In the autumn of 1861, Rev. William Corby, C.S.C. joined the 88th Regiment of New York as a chaplain in the predominantly Catholic Irish Brigade in the Civil War. Rev. James Dillon, C.S.C., brother to Patrick – another future Notre Dame president, was attached to the 63rd New York regiment, also part of the Irish Brigade. Throughout the entire Civil War, the Irish Brigade was never without at least one priest.
Of all the priests, brothers, and sisters of the Congregation of Holy Cross who served in the Civil War, Fr. Corby is the best-known. At the Battle of Gettysburg, Fr. Corby granted absolution to the troops immediately before they marched into combat, and many ultimately to their deaths. The absolution was later immortalized by Paul Wood’s Absolution Under Fire, currently hanging in the Snite Museum of Art, and by twin statues of Fr. Corby on Notre Dame’s campus and at Gettysburg.
Long after the Civil War, the veterans still held tight to their war stories. Like his compatriots, Fr. Corby kept in touch with other members of his brigade and attended reunions. Additionally, he helped organize the Notre Dame G.A.R. post (nationally noted for being the only one comprised solely of priests and brothers), penned Memoirs of Chaplain Life (1893), and sought artifacts for the museum at Notre Dame.
W.L.D. O’Grady, a former captain with the 88th, unsuccessfully worked to collect all of the known Irish Brigade flags and bring them to Notre Dame. He saw Notre Dame as a good central location in the United States, even though the 69th New York National Guard Armory would be a more natural home. The unstated reason was most likely political: perhaps O’Grady didn’t want the flags in the hands of New York’s Democratic political machine. Owner of one of the flags was James D. Brady, a Virginia Republican member of the United States House of Representatives. Brady was sympathy to O’Grady’s cause, and in 1896 he donated to Fr. Corby the Second Irish (Tiffany) Colors of the 63rd New York Regiment.
Brady had intended to visit Notre Dame in order to make a formal presentation of the flag, but his schedule prevented him from doing so in 1896. A year after the flag had arrived at Notre Dame, it must have been clear that Brady was never going to make the trip. James F. Edwards, curator of Notre Dame’s Bishops Memorial Hall, acknowledged the gift to the museum in a monthly circular of donations with no special notice or fanfare.
For many years, the Second Irish Colors was on prominent display in Main Building and was relocated to Lemonnier Library (now Bond Hall) when it opened in 1917. From there it moved to the old ROTC building (now West Lake Hall), to the Snite Museum of Art, and to Pasquerilla Hall Center (the newer ROTC building). Finally in 1998, the flag was accessioned into the collections of the University Archives as an important piece of Notre Dame history.
The silk embroidered flag was in rough shape even back in 1896; its tears and holes were falsely assumed to be evidence of the ravages of war. In reality, this particular flag made by Tiffany & Co. was never carried into battle. It was commissioned by prominent New York merchants and was delivered to the Irish Brigade the day after the brigade had lost half of its men at the Battle of Fredericksburg in December 1862. The banquet for the presentation of the new colors went on as planned, but ended early on account of renewed Confederate cannon fire.
The soldiers purportedly declined to carry the new colors into battle because the brigade was so depleted that it risked capture. A more likely explanation is that the soldiers preferred to follow a flag presented by the Democrat New York City government rather than one from American-born citizens of the city. General Thomas Meagher took it back to New York City where it was displayed for banquets, parades, and other patriotic events for the remainder of the war. As the last colonel of the 63rd regiment, James Brady took possession of the flag at the end of the Civil War.
Through the generosity of Jack and Kay Gibbons, conservation and restoration work began on the flag in February 2000. The enormous undertaking was completed that September and the flag, mounted and framed for preservation, was first displayed in Notre Dame’s Eck Visitors Center, then on exhibit at South Bend’s History Museum. Due to its delicate nature, the flag must spend years resting in storage after it has been on display for an extended period. However, the Second Irish (Tiffany) Colors of the 63rd New York Regiment is always available for serious scholars to view.
For more information about the Second Irish Colors and the conservation process, please see Blue for the Union and Green for Ireland: The Civil War Flags of the 63rd New York Volunteers, Irish Brigade (http://archives.nd.edu/flag/), by Peter J. Lysy, archivist at the University of Notre Dame.
The Notre Dame Archives and Hesburgh Libraries recently opened an online portal featuring materials from the papers of longtime University President Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh: https://hesburghportal.nd.edu
Important stories of Hesburgh’s life and career are showcased by select photographs, video, audio, and writings, mostly from his own papers housed at the Notre Dame Archives. The hope is that the items digitized for this portal will aid scholars world-wide, but will also whet their research appetite to dig deeper into the collections in the Notre Dame Archives. The finding aid for the Father Theodore M. Hesburgh Papers shows the vast amount of materials originating from Hesburgh, but there are many other collections and resources within the Notre Dame Archives and Hesburgh Libraries that help to tell his remarkable life story.
In June of 1894, Scholastic editor James J. Fitzgerald wrote a lengthy article about the Catholic Archives of America housed at the University of Notre Dame. Fitzgerald interviewed longtime Notre Dame History Professor and Librarian James Farnham Edwards about his life work of collecting vast amounts of manuscripts that document the history of the Catholic Church in America.
Originally from Toledo, Ohio, Edwards came to Notre Dame as a Minim at the age of 9 in 1859. Staying at Notre Dame throughout his schooling, Edwards was retained as a history professor and librarian for nearly 40 years, until a stroke befell him in 1909, ultimately leading to his death in 1911. Since his teenage years, Edwards had a fascination with the history of the Catholic hierarchy in the United States and began actively collecting materials and across the country that would become known in the 19th century as the Catholic Archives of America. His reputation as a collector of Catholic materials grew immensely as well. In the interview below, Edwards recalls the moment that passion for preserving history first sparked.
The Notre Dame Archives continues Edwards’ work by actively collecting materials that document the life of the Catholic Church and her people as lived in the American context. Archivists succeeding Edwards have since finished arranging and describing his collections; they are available to researchers and have been utilized by many scholars for over one hundred years. Below is the article published in the June 30, 1894, issue of Scholastic. It gives much valuable insight into the workings of the Notre Dame Archives during the 19th century.
The Catholic Archives of America
THERE are frequently being carried on about us, quietly and unobtrusively, great and good works by unassuming and self-sacrificing persons who labor, not for reward or fickle approbation of a generation, but who aim at conferring a benefit upon future generations. Such a work is now being done at Notre Dame. The SCHOLASTIC reporter had observed, from time to time, in the Express Office boxes marked “valuable documents”; and rumors had reached him of the great numbers that were gradually and quietly being brought together to form the Catholic Archives of America.
If Cardinal Gibbons, Archbishop Elder, Archbishop Janssens, Monsignor Seton, or Bishop Spalding were accosted with regard to the Catholic Archives, any one of these worthy prelates would inform us that these archives could be found in a remarkable collection of manuscripts, letters and other documents at Notre Dame, Indiana, and the bringing together and forming a collection of these priceless papers was due to the untiring zeal and disinterested labor of a layman — Professor James F. Edwards.
If the questioner, however, came to Notre Dame and casually asked for the same information how few could really tell him of these historical treasures, and that one of our own honored Professors had devoted his time unceasingly to the collection and preservation of numberless papers, all referring to the history of the Catholic Church in America.
The SCHOLASTIC reporter called on Professor Edwards quite recently for the purpose of gaining some idea of the nature, present condition and future outlook of the Catholic Archives. He found this gentleman seated in his study busily engaged in arranging some manuscripts. An interview was kindly granted, and the reporter, encouraged by his pleasant reception, did not hesitate to launch into an endless number of questions.
“Professor,” remarked the reporter, “I heard that you have collected together a large number of valuable documents of great historical value relating to the Catholic Church in America.”
“Yes, it is true,” replied the Professor; “and to give you some idea of the great number of documents, I will take you through the Archives.”
The reporter was soon ushered before shelves upon shelves of documents neatly filed for reference, secretaries filled with letters, walnut cases gorged with manuscripts, and baskets heaped with papers and historical references, but untouched and not arranged. Picture the astonishment of the reporter, who expected to see some few hundreds of these valuable papers, when he gazed on thousands before him.
“You see I have undertaken a laborious task,” said the Professor. ” The collection before you represents the work of a quarter of a century and was gathered together only through untiring endeavor and continuous labor. Be seated, and I will show you some of the documents.”
Ensconcing himself in a large arm-chair, the reporter felt that he was ready for any surprise; but when letters written by saintly clergy, who were the pioneers of the Church in America, and documents written in French, German, English and Spanish, colored with age, were laid before him, his amazement knew no bounds. Here were letters of Archbishops Carroll and Hughes; Bishops Brute, Flaget, Du Bois and hosts of other prelates; manuscripts by Badin, Gallitzin, Nerynx and De Smet.
“How did you ever bring such a remarkable collection together?” asked the reporter finally, when his astonishment had abated to some extent.
“Well, it has been a life’s work with me. When a young boy I was one day in a room where much rubbish had accumulated, which was about to be removed. Amongst the heaps of paper I discovered several documents in Father Badin’s handwriting, also letters of Bishop Cretin, Father De Seille, and several other missionaries. I preserved these letters, and from time to time chanced upon other documents which I added to my collection. I conceived the idea that the best way to gather and preserve this historical matter would be to have a place where it would be collected entire, and easier access would thus be insured to it than if they were scattered throughout the country in the different dioceses. The bishops find it difficult to supply their diocesan churches with priests, and can therefore ill afford to designate men to do this special work. My plan to locate the Catholic Archives at Notre Dame — a place centrally located, and away from the dust and smoke of a large city — was heartily approved by all the clergy who were informed of it. For nearly twenty-five years I have been accumulating this treasury of historical matter.”
“Have your efforts been aided to any great extent?” interposed the reporter.
“Yes. I appreciate the generous assistance received from many quarters,” replied the Professor. “I find that most of the hierarchy realize the vastness of the labor and its invaluable importance to future history. Among these documents you may see the names of popes, cardinals, archbishops, bishops, priests, generals, lawyers, doctors, nuns, etc.; documents from the Propaganda, American College; in fact, all the most eminent clergy of the United States, Canada, Mexico and Cuba are represented here. The Carmelites, Visitation nuns, Ladies of the Sacred Heart, Dominicans, Franciscans, Sisters of Charity — and the many other orders of Sisterhoods, besides learned Jesuits, Redemptorists, Lazarists, Benedictines, and others, have contributed. Among laymen, Doctors Shea, Brownson, Clarke, Onahan, Egan, and Messrs. McMaster, Hickey and Ridder have been specially liberal and presented much valuable material to the archives.”
“These papers must cover a great period of time, do they not?”
“Some of them date back two and three centuries, but the greater number have reference to the early history of the United States, and the early missions in Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Texas, Kentucky, Oregon, Colorado, etc., etc., during the last fifty or sixty years.”
“Have these documents been used much in historical work?”
“No; but this was due to the difficulty in discovering the whereabouts of most of the papers and securing them. John Gilmary Shea drew on the archives somewhat; but the historians of the future are the ones who will derive the benefit. John Gilmary Shea deeply appreciated the great good to be realized from the archives. Here are some of his communications on the subject.”
Professor Edwards placed before the reporter a large number of letters written by the great historian, and with permission the reporter inserts the following quotations:
MY DEAR PROFESSOR:
Your wonderfully kind loan has arrived safely, and is a deluge of historical material, a perfect mine of facts, estimates and judgments. Many of these letters have been in several hands, and how little they have made of them! There are some where every line is a volume to one who understands: De Courcy had some of them. Bishop Bayley had them for years, Archbishop Hughes also had them. I recognize by Bishop Bayley’s endorsements some of the Brute papers so long in his hands and part of which perished by fire.
You possess in what you have gathered more material for a real history of the Church in this country during the present century, than was ever dreamt of. Your own zeal and labor as a collector, guided by intelligent love of Church and country, has been rewarded by great results. Yet I hope that it is only a beginning. I recognize more thoroughly now what you have done and, properly supported, may still do . . . You have created a new line, and your zeal has saved much from decay and destruction.
“Dr. Shea,” continued the Professor, “contemplated a long visit to Notre Dame, and hoped to make a thorough examination of the manuscripts; but his sad and sudden death put an end to his cherished plans.”
When asked if the manuscripts were open to general use of writers, the Professor said: “No; not for the present. Such a privilege would make the presentation of the archives impossible. The great amount of papers and letters not yet assorted makes it impossible for a writing public to handle them. Besides, there are many documents of a personal nature which cannot be seen until all now living have passed away. The archives are for future generations. I spend several hours daily in arranging the manuscripts and filing them for reference. I could employ five or six persons for an indefinite time in assorting the papers. The writers who will be permitted access to the archives must be pursuing a special historical work, and have the recommendation of the ecclesiastical authority of their diocese. However, any information asked of me in regard to historical matter, dates or facts, is willingly given.”
When asked if he thought that further material would be added to the archives, the Professor was not slow to state the hopeful outlook for more valuable manuscripts. He said: “Now that the plan of collecting the archives and centralizing them has become known, all true friends of Catholic history will aid and further this work. Many valuable documents are promised me which will be arrive after the death of the authors. I am constantly receiving letters and papers for the archives, and I find the clergy’s appreciation of the work increasing with time.”
When the inquiry was made of Professor Edwards whether much historic material had been destroyed or lost, a look of deep regret took the place of his usual pleasant expression, and he replied: “Yes: there are too many cases where priceless documents were destroyed by the carelessness, ignorance and neglect of Catholics themselves. Rome had to pay as much for the last of the Sibylline books as for them all; and I find the story repeated daily with reference to valuable writings.
“Bernard Campbell, an historian who began a Life of Archbishop Carroll in the Catholic Magazine, collected and studied for years. He obtained many documents from Bishop Fenwick, the second Bishop of Boston, and the Rev. George Fenwick, both interested in historical matters. Mr. Campbell gathered together a remarkable collection of material concerning the Church in this country. At his death his wife placed these manuscripts in a trunk, and as she travelled much, she carried the papers with her; and preserved them for a considerable length of time, expecting to find someone who would realize the value of the papers and endeavor to procure them. But, unfortunately, no interest was taken in the collection, and she burned them.
“Another case of occurred in New Orleans when the Federal troops threatened to destroy that city. Most of the papers of Bishop Peñalver, Bishop Dubourg, and others, were concealed in a fireplace and bricked up. After General Butler had been in possession of New Orleans for some time the wall was removed, and then it was found that no one had thought to close the chimney at the top; the rain had poured down and the papers were a mass of pulp.
“I had occasion, sometime ago, to visit Vincennes to look up some records of Father Gibault, who did so much towards inducing the settlers of the West to declare for the United States. I then learned that Bishop de la Hailandière and his illustrious nephew, Father Audran, had collected a vast amount of material written by the early missionaries of Indiana, and placed them away — in the archives of the Cathedral; but later on some persons, not knowing the value of the manuscripts, consigned the papers to the fire, thus depriving historians of a great amount of interesting documents.
These are but a few of the many instances where priceless historic matter was destroyed through ignorance and vandalism. But while I think with deep regret of the losses to history, yet the amount of material that exists is encouraging; and I hope to see the time when all the manuscripts referring to Catholic Church history in the United States will be gathered in the Catholic Archives of America to aid and further the work of the John Gilmary Sheas and De Courcys of the future.
The 1977 game versus the University of Southern California is one of the most legendary games in the history of Notre Dame football all because of the color green. After warming up in the tradition blue jerseys, the team went back into the locker room to find green jerseys hanging in every locker. “Suddenly, the locker room looked like we had just won the National Title and the game hadn’t even started,” cornerback Ted Burgmeier wrote in the 1978 Dome yearbook.
The players’ excitement at the change in jerseys was magnified by the crowd’s reaction once the players came out of the tunnel and on to the field. The return to green jerseys recalled some of the programs best years under coach Frank Leahy and heralded the promise of the 1977 season.
Irish coach Dan Devine had thought about using green jerseys since he arrived at Notre Dame for the 1975 season, but hadn’t yet seized the opportunity. The importance of facing fifth-ranked USC at home in 1977 led him to make the switch. While a few coaches and others knew about the green jerseys for this game, the secret was well kept. However, the players and fans were given many hints during the week leading up to the game.
At the Friday practice before the game tennis coach Tom Fallon sang several Irish ballads to the players, including “The Wearin’ of the Green.” Coach Devine followed with stories about the plight of Irish immigrants and their struggles in America. Later that night at the pep rally, Irish basketball coach “Digger” Phelps introduced a new cheer — “We are . . . the Green Machine.” The players were none the wiser despite all of the hints.
Pregame activities included rolling a student-constructed Trojan horse into the tunnel and out on to the field. The horse was fifteen feet high and had room for a small number of students who were dressed as football players. The student-inspired Trojan horse recalled earlier days when pregame activities came up from the students, including parades, snake dances, bonfires, floats, and dorm decorations. Some were planned, such as the Trojan horse, while others were more spontaneous.
Over the years, the 1977 USC game has become known as much for the Trojan horse as for the green jerseys. The game is often referred to as the “Green Jersey Game,” however, in celebration of the 40th anniversary of the game in 2017, the Notre Dame Bookstore is selling a commemorative tee-shirt with the words “Trojan Horse Game.”
Coach Devine had correctly predicted the excitement in the locker room before the game against a long-time rival. In his post-game comments he said, “I didn’t even go in the there. I had nothing to say. Everything had been said.” As the players exited the locker room, the Trojan sideline was confused, wondering if the green jerseys were being worn by students leading the team out of the tunnel. The Irish had not beaten the Trojans since 1973, and the eleventh-ranked Notre Dame team had already lost a game to Mississippi early in the season. USC, ranked fifth going into the Notre Dame game, also had one loss. The Trojans were favored by seven points.
The pregame excitement carried over into the game with the Irish dominating on both sides of the ball. Burgmeier noted, “in order to win, we needed the help of the student body, and that we got.” Quarterback Joe Montana ran for two touchdowns and threw for two more. Linebacker Bob Golic blocked a punt and defensive end Jay Case ran it back for a touchdown. A bobbled extra point try ended up as a two point conversion for the Irish. The Notre Dame defense pressured the USC quarterback into three interceptions. The final score was 49 to 19.
After the game Coach Devine commented, “It was a team victory in every sense of the word.” The Irish went on the win the remainder of their games, including a 38 to 10 victory over the Texas Longhorns in the Cotton Bowl. The Cotton Bowl win gave the Irish the national championship.
The Notre Dame Archives (607 Hesburgh Library) is hosting “behind-the-scenes” tours and a display of sports-related items from the University Archives’ collections on the Fridays before the 2017 Georgia, USC, and Navy football games. Space is limited for each tour, so please use the following form to secure your spot! http://bit.ly/2uimqEN
Notre Dame photo archivists, Charles Lamb and Elizabeth Hogan will be on hand to sign their newly launched book Notre Dame at 175: A Visual History (http://undpress.nd.edu/books/P03381), which will be available for sale on site during the tours and at the Notre Dame Bookstore.
Contact the University Archives at email@example.com or (574) 631-6448 for more information.
The year 2017 marks the 175th anniversary of the founding of the University of Notre Dame, and Notre Dame at 175: A Visual History celebrates this milestone with a collection of outstanding photographs and images. Charles Lamb and Elizabeth Hogan, both photograph archivists for the University of Notre Dame Archives, have chosen 175 images that illustrate the evolution of campus culture and its physical environment. Each image is accompanied by a caption explaining why it is historically and artistically significant. Important pieces of Notre Dame’s rich history are highlighted, along with depictions of everyday life on the beautiful campus. The result is a stunning large-format collection of full-color photographs and images that bring to life the history of Notre Dame’s beloved campus. Lamb and Hogan have taken care to find images that have not been featured in previous pictorial collections; even longtime and diehard Notre Dame fans will find new and unexpected images in this book.
Please join us for one of the upcoming book events for Notre Dame at 175:
Legendary coach Ara Parseghian died on August 2, 2017, at the age of 94. He came to Notre Dame in late 1963 from Northwestern University having previously coaching at Miami University in Ohio, where he served first as assistant coach under Woody Hayes and then as head coach. As Notre Dame’s first non-alumnus head coach since Jesse Harper’s last season in 1917, Parseghian inherited a struggling Notre Dame football program that finished the 1963 season with a 2 and 7 record. Parseghian quickly turned the program around, going 9 and 1 in 1964. He missed the national championship title by 1:34 in a squeaker defeat against USC, the last game of the season. However, Parseghian and the team won other accolades that year: Parseghian was named Coach of the Year by multiple organizations and quarterback John Huarte won the coveted Heisman Trophy.
Over the course of his 11 years at Notre Dame, Parseghian compiled a record of 95-17-4, winning national championships in 1966 and 1973. As a coach he was known for his intensity and attention to detail. After leaving Notre Dame he worked as a television commentator covering college football, but he kept close to Notre Dame offering advice, when asked, to later generations of coaches. Among his former players, Parseghian was known for his loyalty and lifelong friendship.
In 1994, tragedy struck the Parseghian family when three of Ara’s grandchildren were diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder that causes early death in children – Niemann-Pick Type C (NPC). The family quickly established the Ara Parseghian Medical Research Foundation to bring attention to the devastating disease and to try to find a cure. After his coaching career, Parseghian stayed connected with Notre Dame and the South Bend community. In part because of this relationship, Notre Dame added NPC to the other rare and neglected diseases it was researching. A formal partnership between Notre Dame and the Parseghian foundation was established in 2010 and much progress toward a cure has been made since the foundation’s beginnings in 1994. More information about these efforts can be found at http://parseghianfund.nd.edu/
Ara Parseghian, his spirit, his leadership, and his generosity will be greatly missed at Notre Dame. In a fundraising letter written after his resignation from Notre Dame, Parseghian noted, “Wherever I am, I will never leave Notre Dame, not really” [March 1975, PATH/Parseghian].
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 was 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.
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.
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.
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: Sister Mary Aloysi Kerner (BA 1922; MA 1923; PhD 1930) and Sister Mary Jerome Shaughnessy (MA 1926; BA 1930; M.Mus. 1935).
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 Records, Notre Dame publications, and the alumnae directories.
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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].
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.
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.
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.
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].
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.
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.
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.
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).
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 War 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)
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.