Hall Portrait: Lyons

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Author: Susie Schaab '03

lyonspix.jpg
Year built*: 1925

Capacity: 211

Male or female? Male till 1974, when it was converted into the sixth residence hall for women.

They Call Themselves: the Lions or Lyonites (in 1971-72 the dorm softball team went by the name Lyons Tigers).

Named for: Joseph Lyons, 1862 graduate and professor of English from 1862-1888. He arrived at Notre Dame in 1848 as an orphan apprenticed to the Manual Labor School’s shoemaking shop. Three years later Father Sorin, impressed by the young man’s attitude and determination, offered him one free year of tuition to the University. Lyons graduated with high honors and became one of the most popular professors of his day. In 1871 he chaperoned students aboard a special train going home to Chicago for the Christmas holidays—a first, as such trips were not allowed before. He was the first layperson buried in the Holy Cross community cemetery, reserved mainly for priests and brothers. The epitaph on his tombstone reads “self-sacrifice, kindness, and compassion,” an adage the dorm has adopted as its own.

Distinguishing Features: The elegant Lyons entrance arch with its picturesque views of Saint Mary’s Lake has long been a hub for romance after late-night strolls. It stands as the architectural zenith of South Quad’s “golden coast” dorms (Howard, Morrissey and Lyons), designed by professors Francis W. Kervick and Vincent Fagan. The hanging light fixture is original to the building. A statue of Saint Joseph the worker crowns the archway. The winding stairs leading down to the pillared entrance of the tomb-like Lyons Hall chapel conjure up images of castle dungeons. The dorm’s two other subterranean living areas* *used for social space are aptly named the “lair” and “den.” The living space above and to the east of the arch originally contained quarters for lay professors, complete with separate bathrooms and a fireplace. Kervick himself lived there for several years. The area later became the only living space on campus reserved exclusively for seniors. That tradition ended in 2000, when the space was converted into a social and study area.

History Made There: Lyons is the only Notre Dame residence hall shown in Rudy. The arch provides the backdrop when Rudy (Sean Astin) attempts to find a girlfriend for D-Bob (Jon Favreau) in return for free tutoring. During World War II, Lyons was occupied by the Navy. Together with Morrissey, Howard and Badin halls, it housed deck officers and special assignment trainees. The Midshipmen’s School was one of three military programs on campus estimated to have trained almost 12,000 officers between 1942 and 1946.

*They Lived There as Students: *James Brady ’59, former president of Jacksonville (Florida) University; Pedro Rossello ’66, former governor of Puerto Rico; Ernesto Perez Balladares ’67, ’69M.A., former president of Panama; Appeals Court Judge Emilio Garza ’69, ’70M.A.; Kathleen Blatz ’76, chief justice of the Minnesota Supreme Court.

Lore: As Notre Dame’s designated honors hall until 1974,* Lyons acquired a reputation as the dorm where only the most serious students lived. Hoping to escape their reputation as nerds, Lyons residents in 1972 entered the spring festival An Tostal’s annual tug-of-war. Organizers *collected $2 from each resident and hired an elephant and his trainer from Peru, Indiana, to hold down their end of the rope. Upon seeing the elephant, event officials immediately put Lyons Hall in the finals. The challengers, who considered attaching their end of the rope to a student’s car, stopped when they learned that the retired circus elephant earned its keep pulling semi-trailers in a trucking depot.

Traditions: Each year on All Souls’ Day (November 2 or 3) hall residents hold a prayer service and lay a wreath on Joseph Lyons’ grave. This October Lyons residents will commemorate the 10-year anniversary of their signature event, the Mara Fox Fun Run. Established in 1993 to honor the memory of Fox, a freshman in Lyons* *killed by a drunk driver while walking back to campus, the run raises money for a scholarship benefitting one student each year who, like Fox, maintains an A average in Spanish and plans to study abroad. In the hall chapel hangs a Central American cross, another memorial to Fox. It was donated and is signed by members of her Spanish class, some younger sisters of whom now live in the hall. Lyons hosts one of the first dances each fall, the Lyons Luau, outdoors on the basketball courts facing the Saint Mary’s Lake. Lyons’ annual Spirit Week features women’s empowerment events including feminist-themed movie nights, yoga sessions and reflections on the role of women in Jesus’ life.

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