Richard Sullivan was one of the giants here. He taught English lit and writing classes, and he wrote a book about Notre Dame that he described as a love story, not a history. Published in 1951, Notre Dame: Reminiscences of an Era is a period piece for sure, but I’ve quoted it often. Here’s a favorite: “While you walked, you were surrounded by the place, by an atmosphere, by a whole embracing, exciting, confirming tradition. Down a flight of stairs, around a bend, in the hall chapel, there was God.”
I did not take a class from Dick Sullivan, but I visited him during his twilight years, wanting to learn all I could about Notre Dame. On my last visit he said, “Some things go beyond words. There are elusive yet obvious feelings, even facts, you cannot find words for. You can only suggest them. Poems can be written about Notre Dame, but not definitions.”
For years I went to lunch regularly with Rev. Robert Griffin, CSC, the University chaplain whose column ran in The Observer for a quarter century. I admired his writing, and, although we must have seemed like an odd couple trundling across campus together, we would talk about writing, literature and faith. He became a dear friend, with a depth of understanding, loyalty and affection I’ve rarely experienced in my life. Of Notre Dame he once said: “Even the meanest rocks of the place tell stories.”
The role of this magazine is to speak of Notre Dame, to convey a sense of this place. Some things are best conveyed through stories, as Griff and Dick Sullivan would explain.
In this issue we have several pieces that deal directly with institutional affairs, from the latest on undergraduate research to the perennial tension between academic freedom and Notre Dame’s Catholic character. Other articles examine the scholarly pursuits of faculty as they unravel the secrets of the universe or combat the mysteries of autism, or tell stories of alumni balancing personal and professional desires, facing choices of right and wrong, pondering a co-worker’s suicide or playing keyboard for a rock ‘n’ roll band. We also have essays—including those by Ed Cohen and Matt Storin ’64—in which University people look at their time here and share their thoughts.
What these stories have in common is Notre Dame—not only the place and its people but also the ideals, meanings and principles instilled here that are carried throughout a lifetime.
And now, check out the My Story contributions from alumni.