In late 1842, after Fr. Sorin arrived at an empty, snowy landscape in northern Indiana with six brothers, three hundred dollars, and one big ambition, he famously wrote: “This college will be one of the most powerful means for doing 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 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 pre-eminent 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.

Faith and the Catholic intellectual and moral tradition must not merely add an element to our mission, it must inform all we do.

Our undergraduate program must educate the whole person – intellectual, moral, spiritual. We must transmit worldly knowledge, form students’ character, provide a climate hospitable to conversations about God, the good and truth, and offer students the most profound experience of community they may ever know.

Our graduate programs must aspire to the highest level of disciplinary expertise, guided by the resources of our moral and religious tradition. In the scientific and technical fields, we must focus not only on what we can do, but what we should do – convinced that our ability to seek God, study the world and serve humanity is magnified many times over by the knowledge and discovery that comes with scholarly excellence.

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 plan outlined on these pages is not purely in enunciating university goals. Its force comes from the record number of faculty, deans, trustees, and benefactors who have merged their personal goals with the mission 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.


Introduction Video

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