The State of the University

Author: Kerry Temple ’74

My first job at Notre Dame was as a development writer for the Campaign for Notre Dame. I started on Halloween 1977. In early 1981, the books closed on this fund-raising effort, with $180 million raised toward the $130 million goal. It was a staggering sum to those of us in development in those days, and a stunning achievement we were all proud of. So I was surprised one day when two department heads came to my office and said, “Now that the campaign is over we have no need for a development writer.”

With two sons under the age of 2 and a successful campaign just finished, I had not anticipated that my job would be eliminated. The good news is that these two department heads had already decided to keep me on—but to move me from one department to another, where I’d write press releases and handle media relations. “Sure, okay, thanks,” I said, happy to have survived my near-termination and appreciative that people were looking out for me.

The real purpose of this story, though, is to say I came on board as a development writer many years ago, and I still have a soft spot in my heart for Notre Dame fund raising—which is a good thing, because each decade brings another fund-raising campaign, with a goal even more staggering and stunning than the last. This time the target is $1.5 billion. And in this issue we introduce our readership to the public phase of this monumental effort. Subsequent issues will devote some space to various components of the campaign.

Generating resources for a private institution as ambitious as Notre Dame is a formidable yet necessary undertaking. Raising money was fundamental to this brave educational enterprise even before its founder, Reverend Edward F. Sorin, CSC, dispatched some Holy Cross brothers to join the California Gold Rush in 1849. The effort goes on, though in a much more sophisticated manner.

Beyond the revenue-seeking, however, are other important corollaries. Each campaign begins with a serious and thorough self-assessment in which a multitude of players take stock of the institution, its current status, its hopes, needs and dreams. The fund raising, with its priorities and price tags, emerges from this self-study. The whole endeavor encourages a kind of “state of the University” reflection that is shared with the entire Notre Dame family. That’s an important exercise to go through each decade.

The current fund-raising effort is called the "Spirit of Notre Dame" campaign. This issue offers various perspectives on all of the above—including a candid conversation among Notre Dame’s relatively new team of leaders about where Notre Dame is today, where it wants to go and how it hopes to get there; a campaign synopsis; a photo essay of campus spirituality; and a pair of essays by astute Notre Dame observers that convey a sense of the abiding affection so many of us have for the essential Notre Dame.

Kerry Temple is editor of this magazine.