Alumni Association president John Neeson inaugurated Universal Notre Dame (UND) Night as a means for alumni to connect with their alma mater without having to travel to campus for Alumni Reunion. The first UND Night was held on April 24, 1924, and more than forty Alumni Clubs gathered in their respective cities. As part of the night’s entertainment, the Clubs tuned into a radio broadcast with speeches by University President Rev. Matthew Walsh, President of the Board of Trustees Albert Erskine, and Football Coach Knute Rockne. Fr. Walsh spoke about “the university’s plan for expansion, the unyielding observance of the traditions, the spirit of the present day student and the alumni influence in retaining that spirit in after years.” Rockne talked about the importance of athletics and the high standards for student athletes at Notre Dame [Alumnus, May 1924, page 243].
UND night was a smashing success and it quickly became a signature event for the Alumni Association. For many years, the celebrations utilized radio broadcasts to connect anyone within reach of the radio signal to Notre Dame. Other times the Alumni Association distributed films for the Clubs to watch. Universal Night was also an opportunity for Alumni Clubs to hold elections, honor members, and connect with fellow alums living in the same geographic area.
The Alumni Clubs still celebrate Universal Notre Dame Night today, but it is no longer technically “universal” in that the events are not held on the same night. Alumni Club schedule dates that are convenient for them. UND celebrations still are a way for alumni to connect with the University as Notre Dame administrator, faculty, and staff are invited as keynote speakers. UND Night remains an important annual event for Alumni Clubs worldwide.