Hall Portrait: Alumni

Author: Katie Neff '04

Hall Portrait: Alumni

Year Built: 1931

Capacity: 269

Male or Female? Always male.

THEY CALL THEMSELVES: Dawgs, in homage to Clashmore Mike, the original Irish terrier mascot of the Irish who is depicted in bas-relief on the east side of the hall. The first Clashmore Mike arrived on campus in 1930, a gift to Knute Rockne. He was so popular that most later dogs were given the same name. The terrier was the official mascot until the leprechaun was introduced in 1965.

NAMED FOR: Notre Dame’s generous alumni, to honor their loyalty and financial support. The name broke the tradition of christening dorms for prominent Notre Dame figures and deceased presidents. Alumni is the only dorm on campus not named for a person or family.

DISTINGUISHING FEATURES: Boston architects Charles Maginnis and Timothy Walsh are responsible for Alumni’s Gothic Revival style. Besides Clashmore Mike, bas-reliefs of Rockne and a student with an hourglass (a reminder that study time is precious) adorn the east face. Crowning the southeast corner tower are gargoyles rumored to be modeled after those of the Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris. A cap-and-gown wearing niche statue nicknamed Joe College (more formally “The Graduate”) faces south. On the west side, in a courtyard shared with Dillon Hall, Alumni’s rival, a gable below a chimney serves as a sundial. The sundial marks the afternoon and early evening hours. A counterpart on Dillon clocks the morning. The Alumni half of the courtyard also features niche figures of Saint Thomas and Saint Bonaventure. On the South-Quad-facing north side, a reader and writer flank the building’s main entrance. The door to the Chapel of Saint Charles Borromeo (patron saint of Father Charles O’Donnell, CSC, president at the time of Alumni’s construction) is guarded by a bas-relief of the Madonna and Child.

HISTORY MADE THERE: Alumni boasted the campus’s first electric elevator and the only medicine cabinets with slots in which to deposit used razor blades. Dillon and Alumni were the most expensive halls to live in until the 1940s, when Navy trainees took over the residence. In a patriotic gesture, Alumni’s residents squeezed in with one another, turning all singles into doubles. The space became so cramped, Dave Condon ’49, later a sportswriter for the Chicago Tribune, wrote in Scholastic that “when someone entered by the front door, it necessitated someone else leaving by the rear egress.”

THEY LIVED THERE AS STUDENTS: James Berges ’69, president of Emerson Electric; James Creagan ’62, president of John Cabot University and former U.S. ambassador to Honduras; the late Richard Lyng ’40, secretary of agriculture under President Reagan; Jerome Bettis, Pittsburgh Steelers running back.

LORE: In the days of the midnight curfew, Alumni’s location adjacent to the Main Circle offered a distinct social advantage. According to the 1949_Dome_, Dawgs were “happily aware” that if they reached the circle by the first stroke of midnight they could be in safely before the last stroke. In the 1970s and ‘80s, residents instigated the “Window Wars” by blasting golf balls from the courtyard at Dillon’s windows at 3 in the morning.

TRADITIONS: Alumni residents are known for their semiannual finals week Bun Runs, during which they streak through the library to break up the monotony of studying. Another of the hall’s infamous traditions is the Alumni Wake. Contrary to popular belief, this event was not begun as a way to mourn the death of keg parities in Notre Dame residence halls after 1978. Rather, the Wake started in 1980, when Jim King ‘81, CSC, ’87MDiv., now director of Holy Cross Vocations Office, had a brainstorm that combined his Irish roots with his campaign for the Alumni Hall presidency. The Wake was to be a hall party in the spirit of a traditional Irish wake, with partying late into the night. The first Wake involved a handmade wooden coffin, flowers raided from a cemetery trash heap, and an in-hall procession. ("If we’d gone outside," says King, “there would have been a full-scale war with Dillon.”) It was intended to be a “classy event,” he says, with decorations that turned sections of the dorm into Dublin streets. In subsequent years the Wake became a rowdy and alcohol-infused celebration surrounded by bizarre traditions, one of which involved Rector George Rozum, CSC, ‘61, ’80MSA, being carried into the hall’s dance inside a coffin. With changes in campus alcohol polices, the event was replaced last year by a tamer one titled The Funeral. During both Wake week and freshman orientation, the Greek letters delta, omega and gamma are displayed outside the dorm to celebrate its fraternal spirit. They spell out “dog” in honor of Alumni’s mascot.

(October 2003)