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Home > Catholic Encyclopedia > N > University of Notre Dame

University of Notre Dame

(Full name is the University of Notre Dame du Lac).

Notre Dame is located in Northern Indiana near the boundary lines of Michigan and Illinois. It is owned and directed by the Congregation of Holy Cross, whose motherhouse in the United States is located at Notre Dame, the name by which the university is most commonly known. Notre Dame was founded in 1842 by the Very Reverend Edward Sorin, C.S.C., late superior-general of his congregation, who came from France at the invitation of the Right Reverend Celestine A. L. Guynemer de La Hailandière, D.D., Bishop of Vincennes. Nearly two years passed before the first building was erected and a faculty organized. In 1844 the university received a charter from the State. By special act of the Legislature of Indiana, it was given legal existence and empowered to grant degrees in the liberal arts and sciences and in law and medicine. Though no medical faculty has heen formed, all the other departments mentioned in the charter have been established, and collegiate and university degrees granted in each. At the outset only collegiate instruction was given in the studies then regarded as best furnishing a liberal education. The first faculty organized was that of the college of arts and letters, and chairs of philosophy, history, mathematics, and ancient and modern languages were established. But the educational conditions in the country near the university were primitive, and few students were ready to take up college work. Accordingly, there was soon founded a preparatory school at Notre Dame in which instruction was given, not only in subjects immediately preparing for college, but also in the rudiments. Soon after the college courses began, the needs of the North-West demanded a school for those preparing for the priesthood. The founder accordingly provided a faculty in theology, and six years after the State charter was granted, one-fifth of the students were pursuing theological studies. But as intercommunication between the more settled parts of the United States increased with more easy modes of travel, the theological faculty was maintained only for members of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Today the university consists of five colleges, each with several departments — arts and letters, engineering, science, architecture, and law. At the head of each college is a dean. The faculties of the five colleges are directed by the president of the university, who governs in matters purely academic. All other affairs are administered by a board of trustees.

Though young as a university, Notre Dame has had distinct influence on movements of the Church in the Middle West from its foundation. Founded at a period when the need of missionaries was pressing and located in a centre of missionary activity, its aid in the spread of Catholicism in the North-West was strong. The work of the early French missionaries was continued by the religious at Notre Dame, who served both as professors and evangelists. They supplied, too, a Catholic literature by their doctrinal and scientific writings and by works of fiction. A university press was early established, from which has been issued weekly a literary and religious magazine, the "Ave Maria", contributed to by the best writers of Europe and America. By attracting, too, every year a large number of non-Catholic students, the university has greatly lessened antagonism to the Church and has quickened religious feeling among the indifferent. Moreover, in laws passed by the State Legislature affecting the Church, and especially in legislation regarding education, the university is usually consulted, and any protest from it is respectfully heeded. In these matters Notre Dame has merited consideration by the State not only by her position as a leading university, but also by a remarkable display of patriotism in the Civil War. At the first call for arms seven of her priests, who were acting as professors, were sent by Father Sorin to act as chaplains; and this at a time when the university could ill spare any of her faculty.

The progress of the university has been due largely to its presidents, who have been, in all cases, men of scholarly attainments and executive capabilities. Excepting the founder, who was the first president, each had served as professor at Notre Dame before being called to direct its affairs. In all there have been eight presidents — the Very Reverend Edward Sorin, the founder; Rev. Patrick Dillon, William Corby, Augustus Lemmonier, Patrick Colovin, Thomas Walsh, Andrew Morrissey, and John Cavanaugh, all members of the Congregation of Holy Cross. Among other professors who, by their writings and researches, have contributed to the sciences which they taught and have added lustre to Notre Dame, are Rev. J. A. Zahm, C.S.C., author of scientific works and professor of physics; Rev. Alex. Kirsch, C.S.C., professor of zoology; Rev. Jos. Carrier, C.S.C., professor of botany, William Hoynes and Timothy E. Howard, professors of law; Michael E. Shawe, Gardner Jones, Rev. N. H. Gillespie, C.S.C., Rev. Daniel Hudson, C.S.C., Charles Warren Stoddard, and Maurice Francis Egan, professors of English literature; James Farnham Edwards, librarian; Arthur J. Stace and Martin J. McCue, professors of engineering; Rev. John B. Scheier, C.S.C., professor of Latin; Rev. Louis Cointet, C.S.C., professor of philosophy.

Excepting the land on which it is built, donated by Bishop Hailandière, and a few lesser donations in money, Notre Dame has developed into a great university without financial aid. It opened as a college in September, 1843, in a modest brick structure created to serve temporarily until a larger building was completed in 1844. This was enlarged in 1853. Father Sorin was president continuously until 1865. The enrolment of students for many years was small, numbering sixty-nine in 1850, coming from four states in the Middle West and from New York and Pennsylvania. By 1861 the number bad advanced to two hundred, and in that year the faculty of the college of science was organized. In 1865 the enlarged central building of 1853 gave way to a more pretentious structure; the corps of professors was augmented to forty; the university press was established; the main library was added to, and the equipment of the college of science enlarged. The college of law was formed in 1869, and the college of engineering in 1872. A fire in April, 1879, wiped out the labours of forty years, consuming all the university buildings except the church and the university theatre. Plans were at once made for rebuilding, and the present Notre Dame begun. In September, 1879, the administration building, a large structure, planned to form the centre of a group, was completed and classes resumed. A departure from the old system of student life was made in 1887 when the first residence hall containing private rooms was erected. Before that time the common-room system, modelled on college life in Europe, prevailed. In 1900 the college of architecture was established.

The growth of the University has been steady. At present (in 1911) over one thousand students are registered, from North and South America and from nearly all the countries of Europe. All the students live on the university grounds. The faculties are made up of eighty-five professors, including many laymen. Twenty buildings are devoted to university purposes, and these with their equipment and apparatus are valued at $2,8000,000. The land belonging to Notre Dame is valued at $400,000. In the main library are sixty-five thousand volumes, while libraries in various departments have about ten thousand volumes.

About this page

APA citation. Moloney, W. (1911). University of Notre Dame. In The Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11132a.htm

MLA citation. Moloney, William. "University of Notre Dame." The Catholic Encyclopedia. Vol. 11. New York: Robert Appleton Company, 1911. <http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/11132a.htm>.

Transcription. This article was transcribed for New Advent by Kevin Cawley.

Ecclesiastical approbation. Nihil Obstat. February 1, 1911. Remy Lafort, S.T.D., Censor. Imprimatur. +John Cardinal Farley, Archbishop of New York.

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