The Blue and the Gold (and the Green)
Few universities are as indebted to their alumni as the University of Notre Dame. Case in point: In 1879, when a fire destroyed its Main Building — which at the time housed virtually the entire university — only 35 years after it was founded, it was alumni from Chicago who rallied to raise funds to rebuild it. Their support not only got the university back on its feet, but it also set it on a path of growth that hasn’t yielded to this day.
The rebuilt golden-domed Main Building, perhaps the most recognizable image representing Notre Dame besides its logo — ubiquitous during college football season — is now one of 137 buildings that make up the university’s campus. Recent surveys conducted by U.S. News & World Report, TIME and Kiplinger’s, to name a few, rate Notre Dame among the nation’s top 25 institutions of higher learning. It also was ranked fifth in a listing of “dream schools” by parents in a survey by The Princeton Review and was named one of the “New Ivies” in American higher education by The Wall Street Journal.
The alumni support that rebuilt the university in the late 1800s also laid the groundwork for what has become a worldwide network of Notre Dame grads. Eighteen years after the founding of the alumni association in 1868, the Chicago alumni formed the first Notre Dame alumni club. Today, there are more than 275 local Notre Dame alumni clubs around the world, and their contributions to Notre Dame and its community are invaluable.
Clubs connect alumni with each other and the university, and they offer a variety of programs and events, including the Hesburgh Lecture Program — named after the Rev. Theodore Hesburgh, president emeritus and former president of Notre Dame for 35 years — where some of Notre Dame’s most noted faculty travel around the country to alumni clubs to deliver lectures on their topic of expertise. Lou Nanni, vice president for university relations at Notre Dame, says this year the program will feature somewhere between 75 and 80 lectures. Clubs also give scholarships to current students and organize community service, continuing education and career networking.