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Kristen Durbin | Monday, January 31, 2011

Tradition. A word so synonymous with Notre Dame it applies to discussions of football and graces numerous articles of memorabilia in the Hammes Bookstore.

But these trivial examples of Irish “tradition” pale in comparison with the ubiquitous family tradition that pervades every campus residence hall and encompasses nearly the entire country.

As an undergraduate admissions tour guide, it is my express responsibility to know myriad random facts about our beloved University, but an important statistic I frequently repeat in response to questions from students and parents involves the proportion of legacy students at Notre Dame. According to admissions counselors, the University prefers to keep the number of students who had at least one parent attend Notre Dame at about 25 percent of the undergraduate student body.

That proportion often seems grossly inaccurate when meeting people who casually mention that their grandfather, parents, uncles, cousins and siblings went to Notre Dame and that their love for the school began in the womb.

Not that I don’t buy into Notre Dame’s image as a university deeply rooted in tradition, especially in terms of Catholicism and football, but I honestly can’t think of another university to which whole generations of families flock, save for maybe Harvard.

Although my parents aren’t Domers, my grandmother is a proud alumna of Saint Mary’s, and two of her brothers once called the Golden Dome home. This relatively “distant” connection to the University turned my decision to attend Notre Dame into the continuation of a 50-year-old “family tradition.”

Now that my younger brother became an official member of the Class of 2015 last week, the contagious Notre Dame family tradition has lured yet another sibling to snowy South Bend. The fact that my brother turned down the possibility of receiving a substantial scholarship to Marquette and guaranteed admission into their dental school in the future says something about the magnetic pull of Notre Dame. But what exactly attracts people to the University?

Obvious answers would include football (which will hopefully return to glory by the time I graduate), the University’s status as the best Catholic university in the world and the No. 1 undergraduate business school in the country. But these are simply the easiest reasons to put on paper.

During my tours, it’s often difficult to effectively convey the unique feeling of community that Notre Dame students share, despite the fact that I feel connected to the Notre Dame community every day. Maybe it’s the camaraderie the dorms foster or standing in a sea of green in the student section.

Whatever it is, it brings 2,000 new Domers to campus each year and attracts 80,000 football fans on fall weekends. It brings families together and strengthens relationships between siblings. Most of all, it unites us all as part of the Notre Dame family legacy, and I can’t wait for my brother to feel that unique blend of tradition and community next year.

The views expressed in the Inside Column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

Contact Kristen Durbin at [email protected]