Hall Portrait: Sorin

Author: Notre Dame Magazine


Year Built: original section, 1888; wings, 1897; porch, 1905

Named for: Notre Dame founder Father Edward Sorin, CSC.

Capacity: 154 (third-smallest)

Male or Female: Always a men’s dorm

They Call Themselves: Screaming Otters or just Otters

Distinguishing features: Giraffe-friendly ceilings on three upper floors (19 feet on the first) with huge rooms in four corner turrets; large front porch with dual swings, one of them reserved for smokers (as is half the porch); mixed-blessing proximity to Sacred Heart Basilica (bells).

History made there: Sorin was Notre Dame’s first residence hall; before its construction, students studied and lived in the Main Building. It was also the first residence hall at a Catholic college in the United States to have private rooms, as opposed to hospital-ward-style living spaces. The Scholastic of the day described the size of Sorin’s rooms as “large enough to encourage study, and at the same time small enough to discourage visiting.” The Notre Dame Law Department (later School) was originally located on the first floor. In 1908, young alumni John F. and Michael J. Shea, back on campus for a football game, used a piano in Sorin to begin composing the Notre Dame Victory March.

They lived there as students: Knute Rockne; two of the Four Horsemen — Harry Stuhldreher and Don Miller; longtime athletic director Moose Krause; Heisman Trophy winners Johnny Lujack, John Lattner and Paul Hornung; more recent football greats including Dave Casper, Rocky Bleier and Steve Beuerlein.

They lived there as non-students: Paul Fenlon moved into Sorin as a 20-year-old student in 1917. After graduating in 1919 he tried the family banking business in Chicago but gave it up after eight months and returned to campus to teach English. He moved back into Sorin and remained there for more than 60 years, until close to his death in 1980 at age 84. Father Edward “Monk” Malloy, CSC, Notre Dame’s president since 1987, has been a Sorin resident since 1979. He moved into Fenlon’s room — the northeast turret room on the first floor — after it was left vacant for a year out of respect for Fenlon’s memory. He has lived there ever since, happily disdaining air conditioning. Father John O’Hara, CSC, another future University president and future cardinal, lived in the same room in Sorin from 1934-40 as University chaplain. He would issue a daily religious bulletin to students in which he occasionally correlated communion attendance with the football team’s fortunes. Father John “Pops” Farley, CSC, (Farley Hall), rector from 1931-37, would distribute mail to Sorin men on the front porch three times a day, sniffing for perfume and providing commentary.

Traditions: For many years the first-floor’s gargantuan southwest turret room has been reserved for seven sophomores. An annual talent show, not renowned for its quality, is usually held Parents’ Weekend in the fall. Many past residents have scratched their names into the bricks flanking the front door. “Monk Hoops” excursions to the Moreau Seminary gymnasium, led by President Malloy at 10:30 on Monday and Wednesday nights, were a tradition for 17 years. They ended three years ago when the president, a former varsity player, was no longer physically able to continue playing. Before the stay-hall system, Sorin was for many years a hall for seniors only, and competition to get in was tough. Though there are no prerequisites today, the elite image endures.

Lore: The front porch was added after students dumped a bucket of water from an upper story (a common prank) onto “Colonel” William Hoynes, debonair dean of the law school, as he was exiting the building. Hoynes, who lived to be 86, resided in Sorin for over 40 years. A group of residents changed the hall’s name to Sorin College in 1969, symbolically seceding from the University in protest of the Vietnam War. In his final years Paul Fenlon would refuse to allow workers in to paint and repair the plaster in his room. Finally, when he was away on a short vacation, crews entered and took detailed photographs of the room. After the renovations were complete they reassembled it exactly as before, down to the cigarettes in the ashtray. If the professor noticed the change, he never let on.