From the Archives: The vision of Fr. Sorin

Author: University Archives

Sorin GlassesCourtesy of the University Archives

Dating from the 1880s, Father Edward Sorin's wire-framed spectacles are one of the most recognizable artifacts in the University Archives' holdings. Edward Frederic Sorin was born on February 6, 1814, in the small town of Ahuillé, France. As a young man, he studied the classics before entering the diocesan seminary, and he was ordained on May 27, 1838. Shortly after ordination, Father Sorin joined the Congregation of Holy Cross (C.S.C.). Almost a year later, Father Sorin and six Holy Cross brothers were selected by their superiors to embark on missionary work in the United States. And, in November of 1842, Father Sorin and seven of his C.S.C. brothers founded the University of Notre Dame. In a letter written to Father Basil Moreau on December 5, 1842, Father Sorin wrote, "This college will be one of the most powerful means of doing good in the country…at least such is my firm conviction, time will tell whether I am deceived or not." Despite many crises that challenged Notre Dame's early years, Father Sorin's decisive leadership and commitment would define the future path of Notre Dame.


Over the course of Notre Dame's early history, Father Sorin never lost sight of his larger vision. Father Sorin served as Notre Dame's president until 1865. In 1868, he became Superior-General of the Congregation of Holy Cross. He was also chairman of the University's Board of Trustees and played a key role in Notre Dame's leadership until his death in 1893. The corresponding cabinet card pictures Father Sorin wearing the iconic glasses, which have come to symbolize the foresight and vision of the founder of the University of Notre Dame.


From the Archives is a new series written by the staff of the University of Notre Dame Archives highlighting notable pieces from their collection. Through its rich historical resources, the University Archives provides campus, national and international communities with a broad historical focus on the evolution of the University of Notre Dame, its contributions to higher education, and its place in history.