New year marks 175th anniversary of Notre Dame
Courtney Becker | Friday, August 18, 2017
In November of 1842, after a cold 11-day hike through Indiana, Fr. Edward Sorin and other members of the Congregation of the Holy Cross arrived at the land given to him by Fr. Stephen Badin — the land on which Sorin built Notre Dame.
Instead of simply waiting there until the weather got better, as the common Notre Dame saying goes, Sorin’s intention was to found a college on this land. This weekend the opening of the 2017-2018 academic year marks the 175th anniversary of the University, as Notre Dame welcomes 2,052 new members of the student body — a far cry from the 25 students in the University’s first class.
The University’s 175th anniversary is a milestone celebrated by students, faculty, alumni and the extended Notre Dame community alike. In a press release from April 19, the University announced the Indiana General Assembly had passed a resolution recognizing Notre Dame’s 175th anniversary. Indiana state Sen. Joe Zakas, who co-authored the resolution, said the University has made a powerful and lasting impact beyond Indiana.
“Notre Dame’s positive impact on our community, the nation and the world cannot be overstated,” Zakas said in the press release. “The General Assembly’s awareness of these contributions generated solid support for the 175th anniversary resolution.”
In addition to this honor from the General Assembly, the University is marking the anniversary with a pilgrimage retracing the steps of Sorin and his Holy Cross brothers across more than 300 miles from Vincennes, Indiana to Notre Dame. The Notre Dame Trail began Aug. 13 with a Mass celebrated at the same place Sorin and his companions celebrated Mass, and will conclude on campus Aug. 26.
Member of the class of 1987 Nylce Myers — who will participate in the five-day pilgrimage that will cover 67 miles beginning in Rochester, Indiana on Aug. 21 — said she was drawn to the event because it offers the chance to connect with members of the Notre Dame family spanning several generations.
“One of the things that appeals … to me is that this is going to be a chance to meet other people,” she said. “The folks who are doing the pilgrimage are coming from all over, and for those of us who are doing the overnight versions — we’re doing the five-day — we figure we’re going to meet [others]. As hokey as it sounds, the Notre Dame family is real, and so we’re going to meet Notre Dame folks that we might not ever have had a chance to connect with.”
The Trail will close with a 175th anniversary Mass, followed by a picnic with ten food villages on South Quad for the pilgrims and current Notre Dame community members to enjoy together. A celebration combining years of Notre Dame alumni and current students puts the 175-year history of the University into perspective, Myers said, particularly given the number of new projects nearing completion this year.
“Actually going back and getting kind of a historical appreciation of what came before, I think, gives you an appreciation for the way Notre Dame changes,” she said. “Yes, it’s special to everybody in your period of time when you are there, but to understand that Notre Dame — like everything else — is kind of a living, growing, breathing thing and that it needs to change and it needs to adapt to whatever the changing needs are of our society, I think that’s important.”
The 175th anniversary provides a particularly important opportunity to returning and new students this year, Myers said, as reflecting on the history of the University provides a greater perspective on the Notre Dame students know today.
“I think this is a good opportunity for all of us to reflect on the history,” Myers said. “ … Notre Dame, I think for every generation that goes through, is here and now. It’s what you and your cohort are doing, and so to actually kind of get a chance to step back and think about how it got to be what it is today and what came before us is kind of a gift. It kind of just puts it all into perspective.”