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4.29.2007 - 49 comments 

If you are asking yourself... "didn't LZ just do a blog post recently about Notre Dame?" I'd have to say "yes I did, but that was a church in Paris and this is a University in the Heartland of America." But that particular post did make me think about the other Notre Dame that has the "Touchdown Jesus" (an endearing term and not a sacrilege) I assure you.

But while we were on a student guided tour on this beautiful and pristine campus, we did hear the story of how the huge campus statue of Jesus just happens to be on one end of the Notre Dame Football Stadium and conjures up those types of images as the football program of home games unrolls each spring. Not only is that statue of Jesus a well known landmark, but the gold Dome pictured here is also just as famous. Our tour guide was a senior at the University and did a GREAT job of answering every question that was brought up on the tour.

The University of Notre Dame was founded in late November 1842 by a priest of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Rev. Edward Sorin. His original land grant of several hundred acres was the site of an early mission to Native Americans, but included only three small buildings in need of repair. The land had been purchased by Rev. Stephen Badin, the first Catholic priest ordained in the United States, and left in trust to the Bishop of Vincennes, Indiana, for anyone who would found a school on the site.

Father Sorin and his companion Brothers of St. Joseph (later the Holy Cross Brothers) called the fledgling school, in their mother tongue, L'Universite de Notre Dame du Lac. The University was officially chartered by special act of the legislature of the State of Indiana on January 15, 1844. It is worthy of ecumenical note that a Methodist state senator, John B. De Frees, was responsible for this action and for the writing of the University's charter as a degree-granting institution.

I especially loved the story that our guy told us, that because the University had its own Post Office, the U.S. Federal Government was obliged to build a road to the Post Office. Over the years the Post Office was moved to different locations on the campus, thereby necessitating the U.S. Government to build another road on the campus. I don't know how much truth there really is to the story, but I sure enjoyed the thought of it.

Despite the university’s humble academic beginnings, Notre Dame from its founding enjoyed two significant advantages. First, its establishing coincided with the great opening of the Midwest by railroads and canals and with the great antebellum immigration, largely of Catholics, from Europe; "for most of the 1840s," historian Thomas Schlereth has written, "Notre Dame was the only Catholic college of consequence with access to such cities as Toledo, Cleveland, Detroit, Milwaukee, and particularly the rapidly growing city of Chicago.

"The University's second, and even greater, advantage was the character of its founder, Father Sorin, whose overarching vision of a great American Catholic university in the tradition of the great medieval universities has inspired Notre Dame's growth over its entire history.Courses in physics and geology were added to the curriculum in 1863, and two years later the College of Science was established. In 1869 the University established the nation's first Catholic law school, and in 1873 the first Catholic College of Engineering. Its architecture program also was the first in the U.S. under Catholic auspices, and its circulating library was the first on any American campus.Even after a disastrous fire in 1879 destroyed the Main Building, which housed virtually the entire University, Father Sorin willed Notre Dame to rebuild and continue its growth.

In 1889 Sorin Hall became Catholic higher education's first student residence with private rooms. From that day to this, residentiality and the traditions that flow from it have remained central to student life at Notre Dame, with about 80 percent of current undergraduates continuing to live on campus. The campus is so clean and beautiful and seems more like a park than it does a university. It is just a beautiful place for a great eduacation.

"When you are everywhere, you are nowhere. When you are somewhere, you are everywhere." -Rumi