A Letter from Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.
In late 1842, after Fr. Edward Sorin arrived at an empty, snowy landscape in northern Indiana with six brothers, $300, and one big ambition, he famously wrote: “[This college] will be one of the most powerful means for good in this country.”
Whatever his plan was for building a college in the wilderness, he likely did not foresee the cholera, or the malaria, or the early anti-Catholic hostility, or the great fire of 1879, or even the intense opposition of his own council to the “unnecessary ornament” he proposed—a dome atop the Main Building.
But Fr. Sorin led Notre Dame through these difficulties with a powerful sense of purpose.
The purpose comes before the plan.
What is our purpose more than 170 years after our founding? What is our intention in gathering together and merging our efforts under the name of Notre Dame?
We want to be a great Catholic research university for the 21st century.
What does this require of us?
We must provide our students an unsurpassed undergraduate education.
We must excel in discovery and research, offering graduate programs that advance knowledge and serve the world.
We must inform our scholarly pursuits with an overarching 2,000-year-old religious and moral tradition that orients academic activity and defines a good human life.
There are a number of outstanding colleges in this country that offer excellent undergraduate programs. There are a smaller number of institutions that combine brilliant undergraduate education with world-class research. But there are no universities that have done what Notre Dame aspires to do: to become a preeminent research university, to offer an unsurpassed undergraduate program, and to infuse both with a religious and moral framework that imbues knowledge with the power to benefit human beings.
Our mission is not widely shared in higher education today, but that is why our contribution is so valuable. For if we are afraid to be different, how can we make a difference in the world?
The power of the strategic plan is not purely in enunciating University goals. Its force comes from the many faculty, deans, trustees and benefactors who have reflected together on how to achieve the aspirations of Notre Dame — and the alumni, students, parents and friends who will keep us on course, call for results and press us on to achieve our goals. Notre Dame is not for any of us just a job, or a duty, or a charity, or even only a university. Notre Dame is a calling, and each of us has been called.
In partnership with all those whose aspirations can be advanced by the success of this University, we will mobilize the Notre Dame family in support of our noble purpose: to join a spiritual tradition of faith with an uncompromising search for truth to fulfill human promise.
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.