History of Notre Dame

The University of Notre Dame was founded in 1842 by a young priest of a French missionary order called the Congregation of Holy Cross. Rev. Edward F. Sorin started his school in the northern Indiana wilderness with about $300 and three log buildings in bad repair, and in 1844 he received a charter from the state legislature.

His initial educational program adapted the classic liberal arts curriculum to the needs of the frontier. Science entered the curriculum in 1865, and in 1869 a Department of Law, now the oldest American law school under Catholic auspices, began functioning. Engineering was founded in 1873, a graduate program in 1918, and a College of Business Administration in 1921.

Today, the obscure school that group founded has become a highly-respected center of learning dedicated to the threefold goal of contemporary higher education - teaching, research and service. From the missionary log chapel used by the Notre Dame founders, the University has grown into a 1,250-acre campus with 103 buildings. The self-sufficiency of the campus which surrounds two lakes and virtually constitutes a separate civic entity contributes to the unusual solidarity and spirit of the Notre Dame student body. There is no university in the world whose name is more synonymous with "spirit" than the University of Notre Dame. As the soul of the University, the Notre Dame spirit is responsible for all that is distinctive about Notre Dame and generates the personality of the University. The University embodies four undergraduate colleges (arts and letters, science, engineering, and business administration); the School of Architecture; the law school; the graduate division of the College of Business Administration; and a graduate school offering programs for the master's and Ph.D. degrees in 30 specific areas, as well as in interdisciplinary programs such as American studies, Russian and East European studies, Latin American studies and Medieval studies.

There are also a number of specialized units within the University, including the Center for Continuing Education, the Center for the Study of Contemporary Society, the Computing Center, the Helen Kellogg Institute for International Studies, the Joan B. Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, the Lobund Laboratory, the Medieval Institute, the Notre Dame Institute for Church Life and the Radiation Laboratory. Of particular importance in maintaining a tradition of excellence is the Theodore M. Hesburgh Library, one of the largest university library buildings in the world. The 14-story structure provides study facilities for 2,900 students.

Notre Dame was operated by the Congregation of Holy Cross until May 1967 when, in a historic move, the congregation turned the University over to lay control with the establishment of two principal governing groups, the Fellows of the University and a predominantly lay Board of Trustees. Notre Dame, however, maintains its identity as a Catholic institution.