University of Notre Dame

The Story of Notre Dame
Notre Dame -- One Hundred Years / by Arthur J. Hope, C.S.C.

Chapter XIX

AS HAS already been indicated, Notre Dame's growth under the presidency of Father Morrissey was largely in the preparatory school. Although the number of those who came for college work and subsequently took their bachelor's degrees increased, the increase was slow. The average for each year between 1894 and 1905 is approximately thirty bachelor's degrees per year, with a slight sprinkling of master's degrees. There was considerable fluctuation during these years, the highest number being attained in 1904, with forty-seven bachelors and two masters.[1]

In the fall of 1895 serious steps were taken to revise and elaborate the curriculum. Emphasis was placed on raising the requirements for entrance into college, and at the same time the number of classes was reduced in order that the students might do "more thorough and original work."[2] At this period there occur on the faculty roll the names of two priests of the Congregation who were to have great influence in furthering studies, John W. Cavanaugh and James A. Burns. The former was brilliant and witty, the latter, a serious scholar and a dignified don. In different ways, both were destined to play a great part in Notre Dame's future development. It might be said that both belonged to the "school" of Father Zahm rather than that of Father Morrissey.

The classics were stressed particularly in the college. Father Nicholas Stoffel was a Greek scholar of extraordinary merit. In the spring of 1899 Father Stoffel took upon himself the labor of organizing the students for the production of "Oedipus Tyrannus" in the original Greek, a play which he had, some fifteen years previous, presented. Each morning he drove up from South Bend, where he was pastor of St. Joseph's Church, his faithful dog trotting beneath the buggy. There were endless rehearsals. But the show came off on Monday, May 1, 1899, and Archbishop, later Cardinal, Martinelli, the Apostolic Delegate, was in Washington Hall to see the performance.[3] Father Stoffel also edited, shortly afterward, an "Epitome of the New Testament" in Greek. It is said that he even set the type himself.[4]

When Father Morrissey returned from a European trip in 1899, he decided to expand the curriculum somewhat. There were to be new courses -- Economics (the first mention of the subject at Notre Dame) and more classes in History; a school of architecture was likewise to be established. As regards the study of economics, it is worthy of note that from the beginning Notre Dame's attitude was never radical. The authorities feared over-emphasis that might lead to experimental and freakish legislation; but at the same time it held that great private interests must be readjusted to the public welfare. And Father Morrissey could have added in his blunt emphatic way: "We must be prepared for a clash!"[5] Postgraduate work in Economics and History, it was announced would form the course for the School of Journalism.[6] In 1900 more definite plans for the embryonic journalists were made known. They were to pursue a four-year course leading to the degree of Bachelor of Letters, in which the use of the English language was made paramount. Since it was obvious that journalists must have something to write about, careful attention was to be given to history, economics, politics, philosophy and religion. Nor was it forgotten that shorthand and typing would be of inestimable value to the future reporters and editors. Upon attaining the Litt.B., a candidate could enter upon a fifth year, the successful completion of which led to the Master of Letters in Journalism. This fifth year was to be presided over by a skilled newspaper man who would conduct daily lectures in reporting, methods of news gathering, editorial writing, proof-reading and departmental work.[7]

There were now at Notre Dame (1900) nearly seven hundred students. Most of them belonged to that class that wanted to "get through college" as quickly as possible and get a job. This was commonly achieved at Notre Dame by the popular "Commercial Course." The University felt, rightly or not, the necessity of looking out for the business world by furnishing students with more than a bit of book-keeping. Notre Dame watched the Universities of Michigan and Pennsylvania augmenting the curricula of the commercial departments and felt called upon to do likewise.[8]

As for the school of art, Notre Dame had been living for some years on the reputation of Luigi Gregori. But after his depart re from the institution, the department of art suffered greatly. In 1900 Jobson Emilien Paradis, a pupil of Gérôme, came as instructor in "painting and artistic drawing." Paradis later made a name for himself in Paris.[9]

Up until 1901 no one was admitted to collegiate freshman standing except by examination. This rule was modified to the extent of admitting students without examination who had completed their course in a "reputable" high school. A very modern note, however, was introduced by permitting the exceptionally bright students to make up their deficiencies by following extra courses in Latin and Greek. Father Morrissey, true to the scholastic ideal, pontifically declared that "Latin, Greek and Mathematics were more essential for culture and exact mental training than any other branches."[10]

The college of Law still cer1tinued to attract a substantial number of students. Under Colonel Hoynes, whose ability was equalled only by his geniality, large numbers of youths were prepared, with splendid results, for the practice of the law. In fact, the majority of bachelor's degrees granted during the regime of Father Morrissey were in Law. At the turn of the century, over seventy were studying in the Law School. So much of the credit for this was given to Colonel Hoynes that he was already considered as having been the "founder" of the Law School at Notre Dame. Such, of course, was not the fact, but Father Morrissey encouraged the belief, knowing well how to flatter the Colonel's little vanities.[11] The Colonel must have been surprised when the students, through the columns of the Scholastic, noted that the following volumes had been added to the Law library: "J. Sullivan on Prize Fights," "Duffy on Partial Insanity," and "Booze on Spiritous Liquors."[12] There is also a reference to "McNichols on Street-Car Fares," which might lead one to conclude that a student of that name may still be in arrears to the street-car company.[13]

There is considerable speculation as to the foundation of scholarships at Notre Dame. In 1896 the Scholastic announced that Col. John R. Fellows, District Attorney of New York City, had established the first scholarship at Notre Dame.[14] This was not true, for even in Father Sorin's early days as president, Father Foley of Toledo had granted a scholarship.[15] Great acclaim was made of the Fellows scholarship, however, because Col. Fellows was neither a Catholic nor ever a student at Notre Dame. In 1899 Dr. Edward Johnson of Watertown, Wisconsin, made a similar grant to the University whereby "something productive of good might live after I am dead and gone."[16]

It would be impossible to imagine the problems that came to trouble Father Morrissey and every other president before him. No parental complaint was too trivial to find its way to his desk. "I'll write a letter to the President!" was the normal procedure for those who had a pretext for grumbling.

Sometimes the letters were more ludicrous than annoying. Father Morrissey must have chuckled when he received a note from a worried mother saying that Sister Aloysius had written that her son had outgrown his pants, and would Father Morrissey please investigate and "see whether it was not the pants had shrunk!"

In spite of its insularity and smallness, Notre Dame was not unfavorably known throughout the country. Distinguished men of religion, letters and science came to visit and address the students. On Sept. 20, 1893, Archbishop Satolli, the Apostolic Delegate, arrived amidst the clanging of bells and the booming of the Bourdon.[29] William Jennings Bryan visited the campus twice.[30] F. Marion Crawford came to deliver a lecture in November 1897.[31] John Talbot Smith, always a popular and eminent priest, was here in 1898.[32] The University Band and the military companies assembled at the end of Notre Dame avenue to welcome the Most Rev. Sebastian Martinelli, the Apostolic Delegate, on May 11, 1899.[33] There were others. For instance, Professor VanDyke, of Princeton, the author of "The Other Wise Man," lectured to the students on Tennyson in November, 1900.[34] Then came the visit of Monseigneur Falconio, the Apostolic Delegate to Canada and, later on, to the United States.[35] The Irish poet and dramatist, William Butler Yeats, came for three days in January, 1904, and talked to the students on the development of Irish literature and the Irish stage.[36]

On Oct. 5, 1904, William Howard Taft, Secretary of War, and former Governor of the Philippines, opened the lecture course at the University[37] His topic was "The Church and Our Government in the Philippines." His discourse, which ran through three successive issues of the Scholastic, was both lengthy and instructive.[38] It is a tribute to his integrity and his clarity that he held his audience without remonstrance. In addition to Mr. Taft, Dom Francis Aidan Gasquet, O.S.B., lectured on "France and the Vatican;" also Henry James, already famous as a novelist, spoke to the students on "Balzac."[39]

Students of that period whose eyes may happen to fall on these lines would reproach me if I failed to mention the hundreds of other speakers and attractions that graced or disgraced the platform of Washington Hall. Some of them were unbelievably bad. The students were obliged to attend these functions. Willy-nilly, culture was imposed on them. An Egyptologist with a few lantern slides sought vainly to impart some enthusiasm for the pyramids, but when the lights went out, many a pebble and peanut found their mark. This particular lecturer returned, oddly enough, each season, but learned to retire to the wings while his lantern slides were being shown.

The conduct of the students, mostly peeps, during these and similar performances sometimes created terror in the hearts of actors and singers. In all truth, it must be said that this howling, hissing, foot-scraping body of young rapscallions found some cause for complaint. On the other hand, the boys of Carroll Hall were a sassy, defiant group of lads who more than likely would have hissed John McCormick or thrown pebbles at Sarah Bernhardt. We can laugh now, because those days have passed, let us hope, forever.

Put a crowd of boys together, under any conditions, and things will happen. McNulty, on the third floor of Sorin, could yell out the window for Brinker on the second. Brinker would get a face full of water. Next time, when Brinker's name was called, Brinker's hat would emerge on the end of a cane, and only after the avalanche, would Brinker's head appear.[40]

After electricity was installed in the study-halls, it was presumed that the gas lights were useless. In the evening, when the electricity was turned on, one of the more trustworthy of the students was sent to light the gas lamps also. One might ask why. The answer lies in the fact that one night, when the electricity failed, and the study-hall was in utter darkness, pandemonium broke loose. High up on the rostrum, the prefect had to take refuge under his desk. Ink bottles, red and black, flew at him from every direction. When the lights finally came on, the scene was unforgettable. Fortunately, the missiles had missed their target. These were the boys so highly praised by visiting bishops for their upright character and gentlemanly bearing.

For various infractions of the rules, bad marks, called demerits, were given. Breaking silence in the study-hall brought twenty-five demerits; festooning the lavatory with toilet-paper drew fifty demerits; smoking cigarettes piled up one hundred and fifty demerits. It was possible to work off these demerits by good conduct. In theory at least, when a student had accumulated one hundred and fifty demerits the Prefect of Discipline wrote a letter home to Dad. And Dad generally wrote a "scorcher" to his son. If no improvement followed, the student could be expelled or dismissed when the three-hundred mark was reached.

Students always seem to have the privilege of complaining about food. The cuisine at Notre Dame never fell very low, at least, publicly. And on feast days there was an abundance for all.

With the multiplication of residence halls, there developed a rivalry in athletics as well as in other matters. The Brownson Hall boys looked on the Sorinites as a sophisticated group. "Sorin Hall needs a good old fashioned shaking-up . . . in a mental and physical way. The majority seems to have no spirit for the support of enterprises, the absence of which they would be the first and loudest to decry!"[42] "Kid stuff!" replied Sorin Hall scornfully. The men of Sorin were insulated and glad of it. When the rest of the University was in bed, Sorin had its own recreation room, with billiards and cards, where they could play "Old Maid" and smoke cigarettes, with Sorin's own orchestra dispensing sweet music, and, for shame, the windows banked with flowers.[43] Many a Notre Dame boy had a sister or a cousin at St. Mary's. On certain days the boys were allowed to visit their relatives at the girls' college. These relationships were ordinarily well authenticated by Mother Pauline and Father Morrissey. Once in a while, however, a "manufactured" cousin got by the watchful eye of the superiors. The boys had a favorite stroll to the stile opposite the entrance to St. Mary's. They would sit on the steps and watch the girls as they walked to their end of the road, parading in long, swishy dresses and shirt-waists, gold watches pinned over their hearts. There was hand-waving and calling and, no doubt some whistling. This innocuous sort of flirtation was not productive of romance. It would take another generation to be persuaded that it might be a good thing for Notre Dame boys to meet the girls at St. Mary's. On Sunday mornings an old gentleman from South Bend, his flat cart hitched to an old white horse, would draw up in front of Sorin Hall. After breakfast, the students made a bee-line to this old fellow to get the newspapers.[44] The mail would be distributed, too, on the lawn under the trees. It was a great moment. The post-mark on all letters was duly inspected. Those that were mailed from South Bend were turned over to the Prefect of Discipline. Many a budding romance was thus ended.[45] Sometimes cupid would not be cheated. In February, 1901, a wedding took place in the campus church:

The students of a generation ago were a more social lot than those of today. A student can now go to his room, turn on his radio, and find plenty of entertainment by himself. In Father Morrissey's time the students had to find their enjoyment in the company of all. Each hall had its own recreation room, and there the students would gather for their "smokers." It was very informal entertainment, but singly, or in groups, all could do something to amuse the others. At regular intervals they would serve refreshments, and take the whole evening off to celebrate together some feast day or athletic victory.[17] This sort of community recreation introduced everyone on the campus to everyone else. It was not until after 1920 that students began to pass one another without speaking.

The class dances which play so large a part in a college student's life did not begin at Notre Dame until 1905. In April of that year, the Seniors held a ball. It took place in the apparatus room of the gymnasium. The room had been decorated with bunting and streamers, the orchestra concealed behind a forest of palms, and a punch bowl "ensconced in an artistically decorated booth." At the intermission, it is said, more substantial refreshments were served.[48]

In the field of collegiate athletics, Notre Dame's present position seems to be both prominent and secure. That was certainly not the case when Father Morrissey was president. The sport around which most serious trouble developed was football. Among colleges in the mid-west, Notre Dame did not enjoy an unsullied reputation. Nine of these colleges banded together and formed certain rules of conduct in order to exclude what we will call professionalism. It was an excellent move for it tended to restore college athletics to a proper perspective. Every college became immediately sensitive on the score of subsidizing athletes. It is probably true that many young men go to college with a greater yen for sports than for books. Some sort of control is indeed advisable. Anyone who cares to investigate can find ample evidence that Notre Dame tried to adopt and live by the rules as laid down by the best athletic associations.

Early in Father Morrissey's administration, the Notre Dame football team had no regular coach. In the fall of 1896, however, Frank Hering, who had played quarterback for the Varsity at Chicago, was engaged as coach.[49] It was not a full-time job, since Hering not only played on the team, which was customary at many colleges, but also studied law on the side. Hering's position was not easy. He had a hard time working up enough enthusiasm to get a squad on the field. There seemed to be a disposition among the students that if they could have no guarantee of being on the "first team," they did not care to play at all. Finally, he succeeded in building up a team, none too glorious in its results.

In 1897, the Athletic Constitution was thus amended:

We prefer to be silent about many of the unpleasant episodes in Notre Dame's athletic history. Notre Dame felt there was a great deal of discrimination against her. She had great difficulty in obtaining contests with colleges in her own section of the country. Thus, she was forced to seek distant fields. And there she was unbelievably successful.

Father Morrissey was quite calm through this difficulty. He was one of those who favored giving up intercollegiate athletics rather than prolong any bitterness with other colleges. A good intramural athletic program was more to his taste. He did not like the financial losses that the intercollegiate program entailed. He yielded, however, to the suggestion that intercollegiate sports attracted a great number of students to Notre Dame, which was true enough. Father Morrissey did not accept the viewpoint of those who contended that the work of the University was the development of the intellect alone. One can hear him say in his blunt, pungent manner: "The education of the head at the expense of the education of the heart is the crying evil of the day."[51]

As president, Father Morrissey was not at home with Father Zahm. The friction between the two men gradually forced Father Morrissey to the conclusion that it would be better for him to retire. In fact, he felt quite sure that if he did not do so, Father Zahm, who was Father Morrissey's superior, would ask for his resignation. In the provincial chapter of 1905, Father Morrissey was asked to retire from the room while the other members discussed the question of accepting his resignation. It was not long before a committee informed Father Morrissey that the chapter, "with regret" acceded to his request. Externally, at least, the matter was handled with a great deal of grace. Father Zahm wrote a public letter to the retiring president in which he said that he "felt it a duty, and a pleasant one, to compliment you on the splendid work you have done during your term of office and to congratulate you on the signal success that has distinguished your administration." He added that the great burden of the presidency had undermined Father Morrissey's health, and that it was only right that he should get away for a good rest. Let him go to Europe for a year! "We regret that Notre Dame will be deprived of your presence for a time, -- a very short time, I trust!"[52] Father Zahm would have been surprised had he realized how soon Father Morrissey was to take his place.

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