Today we're celebrating the 170th birthday of the University of Notre Dame!
Notre Dame has traditionally celebrated its founding on November 26, but the historical accuracy of this date is a little fuzzy. University founder Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C., is vague about his arrival at the exact spot where he later founded Notre Dame.
According to University Archivist Elizabeth Hogan, Sorin wrote a letter to Blessed Basil Moreau on December 5th, in which Sorin says he left Vincennes on Nov. 16th and arrived at Notre Dame 11 days later, although this date can be interpreted differently. According to Marvin O'Connell's book on Fr. Sorin, South Bend resident Alexis Coquillard (his uncle had the same name) and Father Sorin went to see the land at Notre Dame on or about the 26th, but went back to South Bend for the evening.
In Hogan's blog post on the 175th anniversary of the Congregation of Holy Cross, she writes:
"In 1841, Moreau sent Rev. Edward Sorin, CSC, from Le Mans, France, to a newly formed diocese in Vincennes, Indiana. Sorin’s ambition was stifled in Vincennes, so when Bishop Celestine de la Hailandiere conceded to let Sorin establish a college elsewhere in the diocese, he quickly jumped on the opportunity. As luck would have it, Rev. Stephen T. Badin had sold the Diocese of Vincennes land just north of South Bend, Indiana, in 1835, with the intent of using it for an educational institution. The land became available to Sorin and upon his arrival in November 1842, he renamed the area Notre Dame du Lac."
There are still conflicting accounts, however, largely because Fr. Sorin didn't keep a diary of his work. Early issues of Notre Dame's Scholastic magazine in the 19th century mention "Founders Day" celebrations, but they were more inclined to be on the feast day of St. Edward, October 13.
For all this historical intrigue, however, one thing is certain: Throughout his long and illustrious tenure as the head of the University of Notre Dame, Father Sorin was the proud bearer of some incredible facial hair. He did at some point shave off his beard and moustache (the horror!), but fear not - he grew it back.
For more reading on the history of Notre Dame, you can read "Notre Dame - One Hundred Years" by Father Arthur J. Hope, C.S.C. at the University Archives.
Special thanks to Elizabeth Hogan at the University Archives for helping us research and find photos for this post! All images are used with permission from University of Notre Dame Archives.