From the Archives: The forgotten traditions of Notre Dame dorms
Get ready to take a walk down memory lane as From the Archives delves into the rich history of now-defunct dorm traditions. Today, we’ll explore three unique dormitory traditions that have left their mark on campus life. From Grace Vision, the broadcasting station that paved the way for modern communication in the residence halls, to the Bun Run, the infamous streaking event that raised eyebrows on campus and Morrissey Manor’s Medallion Hunt, a weeklong scavenger hunt that brought out the competitive spirit in students. These traditions may have faded away or changed, but their impact on Notre Dame culture lives on. So, sit back, relax and let’s dive into the colorful history of these beloved dormitory traditions.
Live from Grace Hall
April 18, 1987 | Gina Camarena | Researched by Lilyann Gardner
Although Grace Hall is now known as an administrative office building, the towering building on the northeast side of campus was once home to hundreds of students.
Not only does the former residence hall, which opened in 1969, famously distinguish itself from neighboring Flanner Hall by illuminating an eight-foot-tall “#1” sign atop its roof, but its traditions don’t stop there.
Grace Hall stood apart from other dorms on campus by implementing its very own broadcasting station in the late 1980s called Grace Vision, exclusively for the dorm’s residents. The cable antenna the dorm was equipped with allowed every room to receive cable broadcasting, which included programming of special events on campus.
“Much of the recent fame is attributed to the presentation of the Keenan Revue, Grace Hall elections and the new variety show ‘Sunday Night Live,’” wrote Gina Camarena in a 1987 article from the Observer.
The Sunday Night Live program gave students the opportunity to share original videos and talents with their dorm community while also taking part in call-ins, raffles and trivia that kept the viewers engaged.
Unleashing its potential beyond humor, Grace Vision went on to showcase the underdog athletes of interhall sports events, along with student speeches, election results and other noteworthy campus happenings. This broadcasting station was more than just a source of laughter. It was a platform for the dorm to share and celebrate the diverse talents and achievements of its residents.
“Regular features that viewers can enjoy are Wednesday night social awareness film series and a continuous display of up-to-date dining hall menus, bus schedules and announcements,” wrote Camarena.
The program was so successful that Grace Hall eventually put a television in the lobby so that students from other dorms could enjoy the broadcast, followed by talks of implementing cable in every residence hall so that each dorm had its own station.
Regrettably, the plans to bring cable to all residence halls on campus never materialized as Grace Hall closed its doors after the spring semester of 1996. Nevertheless, the impact of their innovative efforts can still be observed in various dorms across campus today.
Men’s dorms participate in ‘Bun Run’
The dorms might have changed, but the tradition stayed the same: For many years, certain Notre Dame men would streak through campus during finals week.
The first mention of this “Bun Run” in the pages of The Observer came in 1993 — although the first instance of the Run itself remains unclear. In the Dec. 6 issue, Karen Dubay ‘95 reported on the Keenan Bun Run, which occurred late at night every finals week and involved traversing campus on bikes, rollerblades and the Knights’ own feet.
In the same article, Dubay also described Alumni Hall’s “streak of the second floor of the library.” Also held during finals week, this iteration involved the Dawgs wearing only sunglasses, Santa hats or jingle bells — or nothing at all. By 1999, Bridget Mahoney ‘01 revealed — in a Scene spotlight of Alumni from the Nov. 3 issue — that the men had taken to wearing masks to conceal their identities.
Word of the Run ran cold in The Observer for years after that, until the May 2 issue in 2007. Sometime after the turn of the century, it seems, the Bun Run’s reputation transferred over to the late Zahm House. Zahmbie Conor McEvily ’07 penned a letter to the editor describing how his fellow residents had been informed that anyone caught participating in the tradition — now moved to the LaFortune Student Center on the Sunday before finals — would be apprehended by Notre Dame police.
While McEvily allowed that these threats were “logical,” he also argued the tradition had a place at Notre Dame.
“The Bun Run — in its own quirky, irreverent way — reminds us that despite being the best and brightest this country has to offer, we shouldn’t take ourselves too seriously,” he wrote.
But the Bun Run would come to an end in about a decade’s time, spurred in part by another letter to the editor. In the April 28, 2015 edition, Fred Kraus — the manager of The Huddle — called for a boycott of the Run on behalf of employees.
“My female staff often request schedule changes or hide in the kitchen or elsewhere in the building when this event takes place,” Kraus wrote. “How would you feel if your mother or grandmother were working here and someone did this to them?”
Similar to the start of the tradition, the end of the Bun Run was never officially documented. In a South Bend Tribune article detailing the closure of Zahm in 2021, Mike Nguyen ‘20 said Zahm residents had phased out the tradition over the course of his four years in the dorm.
Still, the Bun Run lives on in the pages of The Observer — and is no doubt burned into the brains of many unsuspecting alumni.
Morrissey tradition formerly etched in pages of The Observer
Before clues to Morrissey Manor’s Medallion Hunt were dispersed to the masses on social media, The Observer used to find itself in the middle of a campus-wide game of hide-and-seek.
Every spring, Morrissey launches its annual tradition, a weeklong scavenger hunt to find a small, but highly coveted, wooden token with the hall’s signature “M” etched in. The prize for the winner? A lofty $250 (with records showing one year it was bumped to $300).
The tradition has continuously bonded friends and challenged minds, but the path to victory looked a little different a mere 15 years ago. Students had to open up the pages of the newspaper to find the daily clues, scattered between the articles published that day.
On March 26, an advertisement in The Observer kicked off the ‘07 hunt. The first clue read, “Blue and Gold jerseys will lead to the find, Father Vierling’s riddles will mess your mind.”
The next day’s clue on March 27 guided searchers to the ghost of George Gipp to aid in the medallion search.
A later ad on March 31, 2008, notified participants that the medallion could not be located in a residence hall, church or at the Grotto. Everywhere else was fair game.
Clues for the medallion have not graced the pages of The Observer since the spring of 2008, but the lore of the treasure hunt lives on.