan State (MSU), 1956/1020. Adlai Stevenson in the stands with others, including with Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh (far right) and John F. Kennedy (back left).

 

Sources:
John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum (https://www.jfklibrary.org/)
“Notre Dame Honors John Fitzgerald Kennedy, President of the United States,” Notre Dame, Summer 1961
Telegram to President Kennedy – UPHS 57/31
Laetare Medal Presentation – GPHR 45/4321
1950 Winter Commencement – GPHR 45/1156
Stevenson, Kennedy, and Hesburgh in the stands of the MSU game, 1956 – GPHR 45/2937

 

 

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Junior Parents’ Weekend

Notre Dame’s Junior Parents Weekend (JPW) first began as Parents-Son Day on April 18,  1953.  As Scholastic reported, Parents-Son Day was “[a] joint project of the Junior Class and the University administration … designed to ‘better acquaint students’ parents with the everyday life their sons lead on campus,’ [Thomas W.] Carroll [Department of Public Relations] said” [Scholastic, February 20, 1953].

GPHR 45/1739: Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh planning the first Parents-Son Day (Junior Parents Weekend (JPW)) for April 1953 with Junior Class Officers Jim Richards and Joe Springer, c1952.

University President Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh planning the first Parents-Son Day (Junior Parents Weekend (JPW)) for April 1953 with Junior Class Officers Jim Richards and Joe Springer, c1952.

Students took their parents on tours of campus, classrooms, and laboratories, meeting faculty and administrators.  They ate in South Dining Hall, played golf, and stayed at the newly opened Morris Inn.  The day was an immediate success that turned into a weekend-long affair the next year and all the years that followed.

Some questioned the scheduled April date as opposed to a football weekend when more parents might likely be in town.  However, the chaos of gameday makes it difficult for parents to see everyday student life at Notre Dame.  A special weekend just for the parents in the spring semester has worked out nicely for well over half a century.

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Scholastic welcoming parents to the first Parent-Son Day in 1953.  Scholastic, April 17, 1953, page 7

The date of Junior Parents Weekend crept earlier and earlier until it settled in on a mid-February weekend in the 1970s, much to the chagrin of parents hailing from warmer climates than South Bend.  Anecdotally, if the harsh February weather is going to break, it likely happens during JPW.  In 2017, the temperature will break 60° and the sun will make a rare appearance, dispersing the permacloud and belying the students’ complaints of cold, snow, and the stinging Indiana winds.

GPHR 45/1791: Parents-Son Day (Junior Parents Weekend (JPW)), 1953/0418. Parents registering at the Morris Inn.

Parents-Son Day – Parents registering at the Morris Inn, 04/18/1953.

While the Juniors are occupied entertaining their parents on campus for the weekend, there are few other events going on for the other Notre Dame students.  In the 1980s and 1990s, the Sophomore class turned this lull into an opportunity to take a road trip to Chicago.

GPHR 45/4597: Parents-Son Weekend (Junior Parents Weekend (JPW)), March 1963. Caption: "Mr. and Mrs. Morgan Gibbs of Midland, Mich, (left), chat with Mr. and Mrs. Morris Brenner of Mapletown, Iowa, and their son, Louis, who is an AB Junior and lives off campus. Dick Gibbs is a Science Junior and lives in Morrissey Hall." Photo by Jack Janowski. This photo was published in "Notre Dame: A Magazine," Summer 1963.

Parents-Son Weekend, March 1963.
Caption: “Mr. and Mrs. Morgan Gibbs of Midland, Mich, (left), chat with Mr. and Mrs. Morris Brenner of Mapletown, Iowa, and their son, Louis, who is an AB Junior and lives off campus. Dick Gibbs is a Science Junior and lives in Morrissey Hall.”
Photo by Jack Janowski. This photo was published in Notre Dame: A Magazine, Summer 1963.

JPW has changed little over the years.  It still is a time where parents visit their children, meet their friends, tour campus and new facilities, meet faculty and administration, and maybe buy a few things at the Bookstore.  The dinners have become more formal and more elegant than the in early JPW years, but the purpose remains the same.  In addressing the parents at the first Parents-Son Day, University President Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh welcomed them to the Notre Dame Family:  “‘I want you parents to feel you belong here at Notre Dame as your sons are the main part of our University.’ He considered the Parents-Son Day “definitely pointing to the beginning of a tradition'” [Scholastic, April 24, 1953, page 11].

GPHR 45/4597: Parents-Son Weekend (Junior Parents Weekend (JPW)), March 1963. Caption: "Mr. & Mrs. W.B. Munson of Denison, Texas, purchase some souvenirs from the Notre Dame Bookstore with their son, Ben, a Junior in Business Administration from Walsh Hall." Photo by Jack Janowski. This photo was published in "Notre Dame: A Magazine," Summer 1963.

Parents-Son Weekend, March 1963.
Caption: “Mr. & Mrs. W.B. Munson of Denison, Texas, purchase some souvenirs from the Notre Dame Bookstore with their son, Ben, a Junior in Business Administration from Walsh Hall.”
Photo by Jack Janowski. This photo was published in Notre Dame: A Magazine, Summer 1963.

GPHR 21/01: Junior Parents Weekend (JPW) cocktail party and dance, 1989/0217.

Junior Parents Weekend cocktail party and dance, 02/17/1989.

GPHR 21/01: Junior Parents Weekend (JPW) cocktail party and dance, 1989/0217.

Junior Parents Weekend cocktail party and dance, 02/17/1989.

 

Sources:
Scholastic
Observer
Notre Dame:  A Magazine
University Photographers Records (GPHR)

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World War I Memorial Door

On Memorial Day, May 30, 1924, University President Rev. Matthew Walsh dedicated the World War I Memorial at Notre Dame before saying a military field mass in front of it.  The memorial is an addition to the east transept of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart designed by Notre Dame architects Francis Kervick and Vincent Fagan.  The professors also designed Cushing Hall of Engineering, Howard Hall, Lyons Hall, Morrissey Hall, and South Dining Hall.

GNDL 28/29: Basilica of the Sacred Heart – Vincent Fagan artists' rendering of the World War I Memorial Door, c1923.

Vincent Fagan artist’s rendering of the World War I Memorial addition to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, c1923.

The cry for a memorial for Notre Dame’s contributions to the Great War began shortly after armistice in 1919.  The memorial initially was going to have inscribe all 2500 Notre Dame active students, alumni, and faculty members who served.  In that number were two future University Presidents who served as chaplains during WWI – Rev. Matthew Walsh and Rev. Charles O’Donnell.  In the end, the tablets only list the names of the 56 who sacrificed their lives in the war.

GHOP 1/08: Basilica of the Sacred Heart exterior World War I Memorial Door before the installation of the statues of St. Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel, c1930s-1944. The statues were placed in 1944.

Basilica of the Sacred Heart exterior World War I Memorial door before the installation of the statues of St. Joan of Arc and St. Michael the Archangel, c1930s-1944.  The statues were placed in their nitches through the campus statue project in 1944.

The Notre Dame Service Club worked diligently to raise funds for the memorial through dances, Glee Club concerts, and general petitions in Scholastic.  Notre Dame formed a post of Veterans of Foreign Wars in January 1922, which then took up the efforts.  The VFW disbanded in 1923, as there would be few veteran students left on campus to keep the post going.  They had hoped to have the memorial complete by the end of their run, but it would still be another year before it would be finished.

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A moulded Gothic arch in deep reveal frames a pair of oak doors with twisting iron hinges. Each door contains a tiny opening with a list of stained glass, one carrying the emblem of the Tudor Rose and the other a Poppy.  (Scholastic, May 1924, pages 232-233)

In January 1923, a special committee of Notre Dame’s VFW post approved Vincent Fagan’s design for the memorial to be a new side-entrance to the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the idea favored by University President Walsh (see sketch above).  Scholastic noted that “[t]he design is beautiful and appropriate and will add charm to the campus as well as ‘hold the mind to moments of regret'” (Scholastic, March 24, 1923, page 677).

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These [sic] is a splay on the outside of the doors and in the masonry of the arch to carry the names of the soldier dead.  The stone lintel above the door bears the inscription:  “In Glory Everlasting!”  Over the lintel is a carved panel with two strong eagles supporting a shield bearing the university seal and it is surmounted by the Chi and Rho of Christ’s monogram:  The eagles carry in their claws a ribbon which reads “God, Country, Notre Dame.” (Scholastic, May 1924, pages 232-233)

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In the splayed sides about waist high are two projecting corbels on each side [the military figures].  Every Memorial Day these corbels will support the altar table for the military Field Mass offered up for the repose of the souls of those whose names are inscribed above.  Flanking the deepness of the door itself two buttresses rise, shaping themselves into niches with tracery toward the cap.  Over half way up they break back, leaving a supporting ledge for a statue of St. Joan of Arc and St. Michael, one on each buttress.  From these ledges there are raised shields bearing the fleur-de-lys and the sword, while high across the facade of the porch from buttress to buttress we read: “Our Gallant Dead.” (Scholastic, May 1924, pages 232-233)

When the memorial was finally dedicated on Memorial Day 1924, it wasn’t quite yet complete.  However, it would be finished in time for Commencement.  At the dedication, President Walsh remarked,

 The real purpose of a memorial, from the Catholic point of view, is to inspire a prayer for those we desire to remember.  It is very proper that this memorial should be a part of the Church of Notre Dame.

No one who knows Notre Dame need be told of the spirit of loyalty and faith that has animated this university from its beginning.  We should imitate our dead in that they have shown us the lesson of patriotism.  If only the people of America would follow their example there would be no discrimination because of race or creed.  When Washington said that religion and morality are the basis of patriotism he gave us the definition to every patriotic move at Notre Dame.

It is to the boys of the World Ward and to the men of the Civil War that this memorial is dedicated.  Let us ask God that this memorial will not only be beauty in stone, but also a reminder to pray for the men to whom it is dedicated.
(Notre Dame Daily, May 21, 1924, page 1)

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Inside the doors is a small stone-lined vestibule leading into the church and lighted by two narrow lancets of leaded antique glass bearing medallions of warrior saints. The Memorial is the result of the faithful efforts of the Notre Dame Veterans of Foreign Wars and the cooperation of the university. Its design and construction have been in the hands of Messrs. Kervick and Fagan of the architectural department, and a new spot of interest is created in the northwest comer of the main quadrangle. (Scholastic, May 1924, pages 232-233)

For many years, the memorial door was the natural place to hold mass on Memorial Day and other military occasions.  With the changes made to altar placement with Vatican II and the academic year ending well before Memorial Day, this tradition has gone by the wayside.  The memorial remains an important corner of campus and the “God, Country, Notre Dame” inscription is often quoted today.

GNDS 5/11: Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart World War I (WWI) Memorial Door, 1925.

GNDS 5/11: Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart World War I (WWI) Memorial Door, 1925.Mass at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart World War I Memorial Door, 1925.

GDIS 29/02: Memorial Day Ceremony held outside of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart's World War I Memorial Door, view from above, 1941/0530.

Memorial Day Ceremony held outside of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart’s World War I Memorial Door, view from above, 1941/0530.

GPUB 06/39: Three ROTC students, one member of each military branch (Navy, Air Force, Army), standing in front of the World War I Memorial Door of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, c1960s-1970s.

Three ROTC students, one member of each military branch (Navy, Air Force, Army), standing in front of the World War I Memorial door of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, c1960s-1970s.

 

Sources:
Scholastic
Notre Dame Daily
GNDL 28/29
GHOP 1/08
GNDS 5/11
GDIS 29/02
GPUB 6/39

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Lewis Hall

On August 10, 1965, Notre Dame dedicated its first dormitory built specifically for female students.  Lewis Hall was originally built as a residence for the religious women pursuing advanced degrees at Notre Dame, accommodating 143 nuns, all in private rooms.  It would later open to include female lay graduate students as the number of religious declined.  In 1975, Lewis was converted to a residence for undergraduate women and the single rooms were turned into doubles.

GPHR 45/4645: Architectural sketch of Lewis Hall exterior, c1962. Drawing by Ellerbe Architects. [copy negative]

Architectural sketch of Lewis Hall by Ellerbe Architects, c1962.

Holy Cross Sisters Mary Frances Jerome (MA in Greek Literature) and Mary Lucretia (MS in Chemistry) were the first two women to earn degrees at Notre Dame in 1917.  The formal establishment of the Summer School Program in 1918 and the Graduate School in 1932 brought thousands of women to Notre Dame from across the country.  Since most did not live locally, they did their coursework over the summer sessions, dragging out the time needed to complete their bachelors, masters, and doctoral degrees.

GPHR 45/5148: Lewis Hall exteriors with female students (nuns), c1965. Image from the University of Notre Dame Archives. (University of Notre Dame Archives)

Lewis Hall exterior with female students, 1965.

On April 28, 1962, University President Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh announced a million dollar donation from the Frank J. Lewis Foundation for the construction of a dormitory for these women to live on campus year-round and earn their degrees.  As such, they could earn a masters degree in 15 months rather than over five summer sessions.  Hesburgh said, “the new hall will accelerate the graduate training of the devoted women who constitute the heart of Catholic education in America” [Notre Dame Press Releases, April 1962].

GPHR 45/5148: A female student nun studying in her private room in Lewis Hall, 1965.

A female student studying in her private room in Lewis Hall, 1965.

Chicago business man Frank J. Lewis unfortunately had passed away in 1960 before he could see his foundation fund Lewis Hall.  Before they were married, his future wife Julia founded the Illinois Club for Catholic Women in 1919, which was “a home for young Catholic business women away from home and in modest circumstances.”  The couple was extremely active in philanthropic work throughout Chicago and “their outstanding contributions toward the development of Catholic higher education [was] so great as to have earned them the title of Godfather and Godmother to Loyola University, DePaul University, Lewis College at Lockport, Illinois, and others.”  Frank believed that “God gives a man money so that he will share it with others” [UDIS 99/15].

GPHR 45/5137: Lewis Hall Dedication, 1965/0810. Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, Mundelein College President Sister Mary Ann Ida Gannon, and Mrs. Julia Lewis.

Lewis Hall Dedication, 1965/0810. Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, Mundelein College President Sister Mary Ann Ida Gannon, and Mrs. Julia Lewis.

In a move to eventually make space for all women undergraduate students who chose to live on campus, Lewis Hall’s resident profile changed in the fall of 1975.  The graduate students were moved to Badin Hall for the year in the anticipation of the opening of the Grace O’Hara graduate student apartments in 1976.  The undergraduate women living in Badin Hall since opening to women in the fall of 1972 were moved to Lewis Hall in the interim.  Badin Hall returned to house undergraduate women after this one year shuffle.

GPHS 4/43: A group of Notre Dame female students (nuns) in a lounge in Lewis Hall, Fall 1967.

A group of Notre Dame female students in a Lewis Hall lounge, Fall 1967.

While the move initially upset students all around, Notre Dame saw it as the best option available to facilitate the graduate and ever-increasing undergraduate women, without further displacing the on-campus male students.

Even though graduate students are often overlooked on campus, Lewis Hall plays a very important role in the history of coeducation at Notre Dame.


Sources:
Notre Dame:  A Magazine
, Fall 1965
Notre Dame Press Releases
Observer
UDIS 99/15
UDIS 256/22
GPHR
GPHS

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Notre Dame Day 2015

The second annual Notre Dame Day will kick-off on April 26th at 18:42 (6:42pm) with 29 hours of live broadcast, featuring a variety of Notre Dame departments, organizations, clubs, dorms, and alumni.  The ND Day crew will be in the University Archives on Monday, April 27th at 3:45pm.  Be sure to tune in online as we show off some interesting pieces of Notre Dame history.  Please visit our ND Day page to support the Notre Dame Archives:  http://notredameday.nd.edu/notredamearchives

Letter from Rev. Edward Sorin authorizing James Edwards, "Founder of the Catholic Archives of America," the authority to collect letters and documents written by or to Sorin or about the Congregation of Holy Cross, 1885/0202.  The letterhead features an engraving of Main Building.

Letter from Rev. Edward Sorin authorizing James Edwards, “Founder of the Catholic Archives of America,” to collect letters and documents written by or to Sorin or about the Congregation of Holy Cross, 1885/0202.  Edward’s collections are the foundation of the Catholic manuscripts in the Notre Dame Archives.

There is $1,000,000 up for grabs and the votes made on Notre Dame Day will determine how that money is distributed.  For the first gift you make (minimum $10), you will receive five votes to spread as you wish.  Your initial five votes for a $10 donation could mean an additional $100 for the University Archives.  Each gift after that (minimum $10) will give you one vote.  If you plan to donate more than $10, it would be worthwhile to break it up into separate $10 gifts.  In addition to the voting, you may designate your gift to go directly to the Notre Dame Archives by noting it in the special instructions box.  Voting has already opened, but the leaderboards and activity won’t be revealed until Sunday night.

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Your generous donations on Notre Dame Day will help the University Archives to support its collections – from buying archival supplies and archaic video equipment to digitization.  Thank you for supporting the University Archives in preserving the history of Notre Dame and of the Catholic Church in America.

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An Archivist’s Eulogy for Father Hesburgh

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, and University Archivist Wendy Clauson Schlereth posing in the University Archives with the academic hoods given to Fr. Hesburgh along with honorary degrees, 1982.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, and University Archivist Wendy Clauson Schlereth posing in the University Archives with the academic hoods given to Fr. Hesburgh along with honorary degrees, 1982.

I mourn the passing of Father Ted in a deeply personal as well as professional way.

In 1978, when I was an ambitious but still young archivist, he believed in me enough to give me the chance to be University Archivist, passing over others who on paper looked to be far more qualified at that point in time than I was.  I had little doubt, of course, that I was equipped to do the job, but I think Father Ted’s choice startled more than a few.  He could, and did, take those kinds of chances when it came to people.  Because it wasn’t just who you were on paper that mattered to him, it was who he believed you to be, and perhaps more importantly what you were capable of becoming that was most important. Father Ted inspired so many of us to become all that he saw in us, even when others may have been more short sighted.

I had the privilege of participating in one of the early “Fly-In” weekends here at Notre Dame, probably in the mid to late ‘70s, when very wealthy potential donors were brought to campus for a very special set of events.  The intent, of course, was to engage them to the point they would make a substantial financial commitment to the University.  Everything about the weekend was top drawer, but what impressed me the most was what happened at the Saturday night dinner.  After a rather lavish meal, served on the 14th floor of the Memorial Library, everyone pushed back from their tables and relocated themselves in comfortable seating with brandies in hand.  Father Ted lit a cigar and proceeded to share his vision for what Notre Dame had the potential to become. As his smoke slowly circled above him, I watched his audience become totally mesmerized.  His effect on everyone in the room was palpable.  I’d never seen anything like it and will never forget it.

I’m not sure Father Ted’s charisma was as evident in large public settings as it was privately, although surely he was a master of the public event.  But in private, I think it was probably near impossible to refuse anything he asked of you. The paradox here is he mostly didn’t ask.  He didn’t have to.  You knew.

Father Ted knew how to bind people to a shared vision, of intellectual community, of religious commitment, of personal, moral integrity. He was the consummate leader.  He never micro-managed: if he had enough confidence in you to give you a job, he respected your professional competence and gave you the freedom to get the job done.  Importantly, he also provided you with the resources you’d need to succeed.

Father Ted gave as generously as he took.  The support he gave me, personally, and the Archives that he entrusted to my care, spanned all the years I served him and this university. He used his many personal contacts to solicit collections to enrich our holdings. The door to his office was always open to me, for advice and counsel, for assistance. He gave me enormous freedom to make judgment calls on access to information, relying on the fact I also knew when to defer a decision and kick an issue upstairs.   I never left his office without also receiving his prayers and blessings.   In 1986, as his presidency was winding down, he surprised me and my husband with a Special Presidential Award. He called it a “two-fer,” to recognize two historians who had committed their professional lives to Notre Dame. But I knew, for my part, it was also his way of telling me our job together was not done when he left office. Remember what I said about binding.

The University Archives was really transformed by Father Ted’s sense of history and the path upon which he propelled us. Anyone who knew him knew he had a strong sense of his own place in history, but that place was as one player amongst many, one point in time along a continuum.  His support of the Archives did not begin with me, and our dynamic was certainly different than what he experienced with my immediate two predecessors, two Holy Cross priests, who were the only other University Archivists during Father Ted’s tenure as president.  In 1952, when Father Ted took office as president, Father Tom McAvoy had been University Archivist since 1929.  A formidable figure within the Community, he embodied all things having to do with history on campus, and by all accounts on occasion was a thorn in Father Ted’s side. When Father Tom Blantz succeeded him, upon Father McAvoy’s death in 1969, Father Ted now had an Archivist whose gentle and unassuming style could not have been in greater contrast to the man he replaced.  What unified these three men, however, was a common past and present, of Community and of the University.  The history in the Archives was theirs.

When I came along, I was different.  I was young, I was a lay person, I was a married woman.  Many thought any one of those factors could have disqualified me from consideration for the particular administrative position at Notre Dame that I wanted, and wanted badly.  But they didn’t, not singly or collectively.  I was offered the opportunity to take responsibility for an operation with a reputation for excellence, and to take it to the next level.   I have always believed my appointment by Father Ted was evidence of not only how much he valued the past, but how willing he was to break from it if he thought it was the right thing to do.  It was made absolutely clear to me that I was Father Ted’s choice as University Archivist, it was his decision and his alone, and that I would “serve at the pleasure of the President.”

For me, it has, indeed, been a pleasure. I trust I have served him well and never gave him cause to regret his decision. He will be sorely missed.

Wendy Clauson Schlereth
University Archivist
February 26, 2015



A selection of favorite photos of Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh
chosen by the Notre Dame Archives’ staff:

Portrait of Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, outside with the Main Building Dome in the background, May 1980. Photo by Bruce Harlan.  This photo was used on the cover of "God, Country, Notre Dame."

Portrait of Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, outside with the Main Building Dome in the background, May 1980.
Photo by Bruce Harlan.

Copy of a page from Father Hesburgh's baby book, 1917. "Baby's Name is Theodore Martin Hesburgh, being named for his father and Grandpa - and here's hoping he will be as good and noble as they are."

Copy of a page from Father Hesburgh’s baby book, 1917.
“Baby’s Name is Theodore Martin Hesburgh, being named for his father and Grandpa – and here’s hoping he will be as good and noble as they are.”

Copy of a page from Father Hesburgh's baby book, 1917. "Important Events:  Baby was born at the Crouse-Irving Hospital - Syracuse, NY on Friday, May 25th, 1917 at 11:45 a.m. - the doctor being Dr. Frank McMarrow.  He weighed nine pounds and looked like a little rosebud.  Mother was so glad God sent her a little boy, for sister would be so glad when she grew up to have a big brother.  Daddy was so happy - his face looked like a morning in June."

Copy of a page from Father Hesburgh’s baby book, 1917.
“Important Events: Baby was born at the Crouse-Irving Hospital – Syracuse, NY on Friday, May 25th, 1917 at 11:45 a.m. – the doctor being Dr. Frank McMarrow. He weighed nine pounds and looked like a little rosebud. Mother was so glad God sent her a little boy, for sister would be so glad when she grew up to have a big brother. Daddy was so happy – his face looked like a morning in June.”

 Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh as a baby with his sister Mary, 1918.  Photo by Fairbanks.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh as a baby with his older sister Mary, 1918. Photo by Fairbanks.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC (second from left), as a seminary student, with other students, in front of Holy Cross Hall in winter with snow, 1935.  The 1934-1935 school year was Hesburgh's first at Notre Dame.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC (second from left), as a seminary student, with other students, in front of Holy Cross Hall in winter with snow, 1935. The 1934-1935 school year was Hesburgh’s first at Notre Dame.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh in cold-weather gear while visiting the South Pole (Antarctica) in November 1962 as Chairman of the National Science Board's International Science Activities Committee. US Navy photograph, taken by Photographer's Mate Chief (PhC) Frank Kazukaistis, USN.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh in cold-weather gear while visiting the South Pole (Antarctica) in November 1962 as Chairman of the National Science Board’s International Science Activities Committee.
US Navy photograph, taken by Photographer’s Mate Chief (PhC) Frank Kazukaistis, USN.

University of Southern California (USC) Commencement - USC President Norman H. Topping adjusting John Wayne's academic robes while Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh looks on, 1968/0606.

University of Southern California (USC) Commencement – USC President Norman H. Topping adjusting John Wayne’s academic robes while Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh looks on, 1968/0606.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh at an unidentified wedding reception, c1965.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh at an unidentified wedding reception, c1965.

ootball Game Day - Notre Dame vs. Purdue, 1953/1002.  Laetare Medalist Irene Dunne watching the game in the stands with Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh and Ella Morris.

Football Game Day – Notre Dame vs. Purdue, 1953/1002. Laetare Medalist Irene Dunne (center) watching the game in the stands with Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh and Ella Morris.

United States Civil Rights Commission members at Land O'Lakes, Wisconsin, July 1966. Back row:  Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, unidentified, Robert S. Rankin Front row:  Erwin Griswold, Frankie Muse Freeman, John A. Hannah, unidentified

United States Civil Rights Commission members at Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin, July 1966.
Back row: Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, unidentified, Robert S. Rankin
Front row: Erwin Griswold, Frankie Muse Freeman, John A. Hannah, unidentified

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, fishing near Notre Dame's remote conference center near Land O'Lakes, Wisconsin, c1980.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, CSC, fishing near Notre Dame’s remote conference center near Land O’Lakes, Wisconsin, c1980.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, surrounded by a group of women, standing on a dock with fishing poles and a pile of caught fish, c1975.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, surrounded by a group of women, standing on a dock with fishing poles and a pile of caught fish, c1975.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh walking with members of the Student Government, December 1970.  The student on the far right is Dave Krashna, Student Body President.  The middle student is unidentified and the student next to Hesburgh is Mark Winings, Student Body Vice President.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh walking with members of the Student Government, December 1970. The student on the far right is Dave Krashna, Student Body President. The middle student is unidentified and the student next to Hesburgh is Mark Winings, Student Body Vice President.

Commencement - Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini sitting in the back seat of a car at Notre Dame, 1960/0605.

Commencement – Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, President Dwight D. Eisenhower, and Cardinal Giovanni Battista Montini sitting in the back seat of a car at Notre Dame, 1960/0605.

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh - priest - holding up a chalice during Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 1961. Photo by Paul Fusco, LOOK Magazine [this photo was published in LOOK Magazine, 10/24/1961. The original negatives for this story are at the Library of Congress and may be in the public domain. See LOC rights advisory for more information].

Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh holding up a chalice during Mass in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, 1961.
Photo by Paul Fusco, LOOK Magazine [published in LOOK Magazine, 10/24/1961]

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Main Quad Cannons

On May 22, 1896, the United States Congress approved the Disposition of Condemned Cannon, Etc., which provided the Secretaries of War and of the Navy the authority “to loan, or give to soldiers’ monumental associations, posts of the Grand Army of the Republic, and municipal corporations, condemned ordnance, guns, and cannon balls which may not be needed in the service of either of said Departments” (Annual Reports of the War Department, 1903).  In December 1899, Notre Dame GAR Post 569 filed a petition with the Secretary of War to acquire two cannons for campus.

Commencement flag-raising ceremony on Main Quad with the two Civil War cannons, c1930. Hurley Hall is in the background.

Commencement flag-raising ceremony on Main Quad with the two Civil War cannons, c1930. Hurley Hall is in the background.

With the help of Indiana Representative Abraham Brick, Notre Dame requested a ten-inch Columbiad cannon from Fort Winthrop in Massachusetts and a ten-inch seacoast mortar from Fort Morgan in Alabama.  After about six months of back and forth, the Fort Morgan mortar became unavailable.  It is unclear if the deal fell through because getting the mortar to Notre Dame would be too expensive or if they simply took too long figuring out the logistics.  Consequently, the request was changed to an eight-inch seacoast howitzer from Fort McHenry in Maryland.

Statement of Guns, Howitzers, and Mortars on Hand at the Various Forts. F.H. Wurzer in the House of Representatives sent this list on 04/23/1900 to Brother Paul for him to pick out two cannons for Notre Dame.

Statement of Guns, Howitzers, and Mortars on Hand at the Various Forts. F.H. Wurzer in the House of Representatives sent this list on 04/23/1900 to Brother Paul for him to pick out two cannons for Notre Dame.

General William Olmstead of Notre Dame GAR Post 569 inquired about the history of the gun at Fort Winthrop.  Ordnance Sergeant Joseph R. Neaves responded that he didn’t think it had much of a history – it came to Fort Winthrop in the late 1850s or early 1860s and that it probably was never fired since it wasn’t mounted (UPEL 87/05).

The cannons arrived to Notre Dame sometime before September 22, 1900, when they are first mentioned in Scholastic.  The article recounts how football manager John Eggeman went looking for his billy goat during a storm, and “[a]fter a long search, John discovered the goat trying to eat one of the cannons down near the post-office.  Of course this was a bluff on the part of the goat” [Scholastic, 09/22/1900, page 59].

George T. Hanlon laying on a cannon on Main Quad, c1910s.

George T. Hanlon laying on a cannon on Main Quad, c1910s.

The cannons were located next to the flag pole, which then was just west of Hurley Hall.  While they were a prominent part of the landscape, they didn’t garner much attention in the student publications.  Due to their location, they stood as sentinels during flag-raising ceremonies.  In later years, it became tradition for the graduating head cheerleader to lead one last college yell from atop one of the cannons during the flag-raising ceremony at Commencement.

Commencement - Graduating head cheerleader Al Perrine leads the traditional last yell from atop one of the cannons as the class flag is raised on Main Quad while clergy, faculty, and students are gathered around, 1941/0601.

Commencement – Graduating head cheerleader Al Perrine leads the traditional last yell from atop one of the cannons as the class flag is raised on Main Quad while clergy, faculty, and students are gathered around, 1941/0601.

In 1942, Notre Dame donated the cannons to a scrap drive to support the war effort of World War II, thus returning them back to the United States military and putting them back to work for a new war.

Scholastic issue October 16, 1942, page 11: Articles featuring the Notre Dame donation of the Civil War cannons to the St. Joseph County scrap drive during World War II (WWII); Mr. George McDonald of the United Steel Workers of America speaks to the Law School; and Professor Eugene Kormendi designing a new statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary.

Scholastic issue October 16, 1942, page 11: Article featuring the Notre Dame donation of the Civil War cannons to the St. Joseph County scrap drive during World War II (WWII)

 

Sources:
Scholastic
UPEL 79/03
UPEL 87/04-12
GNDL 8/01
GNDS 9/15
GDIS 46/03

Annual Reports of the War Department, 1903 (https://books.google.com/books?id=NvAkAAAAYAAJ&printsec=frontcover&source=gbs_ge_summary_r&cad=0#v=onepage&q&f=false)

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Brick Top Shaun Rhue

In October of 1932, dog breeder Charles Otis and his partner Thomas Bolton announced that they were going to donate an Irish Terrier to Notre Dame to serve as mascot for the football team.  According to an advertisement in a 1934 football program, Otis had also presented Irish Terriers to celebrities such as Amelia Earhart and Will Rogers.  This was at a time when Notre Dame didn’t have a consistent mascot.  The Alumni Club of Toledo had presented two Irish Terriers both named Tipperary Terrence in 1924, but it doesn’t seem to be something Notre Dame pursued on its own.

Otis presented Brick Top Shaun Rhue to Football Coach Heartley “Hunk” Anderson during the Navy game, which was played in Otis’s hometown of Cleveland on November 19, 1932.  Shaun Rhue (“Old Red”) traveled with the team for the last two remaining games of the season – to New York for the Army game and to Los Angeles for USC.

GATH 6/71:  Irish terrier mascot dog Brick Top Shaun Rhue wearing a football helmet, c1932. Caption:  "With affectionate regards to Shaun Rhu and the College of Notre Dame.  Best hopes and wishes from Chas. A. Otis." Charles Otis of Cleveland, Ohio, gave the Irish Terrier dog to Notre Dame at the Notre Dame vs. Navy football game in Cleveland, 1932/1119.  See PNDP 3020-M-1.

GATH 6/71: Irish terrier mascot dog Brick Top Shaun Rhue wearing a football helmet, c1932.
Caption: “With affectionate regards to Shaun Rhu and the College of Notre Dame. Best hopes and wishes from Chas. A. Otis.”

Shaun Rhue was born on January 14, 1932, so he was still a bit of a pup when given the task of Notre Dame mascot.  He stayed briefly with Hunk Anderson and then Athletic Trainer Eugene “Scrapiron” Young before moving to campus at the request of University President Rev. Charles O’Donnell:  “I should like to have the dog on the campus and get acquainted with him.  He quite won my heart in the few glimpses I have had of him thus far.  As a mascot he made the Army mule look pretty sick last Saturday” [O’Donnell to Otis, 12/01/1932, UPCO 6/121].  O’Donnell continued in his next letter, “When the season is over, he will be installed on the campus as a regular member of the family, and have the freedom of the city, so to speak.  The only danger that will ever threaten him is that he may be spoiled by kindness.  Everybody loves him” [O’Donnell to Otis, 12/09/1932].  Otis was glad to hear Shaun Rhue was doing well, but warned O’Donnell not to overfeed the dog.

Otis sent Fr. O’Donnell Shaun Rhue’s papers, which are preserved in the University Archives.  His Certificate of Pedigree lists his lineage back to his great, great grandparents.  The Certificate of Entry into the American Kennel Club also transfers ownership to Notre Dame.  Otis told O’Donnell that Shaun Rhue was a fine specimen of his breed and would likely win in dog shows.  It is unknown, and probably unlikely, if Notre Dame showed Brick Top Shaun Rhue.

UPCO 8/01:  Certified pedigree chart of Irish terrier mascot Brick Top Shaun Rhue, 1932.

UPCO 8/01: Certified pedigree chart of Irish terrier mascot Brick Top Shaun Rhue, 1932.

UPCO 8/01:  American Kennel Club Stud Book Certificate of Entry for Irish terrier mascot Brick Top Shaun Rhue, listing his history and lineage, 1932/1119.

UPCO 8/01:  American Kennel Club Stud Book Certificate of Entry for Irish terrier mascot Brick Top Shaun Rhue, listing his history and lineage, 1932/1119.

UPCO 8/01:  American Kennel Club Stud Book Certificate of Entry for Irish terrier mascot Brick Top Shaun Rhue, 1932/1119.  Verso of the document transferring ownership from Thomas Bolton to Notre Dame.

UPCO 8/01: American Kennel Club Stud Book Certificate of Entry for Irish terrier mascot Brick Top Shaun Rhue, 1932/1119. Verso of the document transferring ownership from Thomas Bolton to Notre Dame.

Other than these few documents announcing the arrival of Brick Top Shaun Rhue to Notre Dame, there is unfortunately not much mention of him later in Scholastic or elsewhere.  It is thought that he simply ran away from campus in the spring of 1933.  If so, Shaun Rhue may have never graced the sidelines of Notre Dame Stadium, but the idea of Irish Terriers as Notre Dame’s mascot would persist.  In the fall of 1935, William Butler presented Notre Dame with another Irish Terrier – Clashmore Mike, who would remain at Notre Dame for ten years and garner much publicity.

Football Coach Heartley "Hunk" Anderson with Irish Terrier mascot Brick Top Shaun Rhue, 1932

Football Coach Heartley “Hunk” Anderson with Irish Terrier mascot Brick Top Shaun Rhue, 1932

In the fall of 1936, Scholastic attempted to trace the history of Irish Terriers mascots at Notre Dame.  Within the span of a short twelve years, Tipperary Terrence I and II were lost from the institutional memory altogether and there was only a vague recollection of Brick Top Shaun Rhue:

“Shaun was a likable dog in many ways, but also had a few bad traits.  He, like many students, enjoyed nothing better than a little vacation in the form of a week-end.  His week-ends, however, were without official permission and extended not only for the week-end, but for weeks, his latest ‘week-end’ extending from the spring of 1933 until now.  His mental alertness was also of the questionable quality as he was often known to stand nonchalantly in the path of oncoming cars, only escaping injury and death because of the driver’s quick action with the brakes.

Official mascots prior to Shaun Rhue’s time were unknown, at least in the opinion of ‘old timers’ connected with the University.  Many, on being questioned concerning the existence of mascots at the University, merely shrugged their shoulders in a dubious manner.” [Scholastic, October 23, 1936, page 19].

 

Sources:
Scholastic

UPCO 6/121
UPCO 8/01

 

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Edward Sorin & Notre Dame’s Early Years

While Notre Dame would flourish in the 19th century, it was not an easy road.  Most American educational institutions faced severe obstacles that often led to ruin.  John Theodore Wack noted,  “Of the fifty-one Catholic colleges which were chartered in all of the United States before 1861, only sixteen were still in existence in 1927.  Students, faculty members, and administrators simply could not be found to fill and staff many of the new colleges.  Funds were scarce, donors were disillusioned, and creditors were apprehensive; most of the colleges quietly disappeared, leaving an old stone building or two for the wonderment of the children of future generations” [Wack, Notre Dame:  Foundations, 1842-1857].  The first few decades of Notre Dame’s history was filled with many of these same hardships.

For the first few academic years, enrollment at Notre Dame hovered around thirty students.  Most were preparatory students and only a select few were at the collegiate level.  The student body was also highly transient in the beginning, with barley half returning the following term.  The faculty was comprised entirely of clergy, whose salary consisted solely of room and board.  Most of the faculty were not qualified to teach at the collegiate level and language barriers of the French priests and brothers proved problematic.  Tuition, often paid through barter or labor, was a necessity to keep the University running.  Therefore, discipline tended to be rather lax in the early years, much to the chagrin of Brother Gatian, who was the outspoken secretary of the Council of Professors.

Sorin and the administration struggled to define the academic curriculum for Notre Dame.  The initial plans modeled the French educational system, as that is what they knew.  The nuances didn’t translate well into the American Midwest.  Sorin then looked to other American Universities for guidance and settled on modeling a curriculum after that of St. Louis University.  However, the American pioneer boys craved a more practical education and were not as drawn to the classics as their East Coast contemporaries may have been.  While the classics were offered, most students took the “English Course,” which taught business skills such as bookkeeping, which the students found to be more pragmatic.  It took a while to get the right combination and the appropriate faculty, but more and more students were returning to their studies at Notre Dame in the late 1840s and early 1850s.

Broadside advertisement for Notre Dame featuring an engraving of the first Main Building, 1847.

Broadside advertisement for Notre Dame featuring an engraving of the first Main Building, 1847.

Another continued sources of contention was the dynamics of personalities between Fr. Sorin, Vincennes’ Bishop Hailandière, and Superior General of the Congregation of Holy Cross Rev. Basil Moreau back in Le Mans, France.  Sorin still envisioned Notre Dame being the epicenter of a national Catholic educational system.  Hailandière was not happy that Sorin was looking to expand outside of the diocese.  Moreau was not happy with Sorin’s lack of bookkeeping and, like many others, was concerned over the debts Notre Dame had accrued.  Moreau also did not understand the American cultural differences Sorin faced and he was not a fan of the liberties Sorin was wont to take.  The physical distance between them bred misunderstandings, and Sorin often acted impulsively on opportunities because he did not have time to get permission from France.  Despite all of the conflict, Moreau never gave up on Sorin or the Notre Dame dream, although at times both parties were ready to throw in the towel.

Also in the mix of cantankerous personalities was the return of Rev. Stephen T. Badin to Notre Dame in 1845.  Badin approached Sorin with some investment opportunities in exchange for a pension in his old age.  Badin had some land in Kentucky, which he offered to Notre Dame to help with the financial struggles.  However, when Sorin sold the land at a much lower price than what Badin thought they were worth, the feud between the two head-strong priests began.  Badin began publicly criticizing Sorin and the administration at a time when the fledgling Notre Dame could ill-afford bad press.  Sorin retorted to Badin,  “In two words, no one has done more good for the institute than you, Monsieur, and no one has done it more harm” [Sorin to Badin, quoted in Wack].

Badin’s attacks and Moreau’s concerns weren’t without some founding, however Sorin often wished to state his case in person to eliminate further misinformation.  Yet when Father Sorin left Notre Dame for months on end to attend to business in France, Vincennes, Indianapolis, Kentucky, or New Orleans, those left in charged at Notre Dame often floundered. “There should be no question:  Father Sorin was the essential ingredient in Notre Dame du Lac.  Without his yeast, there would have been no growth.  Until some other person as capable as he could come forth, Father Sorin was necessary to the existence of the institution which he had founded” [Wack].

Sorin also was contending with outside forces in the heavily Protestant community in which the Catholic Notre Dame resided.  Sorin felt that the outsiders regarded Notre Dame with an unsure and scrutinizing eye, looking for any excuse to tear down the new Catholic institution.  In spite of the many crises he faced, Sorin maintained Notre Dame as best he could with a facade of success, stability, and permanence.  Any rumblings in the town square of Notre Dame’s financial struggles or battles with disease could adversely effect enrollment and thus the future of Notre Dame.  On the other hand, Sorin believed that “in America, one must attract public attention to achieve success” [Wack].  He worked hard to keep Notre Dame in the spotlight, even if it meant going further into debt.  While the return on investment would be difficult to calculate for the time, Sorin splurged with such purchases as Dr. Cavalli’s museum collection in 1845 and America’s largest carillon in 1856.

Portrait of Rev. Edward Sorin sporting a neck beard, c1860s-1870s.

Portrait of Rev. Edward Sorin sporting a neck beard, c1860s-1870s.

Notre Dame was not immune from natural disasters.  Fires were relatively common and often disastrous.  In 1849 the Manual Labor School was completely destroyed, convincing Sorin to take a gamble and send a company of brothers and a few townspeople to join the California gold rush.  Their expedition was unsuccessful in finding gold, and sadly lead to the death of Brother Placidus and the desertion of George Campeau and Brothers Stephen and Gatian.  The move also furthered the chasm between Moreau and Sorin, as Sorin acted without permission from the Motherhouse.

In 1855, the original log cabins near Old College, which were then being used as stables, burned and much of the farm equipment and storehouse were destroyed.  Fortunately, the fire remained contained to that area and did not touch the rest of the campus buildings.  It most likely would have been the end for Notre Dame if campus were destroyed at that point in history.

Disease was a such constant at Notre Dame with annual summer outbreaks of malaria and cholera that Sorin considered several times abandoning the site for less toxic land.  Sorin and the administration figured the problem arose from the marshy lakes and stagnant water.  They tried unsuccessfully to lower the water levels by digging trenches, but the real issue was a dam downstream near the St. Joseph River owned by Mr. Rush.  Legal actions and attempts to buy the land from Mr. Rush were futile.  He refused to budge.  In 1854, an epidemic of typhoid fever ran through Notre Dame and Saint Mary’s Academy in Bertrand, claiming over twenty victims, mostly faculty and staff.  To quell panic in the community, burials were held at night and information about the crisis was kept quiet.

In 1855, Rush finally conceded to sell his land to Notre Dame, but when he backed out at the last minute, Sorin sent a group of the strongest men at Notre Dame to go bust up the dam themselves.  Rush then went through with the sale of his land.  Notre Dame’s lakes receded and the disease dissipated.

Engraving of Second Main Building from the program for the Annual Festival of St. Edward, patronal feast of Very Rev. Edward Sorin (Founder's Day), 1867/1012.  Someone later added hand-drawn festoons and flags in pencil.

Engraving of Second Main Building from the program for the Annual Festival of St. Edward, patronal feast of Very Rev. Edward Sorin (Founder’s Day), 1867/1012. Someone later added hand-drawn festoons and flags in pencil.

While Sorin and Notre Dame faced many hardships, they also garnered much success.  Notre Dame greatly benefited from the Catholic networks in American and in France.  While some opportunities turned contentious, Sorin’s reputation as successful “college-builder” opened many doors.  In 1856, Bishop O’Regan of Chicago struck a deal with Sorin that all Chicago parochial schools would be under the direction of the Congregation of Holy Cross.

The purchase of Mr. Rush’s land near the St. Joseph River in 1855 enabled Sorin to move the Holy Cross Sisters from Mishawaka and Saint Mary’s Academy in Bertrand closer to Notre Dame.  Around the same time, an incredibly generous donation from William Phelan of his land near Notre Dame helped to keep the institution afloat financially.

The 1850s brought an influx of immigrants to the United States, primarily people from Ireland and Germany who were fleeing famine and civil war in their homelands.  Many of those immigrants were Catholic and were settling in the Midwest.  The advent of the railroad through South Bend at this time would greatly help Notre Dame to grow its enrollment.  Greater enrollment necessitated expansion of Main Building in 1865-1866.  Amid typical Notre Dame pomp and circumstance, Notre Dame was consecrated on August 15, 1866, and newspaper reported that “the ceremony will eclipse everything of the kind which has ever taken place in the United States.”

The foundations that Fr. Sorin established in the 1840s and 1850s enabled Notre Dame to persevere through inevitable crises.  Like most other American institutions, Notre Dame struggled during the Civil War.  Many members of the Congregation of Holy Cross served as chaplains, notably Rev. William Corby, who was attached to the Irish Brigade, and Rev. Joseph Carrier, who was at the deathbed of General William Tecumseh Sherman’s son Willie.

At any earlier point in history, the Great Fire of 1879 may well have been the end for Notre Dame.  However, just days after the fire, with most of campus destroyed, Scholastic writers reported, “we feel that there is no reason to give way to discouragement.  No, we cannot bring ourselves to believe that the sun of Notre Dame has set.  Let the thousands of loving children whom she has sent into the world within the past quarter of a century — let the devoted friends whom she counts in all parts of the country but rally to her relief, and we have every reason to feel confident that the good work which she has been doing in the past will be continued in the not distant future” [Scholastic, April 26, 1879 issue, page 536].

Father Sorin’s vision, faith, and determination was infectious.  In an 1852 circular letter, Sorin reminisces about the first time he saw Notre Dame ten years earlier.  His passion for Notre Dame, which he saw as divinely guided, and his dogged determination in its success is palpable:

“At that moment, one most memorable to me, a special consecration was made to the Blessed Mother of Jesus, not only of the land that was to be called by her very name, but also of the Institution that was to be founded there; –an humble offering was presented to her of its modest origin and its destiny, of its future trials and labors, its successes arid its joys.  With my five Brothers and myself, I presented to the Blessed Virgin all those generous souls whom Heaven should be pleased to call around me on this spot, or who should come after me.  From that moment I remember not a single instance of a serious doubt in my mind as to the final result of our exertions, unless, by our unfaithfulness, we should change the mercy from above into anger; and upon this consecration, which I thought accepted, I have rested ever since, firm and unshaken, as one surrounded on all sides by the furious waves of a stormy sea, but who feels himself planted immovably upon the motionless rock.  Numerous as have been the dangers of all sorts to which we have been exposed, the obstacles and difficulties we have had to meet and overcome, the sufferings and crosses we have had to undergo, the various assaults and the persevering efforts of hell to destroy the Community in its infancy; though often annoyed by the ill-will of open foes without, and more than once betrayed by false friends within, I say it with a sentiment of deep gratitude, of every one of these trying occasions our Blessed Mother has invariably availed herself to show us her tender and powerful assistance.”  [Sorin Circular letter, 12/08/1852]

 

Sources:
The University of Notre Dame du Lac: Foundations, 1842-1857 by John Theodore Wack
Scholastic
Sorin Circular letter, 12/08/1852
PNDP1052-1840o&x
GSBA 1/01
PNDP70-Sa-3

 

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