A short history of Notre Dame’s ‘global affairs’

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Author: John Nagy ’00M.A.

In his spare time as architect of Notre Dame’s first new school since 1921, Global Affairs Dean R. Scott Appleby ’78 finds he still likes teaching history to undergraduates, which is what he originally came to do. Last semester he offered Postwar: The Emergence of the Global, 1945-2014. The course name was in part an homage to the late historian Tony Judt’s “terrific” Postwar: A History of Europe since 1945. While reading the 850-page book and several others, students considered what Appleby calls the crystallization of a “truly global consciousness” in the wake of the Second World War.

To some, 1945 may seem late. What about the League of Nations? The Olympics? The world wars themselves?

“It’s always a little bit arbitrary at any time to say, ‘It starts here,’” Appleby says. “And Judt in this book is constantly referring back to World War I in particular and to the late 19th century more generally.”

In case you’re not rushing to buy your own copy, Judt argues that the seeds planted in earlier international efforts flourished later on in institutions like the World Bank and the United Nations — whatever we may think of them — because of such particular historical conditions as the emergence of affordable air travel after the two world wars, Appleby says.

The Notre Dame historian’s vision for the Keough School of Global Affairs, scheduled to open in 2017, is to create a similarly enduring institution. But in the spirit of his course and its respect for historical roots, let’s review what came before:

1842 — The intrepid E. Sorin — transatlantic voyageur, visionary, Catholic priest — leaves France for deepest, darkest Indiana, taking delivery on 524 acres of woods previously held by a succession of French proprietors. Practicing his English at every opportunity, he patches up a cabin by the lake and calls it a university.

1860s — Brother Simeon, born Dominic Fleming in the west of Ireland, introduces Irish into the mix of ancient and modern languages taught at Notre Dame. Instruction in Irish comes and goes about every 40 years until it arrives for good in the 1990s.

1860s to 1880s — As president emeritus and Holy Cross superior general, Father Sorin returns to Europe as often as possible — some 50 Atlantic crossings in all, including one for a series of private audiences with Pope Pius IX in 1876. A dedicated follower of fashion (see also: soutane, biretta) Sorin typically brings home books and the latest French goodies like the velocipede, making Notre Dame the first university in the country to offer its students the use of a bicycle.

1868 — On practical grounds (cost; language barrier; likelihood of doing more harm than good; “everything,” really) Father Sorin discourages student efforts to organize a mercenary battalion to defend the Papal States from the army of Italian nationalist Giuseppe Garibaldi. Undaunted, the students adopt a much more familiar Notre Dame approach and take up a collection.

1896 — Notre Dame’s most distinguished scholar of the 19th century, the priest and scientist John Zahm, CSC, Class of 1871, moves to Rome as procurator general of the Congregation of Holy Cross. His book Evolution and Dogma gets him in a heap of papal trouble and he returns to Notre Dame. Late in life he reinvents himself as a South American explorer, publishing two books on his adventures and coordinating an ill-fated 1913-14 expedition into the Amazon with Teddy Roosevelt. He dies at age 70 in a Munich hospital en route to a new project in the Middle East.

1899 — Eugenio Rayneri Piedra, son of a distinguished Cuban architect, begins his studies en route to becoming the first Notre Dame student to graduate with an architecture degree, in 1904. He represents a generation of wealthy Latin American students who enroll as the University’s reputation spreads south of the border.

1909 — With six months as an Argentine gaucho on his resume, John O’Hara, son of the former U.S. Consul to Uruguay, matriculates at Notre Dame, teaching introductory Spanish to help pay for his own tuition. A quick study, O’Hara finishes his degree in 1911, becomes a Holy Cross priest, takes a lap down Wall Street and the halls of the Wharton School and, by 1917, launches the first four-year program in foreign commerce at an American university. Four years later, Father O’Hara, age 33, opens the College of Commerce, now the Mendoza College of Business, as its founding dean.

1930s — Already an attraction for marquee speakers like W.B. Yeats, G.K. Chesterton and Jacques Maritain, Notre Dame becomes a haven for distinguished European scholars fleeing the expansion of Nazi power in Europe.

1953 — With visions of Notre Dame becoming the “Catholic Princeton” dancing in his head, Father Theodore Hesburgh, CSC, establishes the Distinguished Professors Program and begins barnstorming Europe to recruit anchoring talent. During his presidential tenure, Notre Dame races from 0 to 100 endowed professorships.

1956 — Sophomore Patrick Dunne obtains the begrudging blessing of the Arts & Letters dean, Father Charles Sheedy, CSC, ’33, to go to Europe, making him putatively the first Notre Dame student to study overseas for academic credit. The University opened its first formal study abroad program — in Innsbruck, Austria — in 1964. Today, students choose from 40 sites in 20 countries and more than half of Notre Dame undergraduates go.

1958 — Fueled by a Carnegie Foundation summer travel grant, Father Hesburgh and Jerry Brady ’58 tour an Africa teetering on the brink of widespread decolonization and independence. They visit a dozen current and future countries, meeting university students and getting familiar with the issues roiling the Birthplace of Humanity.

1967 — At the behest of Pope Paul VI, after his historic meeting and formal reconciliation with the patriarch of Constantinople in 1964 — symbolically the first interaction of Eastern and Western Christianity in 910 years — Notre Dame creates the Tantur Ecumenical Institute on land near Jerusalem leased from the Vatican.

1970s to 1980s — Hesburgh establishes the Center for Civil and Human Rights (1973), the Kellogg Institute for International Studies (1979) and the Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies (1986), cementing his legacy for the advancement of peace, democratization, development and human rights.

1990s and beyond — Clusters of scholarly expertise beget institutes for Irish Studies and European Studies in 1993 and Asian Studies in 2010; new language offerings ranging from Arabic to Korean to Quechua; new interdisciplinary programs like Africana Studies and International Economics; the Notre Dame Initiative for Global Development in 2012; a big-time investment to make global history an academic strength within the College of Arts & Letters; and a network of Notre Dame facilities called “Global Gateways” in six world-class cities.


John Nagy is an associate editor of this magazine.


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