University of Notre Dame

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University of Notre Dame du Lac
City: Notre Dame, Indiana
Type: Private
Sports: baseball, basketball, cross country, fencing, football, golf, hockey, lacrosse, rowing, soccer, softball, swimming and diving, tennis, track and field, volleyball[1]
Colors: blue, gold
Mascot: Fighting Irish
Expense/yr: $57,355
Endowment: $13.8 billion (2019)[2]

University of Notre Dame du Lac is a historically Catholic university located near South Bend, Indiana. It was founded by members of the French Catholic order of the Holy Cross (initials C.S.C.) in 1842 led until 1865 by Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C. There are 8400 undergraduates and 3400 graduate students. In 2005 Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., became the 17th president replacing Rev. Edward A. Malloy, C.S.C., who served since 1987.

The endowment reached $6.2 billion in 2008 (13th highest in the world); it has since slipped due to the recession. Tuition for undergraduates for 2009-10 is $38,722 a year. Over 4500 students receive financial aid, averaging $21,000. There are 120,000 living alumni, plus uncounted "subway alumni" who follow the football team as an index of Catholic prowess.


Although founded by the French, most of the original key people were Irish; all the school presidents have been Irish. The first two students graduated in 1849; many early alumni became priests. Sorin sent seven of his priests to be Union chaplains during the Civil War.

William J. Hoynes (1846-1919) was dean of the law school 1883-1919, and when its new building was opened shortly after his death it was renamed in his honor.

Father John Zahm (1851-1921) became the Holy Cross Provincial for the United States (1896-1906), with overall supervision of the university, He tried to transform Notre Dame into a great university, erecting buildings and added to the campus art gallery and library, and amassing what became a famous Dante collection. His term was not renewed because of fears he had expanded Notre Dame too quickly and had run the Holy Cross order into serious debt. The debt threatened the very survival of the school, saved only because the United States Navy leased the campus for V-12 training during World War II. In gratitude, Notre Dame has extended a perpetual offer to play Navy in football (renewals of the game are a mere formality).

ND in 1910

Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., (born 1917) served as president for 35 years (1952–87). In that time the annual operating budget rose from $9.7 million to $176.6 million, the endowment from $9 million to $350 million, and research funding from $735,000 to $15 million. Enrollment increased from 4,979 to 9,600, faculty from 389 to 950, and degrees awarded annually from 1,212 to 2,500.

In 18 years under President Malloy (1987-2005), there was rapid rapid growth in the school's reputation, faculty, and resources. He increased the faculty by more than 500 professors; the academic quality of the student body has improved dramatically, the average SAT score rose from 1240 to 1360; the number of minority students more than doubled; the endowment grew from $350 million to more than $3 billion; the annual operating budget rose from $177 million to more than $650 million; and annual research funding improved from $15 million to more than $70 million. Notre Dame's most recent capital campaign raised $1.1 billion, far exceeding its goal of $767 million, and is the largest in the history of Catholic higher education.

Catholic status

Since 1967 it has been controlled by a lay board, and not by the Catholic Church. The trustees are to select presidents from the pool of C.S.C. priests (that is, members of the Holy Cross order). President Hesburgh orchestrated the change to head off too-tight Church control. The University's conferral of an honorary degree on President Obama in May 2009 led to protests by some bishops, who disagree with Obama's positions.

In the decade after the Second Vatican Council (1963) the university's basic Catholicism did not change, but its ways of emphasizing it did. Instead of merely trying to perpetuate the institution and keep its adherents obedient to the institutional church, there was an attempt to develop a laity which is informed and dedicated. Many previously ignored topics such as compulsory celibacy for the priesthood, birth control, and ecumenicity were discussed without limits.

Although the faculty was well over 85% Catholic before 1970, search practices have broadened. In recent years about half the new faculty hires have been Catholics, and Catholics now comprise 52% of the faculty.[3]

In a policy statement the university declares that "the Catholic identity of the University depends upon ... the continuing presence of a predominant number of Catholic intellectuals" on the faculty. There is a consensus this means a solid majority. As the provost has explained, the aim is "to have a majority of faculty who are Catholic, who understand the nature of the religion, who can be living role models, who can talk with students about issues outside the classroom and can infuse values into what they do."[4]

In 2020, the university was named as the best in the world by Quacquarelli Symonds for theology, divinity and religious studies.[5]

Intellectual life


Father Joseph Carrier, C.S.C. was Director of the Science Museum and the Library and Professor of Chemistry and Physics until 1874. Carrier taught that scientific research and its promise for progress were not antagonistic to the ideals of intellectual and moral culture endorsed by the Church. One of Carrier's students was Father John Zahm (1851-1921) who was made Professor and Co-Director of the Science Department at age 23 and by 1900 was a nationally prominent scientist and naturalist. Zahm was active in the Catholic Summer School movement, which introduced Catholic laity to contemporary intellectual issues. His book Evolution and Dogma (1896) defended certain aspects of evolutionary theory as true, and argued, moreover, that even the great Church teachers Thomas Aquinas and Augustine taught something like it. The intervention of Irish American Catholics in Rome prevented Zahm's censure by the Vatican. In 1913, Zahm and former President Theodore Roosevelt embarked on a major expedition through the Amazon.

Lobund Institute

The Lobund Institute grew out of pioneering research in germ-free-life which began in 1928. This area of research originated in a question posed by Pasteur as to whether animal life was possible without bacteria. Though others had taken up this idea, their research was short lived and inconclusive. Lobund was the first research organization to answer definitively, that such life is possible and that it can be prolonged through generations. But the objective was not merely to answer Pasteur's question but also to produce the germ free animal as a new tool for biological and medical research. This objective was reached and for years Lobund was a unique center for the study and production of germ free animals and for their use in biological and medical investigations. Today the work has spread to other universities. In the beginning it was under the Department of Biology and a program leading to the master's degree accompanied the research program. In the 1940s Lobund achieved independent status as a purely research organization and in 1950 was raised to the status of an Institute. In 1958 it was brought back into the Department of Biology as integral part of that department, but with its own program leading to the degree of PhD in Gnotobiotics.[6]


Richard Sullivan taught English from 1936 to 1974 and published six novels, dozens of short stories, and various other efforts. Though published by major houses, he never became an important mainstream writer but was known as a regional writer and a Catholic spokesman.

During his long tenure as an English professor during the 1930s-60s, Frank O'Malley emerged as the exemplary American Catholic intellectual. Influenced by Jacques Maritain, John U. Nef, and others, O'Malley developed a concept of Christian philosophy that was a fundamental element in his thought. Through his course "Modern Catholic Writers" O'Malley introduced generations of undergraduates to Gabriel Marcel, Graham Greene, Evelyn Waugh, Sigrid Undset, Paul Clandel, and Gerard Manley Hopkins.[7]


The Program in Mediaeval Studies began in 1933 and expanded into a world-famous Mediaeval Institute in 1946, an upgrade from the which dates back to 1933. It provides a center of research, instruction, and preparation of teacher-scholars in the Christian civilization of the Middle Ages," and offers courses on mediaeval thought, life and culture. Its Publications in Mediaeval Studies began in 1936. Texts and Studies in Mediaeval Education published its first volume in 1953.

Father Thomas McAvoy (1903–69) was a leading historian of American Catholicism, professor of history and university archivist.

The History department has hired Mark Noll, a fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences and perhaps the nation's leading evangelical intellectual, as well as George Marsden, another evangelical and the Bancroft Prize-winning biographer of Jonathan Edwards.

European émigrés

The rise of Hitler and other dictators in the 1930s forced numerous Catholic intellectuals to flee Europe; many came to Notre Dame, including Anton-Hermann Chroust (1907-1982) in classics and law,[8] and Waldemar Gurian a German Catholic intellectual of Jewish descent Positivism dominated American intellectual life in the 1920s onward but in marked contrast, Gurian received a German Catholic education and wrote his doctoral dissertation under Max Scheler.[9] Ivan Meštrovic (1883-1962), a renown sculptor, brought Croatian culture to campus.[10]

The exiles developed a distinctive emphasis on the evils of totalitarianism. For example, the political science courses of Gerhart Niemeyer (1907–97) explained communist ideology and were particularly accessible to his students. He came to ND in 1955, and was a frequent contributor to the National Review and other conservative magazines.[11]

Political Science

The Review of Politics was founded in 1939 by Gurian, modeled after German Catholic journals. It quickly emerged as part of an international Catholic intellectual revival, offering an alternative vision to the failed positivist philosophy. For 44 years, the Review was edited by Gurian, Matthew Fitzsimons, Frederick Crosson, and Thomas Stritch. Intellectual leaders included Gurian, Jacques Maritain, Frank O'Malley, Leo Richard Ward, F. A. Hermens, and John U. Nef. It became a major forum for political ideas and modern political concerns, especially from a Judeo-Christian and scholastic tradition.[12]

Student life

In the 19th century there were large boarding programs for elementary and high school boys; they were phased out by 1920.

The Catholic Total Abstinence Union was influential among undergraduates from its founding in 1842, and by 1880 the campus was officially "dry." World War I changes included a lessening of interest in temperance, more off-campus freedom for students, and national prohibition, and the phasing out of pre-collegiate programs. While the use of alcohol by students, on or off campus, was forbidden, it was increasingly more difficult to enforce. Father John O'Hara, the Prefect of Religion, re-encouraged temperance in the early 1920s, and although he became president of Notre Dame in 1933, the temperance movement had run its course by the time he left in 1939. The influx of World War II veterans to the university in the late 1940s sealed the fate of Notre Dame's temperance movement.[13]

Women were admitted as graduate students after World War II, and as undergraduates in 1972, after a failed effort to merge with neighboring Saint Mary's College, an all-woman's college that remains independent.[14]

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Notre Dame resume in-person instruction for its Fall 2020 semester, but had to suspend in-person classes for two weeks due to infections traced back to student parties.[15]


Football began in 1887 and by 1927 the team had the nickname "Fighting Irish". From 1918 to 1930 head football coach Knute Rockne (1888-1931) took ND football to the top, winning six national championships and setting a standard that subsequent coaches had to meet or be fired. Rockne's success was both a blessing and a curse. It made the small school nationally famous as the most visible institution of Catholicism in America, and a demonstration of physical prowess every Saturday in the fall season. Academic critics on and off campus complained about the promotion of brawn over brains, and the hyper-aggressive tactics used to recruit athletes and keep them eligible to play. But intellectuals made (and continue to make) the same complaint about every top-ranked school, and downplayed the program's need for money and the Catholic community for recognition. Rockne himself, until his death in a plane crash at the height of his career, never backed down from his advocacy of the positive value of both football and a winning tradition.[16]

Notre Dame has 12 men's and 12 women's sports teams.[1] The football program has won 13 bowl games (while losing 15) and 13 national championships.[17] The football program is one of the few remaining that is not affiliated with a major sports conference (though it has a rough affiliation with the Atlantic Coast Conference, in which its remaining major sports programs are members). Notable football rivalries include USC (one of the first transcontinental rivalries, played on the final weekend of the regular season), Miami (known as "Catholics vs. Convicts" due to Miami's historically poor sportsmanship and frequent brushes with the law, the rivalry has waned in recent years but due to Miami's ACC affiliation and Notre Dame's working relationship with the conference, the rivalry has returned somewhat) and Navy (during World War II Navy leased the Notre Dame campus for V-12 training, saving the school from closure; Notre Dame has extended an offer in perpetuity to play them in football – renewals are a mere formality though the games are usually one-sided in favor of the Fighting Irish). The team is also known for its golden helmets (the helmets are repainted before every game and the paint actually contains flakes of gold).

George Gipp was the school's legendary football player during 1916-20. He played semiprofessional baseball and smoked, drank, and gambled when not playing sports. He was also humble, generous to the needy, and a man of integrity. It was in 1928 that famed coach Knute Rockne used his final conversation with the dying Gipp to inspire the Notre Dame team to beat the Army team and "win one for the Gipper." The 1940 film, "Knute Rockne - All American," starred Pat O'Brien as Knute Rockne and Ronald Reagan as Gipp.

A mural visible from Notre Dame's football stadium that depicts the resurrected Jesus Christ has been given the nickname "Touchdown Jesus" (as the mural features Jesus with outstretched arms, similar to the signal for a touchdown). Some consider this sacrilegious because it minimizes the Resurrection and possibly implies that Jesus actively involves himself in matters of football.

Further reading

  • Burns, Robert E. Being Catholic, Being American: The Notre Dame Story, 1934-1952, Vol. 2. (2000). 632pp. excerpt and text search
  • Hesburgh, Theodore M. God, Country, Notre Dame: The Autobiography of Theodore M. Hesburgh (2000)
  • McAvoy, Thomas T. "Notre Dame, 1919-1922: The Burns Revolution". Review of Politics 1963 25(4): 431-450. in JSTOR
  • McAvoy, Thomas T. Father O'Hara of Notre Dame (1967)
  • Massa, Mark S. Catholics and American Culture: Fulton Sheen, Dorothy Day, and the Notre Dame Football Team. (1999). 278 pp.
  • Moore, Philip S. The Story of Notre Dame: Academic Development: University of Notre Dame online book
  • O'Brien, Michael. Hesburgh: A Biography. (1998). 354 pp.
  • O'Connell, Marvin R. Edward Sorin. (2001). 792 pp.
  • Rice, Charles E., Ralph McInerny, and Alfred J. Freddoso. What Happened to Notre Dame? (2009), laments the weakening of Catholicism at ND as shown by the Obama fiasco
  • Robinson, Ray. Rockne of Notre Dame: The Making of a Football Legend. (1999). 290 pp.
  • Sperber, Murray. Shake Down the Thunder: The Creation of Notre Dame Football. (1993) 634 pp.
  • Yaeger, Don and Looney, Douglas S. Under the Tarnished Dome: How Notre Dame Betrayed Its Ideals for Football Glory. (1993). 299 pp.


  1. 1.0 1.1
  2. As of June 30, 2019. Investment Review from the Chief Investment Officer. University of Notre Dame. Retrieved on April 1, 2020.
  3. At the top 50 research universities in the U.S. about 6% of the faculty are Catholics. John T. Mcgreevy, "Catholic Enough? Religious Identity at Notre Dame," Commonweal, Vol. 134, September 28, 2007
  4. William H. Dempsey, "How Catholic Is Notre Dame?" First Things: A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life, No. 183, May 2008.
  5. Leonardo Blair (March 7, 2020). Notre Dame ranked as top university in the world for theology, divinity and religious studies. The Christian Post. Retrieved on March 9, 2020.
  6. See Philip S. Moore, The Story of Notre Dame: Academic Development: University of Notre Dame online
  7. Arnold Sparr, "The Catholic Laity, the Intellectual Apostolate and the Pre-Vatican II Church: Frank O'Malley of Notre Dame." U.S. Catholic Historian 1990 9(3): 305-320. 0735-8318
  8. See bibliography
  9. Frank O'Malley, "Waldemar Gurian at Notre Dame," Review of Politics, Vol. 17, No. 1, The Gurian Memorial Issue (Jan., 1955), pp. 19-23 in JSTOR
  10. See Ivan Meštrovic (1883-1962)
  11. William S. Miller, "Gerhart Niemeyer: His Principles of Conservatism," Modern Age 2007 49(3): 273-284 online at EBSCO
  12. Thomas Stritch, "After Forty Years: Notre Dame and the Review of Politics" Review Of Politics 1978 40: 437-446. in JSTOR
  13. John F. Quinn, "'It's Fashionable Here to be a Total Abstainer': Temperance Advocacy at the University of Notre Dame, 1870-1940." American Catholic Studies 1999 110: 1-27. 0002-7790
  14. See Susan L. Poulson and Loretta P. Higgins, "Gender, Coeducation, and the Transformation of Catholic Identity American Catholic Higher Education" Catholic Historical Review 2003 89(3): 489-510 in EBSCO
  15. "Notre Dame moves classes online after COVID-19 case spike linked to parties", New York Post, August 18, 2020. Retrieved on August 20, 2020. 
  16. Ray Robinson, Rockne of Notre Dame: The Making of a Football Legend (1999); Murray Sperber, Shake Down the Thunder: The Creation of Notre Dame Football (1993)

External links