2009: The Year in Review

Author: Dennis Brown

Blue Seal

Each year at Notre Dame is filled with highlights, achievements and accomplishments. Here are some of the significant moments from 2009:

  • President Barack Obama served as the principal speaker at Notre Dame’s 164th University Commencement Ceremony on May 17. The visit, in the face of discord about the president’s position on abortion, received both criticism and support nationwide. Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., and Obama addressed the discord from the commencement platform. Father Jenkins, who made clear that he and the University are fully supportive of Church teaching on the sanctity of human life, noted that, according to Pope John Paul II, a Catholic university should be a place “for a fruitful dialogue between the Gospel and culture.” He added: “More than any problem in the arts or sciences, engineering or medicine, easing the hateful divisions between human beings is the supreme challenge of this age. If we can solve this problem, we have a chance to come together and solve all the others. Difference must be acknowledged, and in some cases even cherished.” But in the service of the Church, “we can persuade believers by appeal to both faith and reason. As we serve our country, we will be motivated by faith, but we cannot appeal only to faith. We must also engage in a dialogue that appeals to reason that all can accept.” President Obama said: “When we open our hearts and our minds to those who may not think precisely like we do or believe precisely what we believe—that’s when we discover at least the possibility of common ground.” He went on to urge Americans to “work together to reduce the number of women seeking abortions by reducing unintended pregnancies, and making adoption more available, and providing care and support for women who do carry their child to term. Let’s honor the conscience of those who disagree with abortion, and draft a sensible conscience clause, and make sure that all of our health care policies are grounded not only in sound science but also in clear ethics as well as respect for the quality of life.”

  • In the wake of the vigorous discussions surrounding commencement, Father Jenkins established a Task Force on Supporting the Choice for Life to consider and recommend ways in which the University can support the sanctity of life.

  • The University’s Board of Trustees elected Father Jenkins to a second five-year term as president, effective at the conclusion of his first term June 30, 2010. “The vision and leadership that Father Jenkins has demonstrated in his first four years in office have been inspiring and innovative,” Board Chairman Richard C. Notebaert said. “Building upon the foundation set by his Holy Cross predecessors, he is making the aspirations of this University a reality. The Fellows and Trustees look forward to continuing our work with him in service to Our Lady’s University.”

  • Notre Dame hired Brian Kelly as the 29th head football coach in the University’s history. He replaces Charlie Weis, who was not retained after five years at the helm. At his introductory news conference, Kelly said: “We hear about academic standards. That is what the mission is of this University. That is the mission of Notre Dame, excellence in academics and athletics, and I wanted that challenge, and I’m excited about that challenge, that you can do it both in the classroom and be prominent in the athletic arena, as well.”

  • The University opened a variety of new buildings, including: Geddes Hall, the new home to the Institute for Church Life, which is composed of the Center for Social Concerns and other programs in service to the Catholic Church; Ryan Hall, an undergraduate residence for women; Innovation Park, a research park that will help transform innovations into viable marketplace ventures; the Eck Hall of Law; Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center; Arlotta Stadium for lacrosse; and Alumni Stadium for soccer.

  • Businesses began to open in the late summer at Eddy Street Commons, the mix-use development adjacent to the southern boundary of the campus that includes restaurants, retail shops, residential units and offices.

  • Father Jenkins received the 2009 Gold Medal award from the American Irish Historical Society (AIHS) for his contributions to American Irish life.

  • Notre Dame moved up four spots in 2009 on the list of medium-sized schools (those with undergraduate enrollments between 5,000 and 15,000) producing Peace Corps volunteers. With 26 alumni currently serving in the Peace Corps, Notre Dame is now ranked 13th on the list, up from 17th last year.

  • A fund has been established in Notre Dame’s Center for Ethics and Culture to support pro-life activities within the University and beyond its campus. The efforts supported by the Notre Dame Fund to Protect Human Life will particularly concern issues arising from the plight of human life in its earliest stages, from conception to the early days of infancy.

  • Nell Jessup Newton, most recently chancellor and dean of the Hastings College of the Law at the University of California, was appointed as the new Joseph A. Matson Dean of Notre Dame Law School. She succeeded Patricia A. O’Hara, who served for 10 years and remains professor of law at Notre Dame.

  • Hispanic Magazine ranked Notre Dame 16th on its 2009 list of “Top 25 Colleges for Hispanics,” the seventh year the University has made the list since its debut in 1999.

  • Notre Dame is a top choice for parents of college applicants, according to an annual survey of prospective students and their parents by the Princeton Review. In the survey of some 12,715 college applicants and 3,007 parents of applicants, Notre Dame ranked fourth as a “dream college” among parents, bettered only by Harvard, Stanford and Princeton Universities as a parental dream, and ahead of fifth-ranked Yale.

  • Notre Dame surpassed the $1.5 billion goal of the “Spirit of Notre Dame” campaign more than two years ahead of schedule. The largest fund-raising effort in the history of Catholic higher education, “Spirit” was launched publicly May 5, 2007, and will end June 30, 2011. The most comprehensive campaign in Notre Dame’s history, “Spirit” is structured to provide significant financial support to four primary pillars of the University’s life: the undergraduate educational experience, research and graduate studies, diversity and international studies, and Catholic intellectual life.

  • Two Notre Dame graduates, Miguel H. Diaz and Timothy J. Roemer, were nominated and confirmed as U.S. ambassadors – Diaz to the Holy See and Roemer to India.

  • In other significant alumni news, astronauts Michael Good and Kevin Ford flew on space shuttle missions in May and August, respectively, and Bob McDonnell was elected governor of Virginia.

  • The University announced in June that it plans to make voluntary contributions totaling $5.5 million over the next 10 years to the cities of South Bend and Mishawaka, the town of Roseland and to St. Joseph County. “During these trying economic times, with our local governments facing extraordinary challenges, we hope that this direct financial contribution will have a positive impact on the local communities with which we have regular interaction,” Father Jenkins said.

  • Notre Dame is ranked No. 8 on PayScale’s “College Salary Report,” a list of salaries of graduates from hundreds of colleges and universities.

  • Notre Dame was identified as one of the top 10 higher education workplaces in the country in a survey by the Chronicle of Higher Education, a leading resource for higher education news and information. The “Great Colleges to Work For” survey placed Notre Dame among 10 large universities that have achieved multiple high marks in such categories as overall job satisfaction, employee benefits, quality facilities, safety, and employee commitment to the institution’s mission.

  • Graduates Mark W. and Stacey Miller Yusko of Chapel Hill, N.C., made a $35 million gift to Notre Dame to establish a new undergraduate scholarship program. The Yuskos’ benefaction equals the third largest gift in the University’s history and will be directed to the creation of the Hesburgh-Yusko Scholars Program, a comprehensive merit scholarship and enrichment initiative that will seek to attract talented undergraduate students to the University and provide them with the tools to become transformational leaders in the image of Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president from 1952 to 1987.

  • A variety of improvements to the Notre Dame football weekend experience were instituted for the 2009 season in the areas of hospitality, communication, and safety and security. They included a new hospitality village on Irish Green, fan access down the tunnel to the Notre Dame Stadium field on Friday afternoons of home football weekends, the deployment of guest services representatives across campus, the development of sportsmanship guidelines for fans, ticket scanners at the stadium, a public parking option on the nine-hole golf course, a text-messaging system to report instances of unruly or disruptive behavior, a toll-free phone number for fans to provide feedback on their experiences (877-ND1-FANS), and a football game-day Web site titled “Game Day: A Legendary Experience” that is a one-stop resource for information about everything that occurs on a home football weekend. The new game-day initiatives were born out of an ad hoc committee’s study during the last academic year, and its subsequent report to Father Jenkins.

  • Notre Dame took the football weekend experience on the road for the first time in October with a home-away-from-home game in San Antonio against Washington State. The weekend included a pep rally at the Alamo, a Mass, and a Saturday Scholars lecture.