John W. Cavanaugh, ninth President. His early life and character. Educational program. Sorin statue. Translation of Badin's remains. Father Julius Nieuwland. Father Charles O'Donnell. Max Pam and the School of Journalism. Summer school. Lecturers.
THE Provincial Chapter of 1905 elected to the presidency one whose intellectual talents were surpassed only by his geniality. John W. Cavanaugh had come to Notre Dame when Father Thomas Walsh was president. Father Walsh became young Cavanaugh's idol. Although American-born Father Cavanaugh was of Irish parentage. "My father is from Tyrone, and my mother, an O'Connor, is from Armagh."
Father Cavanaugh's gifts were preeminently literary. He had a facile style, both in speaking and in writing, and his language was replete with graceful force. He was a tall man, but well proportioned. His large and beautiful head, the ease of his movements, the deliberate and unhurried manner of his walk, his gracious smile, the richness of his voice, all combined to produce a most striking figure. He was, after Father Sorin, the most impressive of the presidents of Notre Dame.
No one ever heard Father Cavanaugh make a speech or preach a sermon that could be called common-place. He was a phrase-maker of extraordinary ability. Sometimes his style was a bit florid, and this writer remembers more than one occasion when the blunt and direct Morrissey, reading one of Cavanaugh's sermons, sniffed somewhat critically, and remarked: "Smell the flowers!" Nevertheless, John Cavanaugh could use English with a deft and forceful effect. Certain subjects made him especially eloquent. When he spoke about the early founders of Notre Dame, or Notre Dame's patriotism, or the Irish, particularly the persecuted Irish, his tongue became reverent with respect or flashed like a scimitar. When, as often happened, he had to administer some disciplinary rebuke, he could take an individual or group apart with amazing swiftness and irony. He could be bitter, but it was seldom necessary.
He was a man of great courage. He was never tongue-tied in the presence of "big" men. Often he was host to eminent scholars and outstanding individuals. But John Cavanaugh could stand beside them on the platform and seldom come off second best. The students were immensely proud of him. They could count on him always to say the graceful, witty, forceful thing. His very poise was a study in confidence. He was sure of his ground.
The members of his own community often deplored the fact that Father Cavanaugh had never had a chance to become a great scholar. The young priests of his day were hustled into the class-room almost before they had finished their most modest education. They were assigned to teaching so many classes that it was extremely difficult to pursue higher studies. It is a tribute to many of them that, in spite of these burdens, they were able to acquire, as it were, on the side, some advanced learning. Certainly, Father Cavanaugh would have profited by three or four years of study after his ordination. It is difficult to estimate his possible achievement had he had that opportunity.
Surely, there were defects in the man. Ordinarily, he had a sweet disposition. But he could, if provoked, rise to stupendous heights of temper. When he was displeased, it was best to avoid him. His tongue became a lash, and was used without much mercy. In such moments, he could say and do things terribly tyrannical. He would make most unreasonable demands, issue the most extreme orders. And God help anyone who opposed him. There were few who dared to. It was, perhaps, a good thing that Father Morrissey was Father Cavanaugh's superior, for he acted, or could act, as a check mate against the president's despotic impulses.
Another defect that grew more noticeable in Father Cavanaugh as the University increased in numbers was his tendency to concentrate power in his own hands. True, he had many assistants, but none of these assistants, with the exception of Father Schumacher, Director of Studies, was ever sure to be upheld. No breach of discipline could be definitely punished except by presidential approval. The University was, under Father Cavanaugh, a "one-man" affair. His assistants, capable and loyal men, were fully able to administer a delegated authority, but Father Cavanaugh seemed unable or unwilling to make such delegation. It was not until a much later date that the colleges as they now exist were organized, and well defined power given to the various deans.
From the pulpit on Sunday, September 24, 1905, Father Cavanaugh inaugurated the new scholastic year. His sermon bears the title "The Function of the Religious College." After eulogizing the spirit of the founders, he points out that Notre Dame must manage somehow to educate Catholic youths without the wealth and the endowment of other famous schools. Her success in this undertaking is made possible by the sacrifices of the religious dedicated to Notre Dame. And to secure that education which, according to Father Cavanaugh, is so desirable, Notre Dame seeks first to create a religious atmosphere; second, she insists that the moral life of students must be fostered, and he warns the "sporty" element which is found inevitably in every college group, that their discontent and grumbling will not be tolerated. A third function of the Catholic college ts to give sound religious instruction that will augment faith. Finally, he insists on the practice of obedience. The disciplinary regulations are for the students' good, and not for their punishment. It is evident, of course, that Father Cavana ugh was speaking to men far younger than those now at Notre Dame.
In the light of these moral restraints, it is easy to understand what Father Cavanaugh meant in the following excerpt of a letter addressed to a Chicago lad who proposed to visit his cousin, then a student at Notre Dame:
I notice that you also suggest that when you come to visit your cousin . . . you will bring along something to alleviate his great thirst. It may surprise you to know that your cousin has already got into serious trouble in South Bend through drinking. . . . I feel obliged to add, too, that if you do come either to the University or to the neighborhood of the University, there will be rather a warm reception awaiting you. . . . 
Father Cavanaugh had been president hardly a year when there occurred at Notre Dame a double celebration in which the names of Sorin and Badin were honored. For a year considerable efforts had been made to procure a heroic statue of Father Sorin which was to be placed at the entrance of the old quadrangle. It was to cost $25,000. After Mass the long procession wended its way to the site of the statue which was as yet concealed by large American and Papal flags. It was Father Cavanaugh's privilege to speak at the unveiling. His words were deeply moving and dramatic. In conclusion, he said:
Therefore, in the name of the sainted apostles who carried the Roman cross into countries over which the Roman eagle never passed; in the name of the holy missionaries of every age, the evangelizers of every land, who have ventured for God where the merchant would not venture for gold nor the soldier for glory; in the name of those Christian educators who believe, as he believed, that the heart of culture is culture of the heart and that the soul of improvement is improvement of the soul; in the name of humanity whom he loved and served without distinction of race or creed; in the name of America, the scene of his labors and the land of his predilection; in the name of generations of young men whose lives have been touched and sanctified by his consecrated hands; in the name of Alma Mater whose foundation stones were cemented with his sweat and blood; in the name of a noble army of Priests, Brothers and Sisters of Holy Cross who with him bore the burden of a long day and are now trembling in the everlasting ecstasy; in the name of venerable religious here present into whose souls come rushing back so many holy memories today; in the name of the Holy Catholic Church whose loyal and faithful priest he was; in the name of St. Joseph and the Blessed Virgin whose names he magnified; in the name of Him, the Saviour of us, whom he served and loved, with almost perfect love and perfect service -- I say, unveil the statue of Sorin!
On the afternoon of that same day, at four o'clock, occurred the solemn translation of the body of Father Stephen Theodore Badin to the new log chapel near the Mission House. During his life, Father Badin had expressed to Father Sorin his desire to be buried at Notre Dame. But when his death occurred in 1853, the Archbishop of Cincinnati was unwilling to relinquish the body of Badin, in spite of Sorin's plea. The request was later renewed by Father Corby, but met with a similar refusal. Finally, Father Zahm, when he was Provincial, went to Cincinnati and talked with Archbishop Elder. The request was granted.
The old log chapel had burned down in 1856. In the fall of 1905 Father Cavanaugh, together with Father Zahm, determined to build a replica of this chapel on the site of the old one. It seemed a simple task, but when they started to look about for an architect, it was very difficult to find one. Finally, a negro by the name of William Arnett from Kentucky was secured for the work. He had been a slave before the Civil War, and was, of course, quite an old man in 1906, but he could wield a broadax as vigorously as a man of fifty. Under his superintendence, the chapel was ready to receive the remains of Father Badin on May 3, 1906.
First, the black coffin was brought into Sacred Heart Church. The solemn, rich tones of the Miserere and Benedictus echoed from the choir into the blue vault above. In procession, then, they carried the body of Father Badin to the log chapel, where that very morning Father Zahm had celebrated Mass on the altar which had been used so often by Badin himself. "Around the walls were hung the cloths that made up the canopy under which the zealous missionary was wont to bear the Blessed Sacrament in procession; these are strips of heavy red stuff, decorated with sacred symbols wrought in white beads, evidently the work of the Indians."
Father Louis L'Etourneau was present at the interment. He seemed to grow young throughout the ceremony for, as he explained, he had served Father Badin's Mass back in the early days. The remains of Father Badin were deposited beneath the floor of the little chapel. Above the coffin is a marble slab bearing a Latin inscription composed by Father Fitte informing the visitor that here is the body of Stephen Theodore Badin, the first priest ordained in the United States of America, for sixty years a missionary of extraordinary spirit and ardent zeal, who spread the Kingdom of God and of the Catholic Church, and who, burdened with years and merits, slept in the Lord. He was born at Orleans in France, the 17th of July, 1768, and died at Cincinnati the 19th of April, 1853. After his body had lain in the Cathedral in Cincinnati for fifty years, it was at last translated to Notre Dame.
Father Cavanaugh, who had never had the opportunity of earning a doctorate, was honored by the University of Ottawa, Canada, by an honorary degree of Doctor of Divinity. It was a gracious gesture and one for which Father Cavanaugh was thankful. As he stood on the stage clothed in the brilliant scarlet of his doctor's gown, he remarked: "Even my robes are blushing!"
Father Cavanaugh at once set about trying to inform the public of Notre Dame's needs. The need for two new residence halls was becoming embarrassingly evident. "We need a great fire-proof library, we need a great school of technology and new laboratories, professorships and scholarships. . . . This glorious old college, with its sixty years of sincere and laborious effort for the best in education and the best in human life, is as worthy of the love and loyalty of her children as any in the land."
The extreme elective system had never appealed to the faculty of Notre Dame. It was with a certain smug satisfaction that Father Cavanaugh saw most of the nation's colleges swing back to a program of required studies. ". . . if left to himself, the average boy will take the line of least resistance in his education, and will make up his course pretty largely of tennis, crocheting and ornamental needlework rather than wrestle with logarithms, Greek roots, and Anglo-Saxon fragments." " . . . Catholic educators seem to have an instinct for avoiding fads in college work. From the beginning Notre Dame has realized that a limited liberty in elective studies was advisable, and hence she combined her multitudinous classes into thirteen groups, each leading to a degree and each intended to fit students specially well for a particular department of work. She thus avoids the unyielding straight jacket of the one-course college and the chaotic looseness of the free and easy elective college."
The college department was building up. This is seen from the increasing number of bachelor's and master's degrees granted during the successive years of Father Cavanaugh's administration. In 1908 the student body for the first time passed the one thousand mark. This same year saw the introduction of two new courses, Mining and Chemical Engineering. The faculty was notably increased, and Notre Dame still maintained her high position in oratorical and debating contests.
In 1908 Father Matthew Walsh, later president (1922-1928), was added to the faculty. He came to teach history. A generation of Notre Dame men sat at his feet. Not a one of them failed to find him an ideal teacher. From his classes, students took inspiration and instruction. It is impossible to overestimate Father Walsh's power in the class-room, he seemed so fully to possess the two qualities that make for a great teacher. He knew his subject thoroughly; and he had the knack of making it interesting and important.
This same era saw the advent of a teacher whose universal importance has been completely acknowledged, that is, the Rev. Julius Nieuwland. Father Nieuwland's early preparation had been in the field of chemistry. His doctoral thesis at the Catholic University, "Some Reactions of Acetylene," had commanded national recognition. When he came to Notre Dame, however, he was assigned classes in Botany. It was a study perhaps more congenial to Dr. Nieuwland's nomadic habits. He derived an almost illegal pleasure from his tramps through woods and swamps. So copious had his studies and notes become that in 1909 he founded and edited a bi-monthly magazine called The American Midland Naturalist.
Father Nieuwland is, perhaps, Notre Dame's proudest boast in the field of research and scholarship. He was not the cold and frigid type of man generally associated with scholarliness. He was a personality warm, expansive, catholic. His interests were varied and entertaining. In the class-room, he could not, it is true, descend to mediocrity, but in conversation he was a most entertaining priest.
Julius Arthur Nieuwland was born at Hansbeke, Belgium, Feb. 14, 1878, the son of John Baptiste and Philomena (Van Hoecke) Nieuwland. While still an infant, he was brought to America by his parents, who settled in South Bend. After receiving from Notre Dame his A.B. in 1899, he continued his studies at Holy Cross College and Catholic University, Washington, D. C. There he won his doctorate. He was ordained in 1903, and then joined the faculty at Notre Dame. In 1906 Nieuwland observed some very peculiar reactions of acetylene gas when passed into cuprous and alkali metal chlorides. It produced a small quantity of unidentified hydrocarbons. The smell of it was unforgettable. These reactions were discussed by Nieuwland in a paper read before the Organic Chemical Symposium at Rochester, New York, in December, 1925. The DuPonts became immediately interested. Subsequently experiments proved that Nieuwland had a satisfactory "synthetic" rubber. In Nieuwland's life it was just another experiment, but there were some who thought of him as the possible savior of our continental security. There were defects, it may be assumed. The first products of this synthetic rubber were proscribed on account of their "smell." Even Nieuwland said they "smelled like heck!" Whenever he wore the rain coat which had been made out of the stuff, his friends wouldn't let him come near them.
In 1903 Nieuwland performed the first reaction for the preparation of "Lewisite," the most deadly gas of World War I. In 1909, as has been said, he founded The American Midland Naturalist, which deals largely with the plant life of the prairie states. The articles he published and the papers he read would take a good sized volume.
In 1918, Father Nieuwland, leaving the field of botany as a teacher, became professor of organic chemistry. His power in this field attracted numerous graduate students. In all candor, it must be said that Nieuwland was not a successful teacher for undergraduates. He got nowhere with students who were mediocre, or to whom he had to stoop. But for those who had talent and the courage to work, he was a great inspirer and admirable director. It was a common thing for Nieuwland to stay hours without end in his laboratory. He had a thin leather pallet laid on a long table where he could stretch his fragile form and doze while waiting for some chemical reaction to take place. He reposed blissfully in the midst of these unknown "cookings," while his religious brethren were deeply apprehensive lest the whole building would suddenly rise and blast a hole in the campus. In 1935 the American Chemical Society publicly lauded him for his heroic work in the study of dangerous chemicals with no thought of material benefit to himself. In fact, this disinterestedness was of deep concern to the University, which saw Nieuwland's experiments snapped up by commercial organizations without giving the chemist either credit or remuneration. The University took steps to remedy this seeming carelessness.
In time, of course, Nieuwland's genius was more and more recognized. In 1932 he received the Morehead Medal from the International Acetylene Association; in 1934, the American Institute Medal; in 1935, the Nichols Medal; and in 1936, the Mendel Medal from Villanova
College. On these occasions, generally, someone was sent along with him to see that he was properly dressed. He was distinctly unconcerned about formal amenities. His whole interest was in his work. When he died suddenly in Washington, D. C., on June 11, 1936, in one of the laboratories of the Catholic University where he had gone to converse with one of the professors, he was nationally mourned. His own community at Notre Dame was plunged into profound grief at the passing of this great priest and scholar.
During the school year of 1908-09 the faculty had been strengthened, particularly in the Law School. Many newly ordained priests gave added vitality to the teaching force. Notre Dame received public commendation for its care of the moral life of the students. In Houston, Texas, an article appeared urging the country to turn its eyes on this school which fostered "the moral training of the student with equal . . . tenacity to that shown for his intellectual and physical uplift." To be sure, Notre Dame had her share of undesirable boys, but once they were discovered, Father Cavanaugh would not tolerate their presence. To one father who supposed his son a model of rectitude, Father Cavanaugh sent evidence that the boy had been fairly well started on the down-grade before he came to Notre Dame. He remarked that, sorry as he was to disillusion the parent, he felt it his duty so that the University would not be blamed.
An outstanding member of the faculty was Father John B. Scheier. In Latin and Greek, he was a master. Like many great scholars, however, he was eccentric. In 1914, he published a small volume, "The Roman Pronunciation of Latin." In the class-room he gave the impression that it was worthless to expend much labor on the education of the ordinary student. And in the excess of his peculiar humility, he destroyed nearly all of the manuscripts he had written. Sometimes, in the presence of the students, he would read some of his scholarly writings, and then, exclaiming "Bah! what's the use!" would rip them into small bits and throw them in the waste-basket.
In 1910 Father Charles O'Donnell came to the faculty. Unlike Father Scheier, he had great success as a teacher. His classes were thoroughly coached, and he succeeded in producing an enthusiastic response. He was, at first appearance, an icy individual with a very sharp tongue. Actually, he was a warm-hearted priest, capable of great affection. Of mediocrity, however, he was intolerant. To one individual who handed in some verse for criticism, he remarked, "I think you have poetry in your soul, but I don't know how you're ever going to get it out!" The student switched to prose. Father O'Donnell later on became Provincial, and then, President of the University. A man with outstanding talent and gifted far above the ordinary, he was, to most men, aloof and frigid. One member of the community asked another why he did not see Father O'Donnell about a particular problem. "Huh! What good would that do? All I'd get would be a poetical look and a kick in the pants!" In 1915, Father O'Donnell brought out his first book of poems entitled "The Dead Musician." It was an immediate success. in the field of religious poetry, Father O'Donnell was an artist with a superb touch. At a later date, his "Rime of the Rood" revealed the full maturity and distinction of his work.
The Notre Dame School of Journalism received an unexpected benefaction in 1912. Early in that year Dr. Max Pam of Chicago told Father Cavanaugh that he would give the University $25,000 for the establishment of a chair of journalism. The interest on this sum of money, it was thought, would contribute in large measure to the salary of one professor who would concern himself with purely journalistic subjects. The money was to be contributed in lots of $5000 annually for the following five years. After his first payment, Mr. Pam, for some reason, contributed nothing more until 1922, when he gave a lump sum of $22,500.22
Mr. Pam, although not a Catholic, believed that at Notre Dame could be achieved his fondest hopes for the betterment of journalism. Editors and reporters, he rightly felt, were largely responsible for the immoral and unjust practices prevalent in newspapers. Personally, he was a high type of man with a great sense of honor. He inclined to the view that religion and morality must be injected into the journalistic world if so vital a means of communication was to serve its true purpose. "It is important . . . that serious attention should be paid to the formation and training of journalists to the end that the man who makes public opinion should, by education, by conviction and by habit in all he does be led by conscience and by truth, courage and honesty born of conscience."
After due consideration, a program of studies, covering four years, was outlined and submitted to the trustees for approval. Father Cavanaugh tried to persuade Rev. John Talbot Smith to head the department, but was unsuccessful. Then, John M. Cooney of Louisville, already a member of the faculty, was appointed to the position. Generations of Notre Dame men have never regretted the choice. But since Professor Cooney at that time was relatively unknown, it was felt that the department would have greater prestige if a well known newspaper man were secured to act as Dean. Mr. James Keeley, general manager of the Chicago Tribune, consented to take the post. Keeley brought with him a letter that made Father Cavanaugh very happy. It was addressed to Keeley from the head of the City News Bureau of Chicago. In part, it read:
I would like to add that Notre Dame for some reason I never quite understood has furnished us a higher percentage of reportorial successes than any other school from which we draw applicants. Father Cavanaugh . . . had no theory to explain it himself unless it might be that the school's literary journal was of high grade and really literary. . . . I think you have the best body of men in the West to work on. . . .
Max Pam delivered two notable lectures in Washington Hall. In his first appearance he spoke to the students on "The Place of Religion in Good Government." The University was happy to confer upon him that year, 1910, the degree of Doctor of Laws, honoris causa. In 1916 he returned to deliver an address at Commencement. His subject was "Journalism, its History, Powers and Responsibilities." His genuine spirit of interest in the case prompted him to give Father Cavanaugh one thousand dollars for a prize essay on the general subject "How may the religious element in the general education of children and youths be most effectively promoted?"
When Rev. John O'Hara, in 1916, joined the faculty at Notre Dame, a new impetus toward cordial relationship with South America was added. He had lived for some time in that continent where his father had been consul at Montevideo, Uruguay. Under his encouragement there was added to the curriculum the course of Foreign Commerce, looking particularly to the cultivation of good understanding between the United States and South America. It was felt that, due to the religious unity between the peoples of South America and the University of Notre Dame, the University was in a very happy position to augment the feeling of "good neighborliness." At the same time was inaugurated the course in South American history. Father Zahm's interest, cultivated over a period of thirty years and augmented by his travels with Teddy Roosevelt's Expedition in South America, had much to do with this new growth.
Father Matthew Schumacher, Father Cavanaugh's able Director of Studies, had been urging the president for some years to start a summer school. The president had always been cold to the proposition. He felt that after nine months in the class room the faculty would be too exhausted to undertake the work of a summer session. And there was always the possibility of financial loss. But the pressure of Schumacher was inescapable. He represented the fact that many nuns and Brothers needed added credits in educational fields if they were to retain their teaching certificates; he pointed out that many students, having failed their courses in one or two subjects, would take advantage of a summer session to work off their conditions or failures. Finally, in desperation, Father Cavanaugh said: "All right, go ahead and try it for this year!" The summer session of 1918 was a success.
As president, Father Cavanaugh was really outstanding in the number of eminent scholars that he brought to the University as lecturers. It has been remarked that, for all of Father Cavanaugh's lack of formal scholarship, he was immensely attractive to men of scholarship. He was a great reader and was interested in everything intellectual, He had a knack of friendship and intimacy that was irresistible. In the fall of 1906, he had Canon (Monsignor) John Vaughan, the brother of Cardinal Vaughan, give the students' retreat. Of national figures, Charles W. Fairbanks, the Vice-president of the United States, was the most prominent figure to come to the University at that time. He talked to the students. But it was remarked that he might have been more clear on subjects of "political order." He discoursed on young men and their ideals. Col. Hoynes sputtered: "The visiting dignitary succeeded in, -- further obscuring, -- the already existing opacity, -- of our national problems!"
John Talbot Smith was an eminent priest of the New York Archdiocese. He was head of the Catholic Actors' Guild and an editorialist of renown. Father Cavanaugh had formed a close relationship with him, and the two spirits formed a companionship that was mutually congenial. The correspondence between them is an example of that sprightly and exhilarating interchange of thought and language for which Father Cavanaugh was most remarkable. The two priests were almost always playfully calling each other by "big names." Father Smith always signed himself "Dook o' Dobbs," because he was the parish priest of Dobbs Ferry. He addressed Father Cavanaugh as "Most Illustrious!" On one occasion, when writing to the "Dook," Father Cavanaugh began his letter with "My dear August Being!" The secretary wrote "Bean," as well he might, being in the cross fire of all this persiflage.
Father Smith was interested in the Catholic Actors' Guild in New York. There he met everybody of histrionic importance, and seemed to bring a great deal of the stage with him when he came to Notre Dame. Pompous, somewhat bulbous-nosed, a bit haughty, he invited many a bronx cheer, but relaxed just in time to avoid that disorder. On one occasion, he told the seminarians that he could tell the character of anyone from his walk. Bill Havey walked around with a sudden limp, and Smith said he was "either a genius or a cripple." Smith made the mistake of thinking he was himself the only one who could act.
Around the time of the Diamond Jubilee, Father Cavanaugh tried to persuade Father Smith to write a history of Notre Dame. A beginning was made, but the history was never finished. Father Cavanaugh often wrote, prodding the genial "Dook," but to no avail. It is a pity, for it would have been worth reading.
William Jennings Bryan paid a visit to the University. Father Cavanaugh asked him what he thought of Catholic young men joining the Y.M.C.A. Bryan answered that if he were a Catholic he would be very loath to become a member of an organization which, because of his Catholicity, would exclude him from holding office.
In the first years of World War I, three prominent English Catholics visited the University -- Monsignor Robert Hugh Benson, the convert son of the Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, Wilfred Ward, and Cecil Chesterton, brother of G. K., who, at a later date was to give a series of lectures at Notre Dame.
Robert Hugh Benson was popular among the students. His Catholic novels, Come Rack, Come Rope, Lord of the World, Dawn of All, had been taken from Brother Alphonsus' "Circulating Library" so often that they were falling apart. This nervous, twitchy, effervescent little ecclesiastic was, at first sight, unprepossessing. When he began to speak, however, one forgot his appearance.
Cecil Chesterton, tall, loose-jointed, common-looking, was a great favorite. After his lectures -- delivered not in the squeaking voice of his brother, but with a zestful boom -- Father Cavanaugh would bring him to the parlors, or to his office, where some of the faculty were always waiting for a more intimate seance. Cecil would take out his pipe, tamp the tobacco down in the bowl, and strike a match. Just then, someone would ask a question. Chesterton would remove the pipe from his mouth, and holding the burning match between his fingers, proceed to reply. He dropped the match, of course, without lighting his pipe. This operation would go on endlessly. One evening Father Cavanaugh could stand it no longer. "Cecil," he said, "you've consumed a whole box of matches tonight, and haven't had a puff!"
Wilfred Ward, through his father a close associate of Cardinal Newman in the Oxford Movement, was bound to be interesting. His lectures were mostly about Newman. Of course, there were some among his audience who had difficulty admitting anything with an English accent could be good. Ward took it all in good part. As a matter of fact, he was quite courtly when some young jack-a-napes from Sorin leaned out of the window and saluted him with a raucous "Hyah, Wilfy?" The old gentleman tipped his hat and bowed with not a little ceremony.
Father Nieuwland's teacher and particular crony was old Doctor Edward Lee Greene, attached to the Smithsonian Institution. He often came to Notre Dame, more as a compliment to Father Nieuwland than anything else. Father Nieuwland was exceedingly anxious to obtain for the University Dr. Green's magnificent herbarium. In fact, we find Father Nieuwland writing to Father Morrissey for more money, that he may bring Doctor Greene back to Notre Dame and entertain him on the way:
and I have practically arranged to have Dr. Greene come back with me on a visit to Notre Dame. This will be a good occasion to settle finally the matter of terms by which he would agree to leave us his library specimens, etc. In about a year, he leaves the government and I believe it would be a good thing to have some definite understanding sometime before the period of government engagement is up. He seems glad to get away on a little trip from Washington. This is an opportunity of making Notre Dame a mecca for scientists who must consult this great library and herbarium, the like of which cannot be had anywhere.
Father Nieuwland got the herbarium.
Two lecturers always welcomed by the students were Dr. James J. Walsh and the Honorable Joseph Scott. Walsh was a very homely man who took pleasure in the fact. It is said of him that once he went chuckling toward some famous personality, exclaiming: "How glad I am to meet you! They said I was the homeliest man alive!" Walsh was a very popular lecturer. He talked on historical subjects. Of medicine, in which he was thoroughly learned, he said nothing.
Joe Scott was a handsome lawyer from Los Angeles. He carried all the fire and zeal of a great prosecuting attorney. His Catholicity was militant, and the students were immensely inspired by his lectures.
From that hazy state between politics and statesmanship came many visitors, mostly looking for political support or understanding. Senator Tom Walsh from Montana had no axe to grind, but just stopped in because he was a real friend. Two governors of Indiana, Tom Marshall and Sam Ralston, were present. The courtly Albert Beveridge, the Hoosier senator, was cordially received for he was also a man of letters.
One of the most picturesque characters at Notre Dame during the administration of Father Cavanaugh turned up in the spring of 1917. He was Monsignor John Bickerstaffe-Drew, an Englishman whose pen name was John Ayscough, a rather fine novelist (San Celestino). He was a smallish, slightly stooped man, with a great mop of white hair, slicked back in pompadour style. He gave the impression of being quite a snob. The English call it timidity. Whatever it was, he got over it. Some suspected that Father Cavanaugh spoke to him quite candidly about his "stiff British lip." He delivered a series of lectures that got better as he went on. He also gave the commencement sermon that year, 1917. As he refused to write out a manuscript, Father Cavanaugh posted two stenographers in the choir stalls, an they were supposed to take down the sermon verbatim. These two met that night and struggled to piece their notes together. When the Monsignor looked at the manuscript, he exclaimed: "I said nothing of the sort! I'll write my own!"
The Provincial, Father Morrissey, was highly amused by the man. To his secretary, Father Morrissey said: "Did I give you one of John Ayscough's books?" "No, Father, you didn't." "Well, here then, take this," and the secretary was made the recipient of Jacqueline, one of the author's poorer selling volumes. A month later, the Provincial again said to the secretary: "I didn't give you one of John Ayscough's (he always pronounced it ass-coff, whereas the Monsignor preferred aske-you) books, did I?" "Yes, Father, you did." "Well, I'll inscribe this one!" It turned out to be another volume of Jacqueline.
When John Ayscough returned to England, of course, he wrote a book about his travels. When the edition finally reached Father Morrissey's desk, he asked his secretary: "Does he talk about Notre Dame in it?" After a search in the index revealed that he had, the Provincial asked: "What does he say?" The secretary thumbed the pages until he had found the place. "What does he say?" asked Father Morrissey with growing impatience. "He mentions you, Father," replied the secretary. "And what does he say, man?" "He speaks of your pawky wit!" "My what?" "Your pawky wit!" After a second's doubt, he said: "Arthur, hand me that dictionary!" His fat little finger lined up the "p's" until he came to the word, closed the dictionary with a bang, and said brusquely: "The man means well!"
The Notre Dame of twenty-five years ago was, from certain points of view, a more enjoyable school than the University of today. To say this is not disloyalty to the present. The Notre Dame of President John W. Cavanaugh and his principal aids -- Fathers Walsh and Schumacher, Fathers Joseph Burke, John Farley and Eugene Burke, -- was a small Notre Dame, a Notre Dame of family spirit and family interests; a Notre Dame where familiarity was the normal reaction; a university which shared not only studies, but where the difficulties and joys of each were the common property of all; where the good qualities of a teacher, a prefect or a student made him not only an object of admiration but of affection; and where a man or boy was ashamed to show his badness for there was no place to hide it.
Who can forget how Father Eugene Burke presided over Sorin Hall? One evening, the hand-bell might ring through the corridor. "What is it?" exclaimed many heads thrust through the doors. "Father Burke wants us to go to the recreation room." In all sorts of dress and undress the boys would gather. There would be ice-cream, or "hotdogs" with coffee, and sandwiches, perhaps. The boys would beg Father Burke to play the piano. They would gather around him, pressing closely to hear the words of some new "ditty." Father Burke was always composing some little song in which the Sorin Hall boys saw themselves portrayed -- "The Ten O'Clock Walk," describing the seniors going for their pitcher of water; "A Letter Home to Dad," from the Prefect of Discipline; "I'm a Bachelor of Arts, but My Art Is Love," "McNamara's Band" -- a dozen or more. No virtuoso ever had more attention, none more applause, and certainly none more genuine affection. When he threw his head back on some high note, and the pince-nez quivered on his nose, cheers and laughter floated through the open windows and brought Walsh Hallers from their desks. "Next year," thought the boys from Walsh, "we'll be in on that ourselves!"
Some nights Father Cavanaugh would saunter over to Sorin. His voice, pleasantly booming, might call for the ringing of the bell, and as the boys tumbled down the stairs, they would see John Cavanaugh and Gene Burke standing in the lobby. There was no stiffness or formality: a cheery greeting, a bit of razzing for those who could take it, a slap on the back, a touch on the arm. When they were all gathered in the "rec" room, Father Cavanaugh and Father Burke would enter. The President would wave the boys around him, they would flock near his chair and sit on the floor -- Tobin, Beacom, Ward; Conaghan, Musmaker, Ryan and Connerton, a litany of names remembered but too long to set down -- but they were all there, gazing with eager and unaffected attention into the face of a great charmer.
He might begin speaking to them of a cock-fight someone had told him about. His description was not so much of the fight itself as of the faces surrounding the fighting birds. One face be would paint with lust, another with fright, another with hate or pride or anger. Every quality of passion was let loose in his description. And the boys who sat around him were breathless at his story. No one moved with impatience although it was a wonder, for sometimes he talked -- and on this occasion he did -- for two hours.
Nor did he finish with a description of the cock-fight. All the brutality and passion and hatred, he would say, that we see on the faces of these men, is deep in your own souls, too. When men are gathered together without the refinement of a woman's company, something savage takes hold of their souls. There is only one thing that can keep man in check, the influence of a pure and virtuous woman. He would go on to say how he hoped that each of them would find such a woman if it were God's will that they should marry. But in the meantime, he added, there was a woman who had this power to check their restless lusts. She was the Lady on the Dome. If they would take her as their refuge and sweet hope, they need not worry about the battle against their passions.
As he arose, there was no applause. There was something infinitely finer. There was a silence as though he had spoken in church, almost as though he had administered a sacrament. Or perhaps, more correctly, the grateful reverence of children who have heard a wise father wisely instructing. Children do not applaud. It was of such days and evenings that John Cavanaugh's Notre Dame was made.