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The Alma Mater: Hymn of Hope

To conclude the tour, listen to the final segment as you walk from the library towards the football stadium.

Narration by Fr. Nate Wills, C.S.C.

This segment features the song “Notre Dame Our Mother (Alma Mater)” by the O'Neill Brothers and ends with an audio clip of the Notre Dame Glee Club singing the Alma Mater.

As you listen to the final part of this tour, walk away from the library toward the football stadium. The buildings you pass on your right include the Radiation Laboratory and Decio Hall where many faculty members have offices. On your left is the Information Technology Center, Galvin Life Science Center, and the Hank Family Center for Environmental Sciences.

Ahead of you is Notre Dame Stadium. The additions to the east, west, and south sides of the stadium provide space for classrooms, research, student activities, media and performance rooms, and hospitality events. The integration of athletics with academics and student life reflects the mission of Notre Dame to educate the whole person—body, mind, and soul. And of course, the stadium itself is the home of the Fighting Irish football team with its seven Heisman Trophy winners and scores of All-Americans and College Football Hall of Famers.

This tour has introduced you to the hope that puts the “fight” in the Fighting Irish. It is a hope that makes this University resilient in adversity. It is a hope that gives this University courage to work for the common good, especially for the poor and marginalized.

This kind of hope stands fast especially when faced with adversity. There is a long campus tradition that was born in such a moment of adversity, and it continues to inspire today: the alma mater, “Notre Dame, Our Mother.”

In 1931, a disaster shook the Notre Dame family to its core—coaching legend Knute Rockne died suddenly when his plane crashed in a wheat field in Kansas. Almost 100 years later, Rockne is still considered one of the greatest coaches in college football history, and his statue stands in front of the football stadium gate that bears his name. Walk towards this statue that faces the library as we conclude this tour.

Rockne often took poor, immigrant students and shaped them into a football team that competed with America’s elite. His teams proclaimed to the nation that Catholics had heart, faith, and determination.

When he tragically died, news of this plane crash captivated the country. The funeral was broadcast on radio nationwide and loudspeakers were attached to Sacred Heart Church for the thousands who gathered outside. The entire city came to a standstill.

The student body was shocked at the news of his death—they had lost a pillar of life at Notre Dame, and were overwhelmed with sorrow and grief. Students packed hall chapels and organized campus-wide prayer services.

It was precisely at this moment of disaster and despair that the Notre Dame family stood fast with hope, and a new Notre Dame tradition was born. The previous year, Father Charles O’Donnell, C.S.C., then-the University president, had written the lyrics to “Notre Dame, Our Mother,” and Joseph Casasanta, the University’s band director, wrote the music. The song quickly gained in popularity and became Notre Dame’s alma mater.

At the end of the halftime show during the final football game of the 1931 season, the fans in the stands were requested to stand at attention for the playing of “Notre Dame, Our Mother” in memory of Rockne. Since then, it has been used to accompany the fight song to end all football games and other University events.

The words to the song speak of Notre Dame, Mary the mother of Jesus and Our Mother, who is tender, strong, and true. It captures the University’s ultimate ambition: to imitate Mary’s faithfulness, to bear Christ to the world, and to bring hope.

When the alma mater is sung on campus today, everyone puts their arms over each others’ shoulders and slowly sways. It's almost as if, in holding one another, we give each other the strength and resilience of Father Sorin—almost as if we give each other the vision and compassion of Father Hesburgh. This is the hope that we learn from Jesus, our Teacher, and from his mother, Mary—Our Lady of the Lake.

We conclude this tour with the Notre Dame Glee Club singing the alma mater, “Notre Dame, Our Mother.” We hope that you have found inspiration in the people, places, ideas, and faith that make Notre Dame more than just a University. It’s a place of hope, a center of deep intellectual dialogue grounded in faith, a source of pride for generations of American Catholics, and a home for alumni and friends throughout the world who through their tenacious battle for what is good, right, and true, bring honor to the name, the Fighting Irish. Thank you for joining us on this tour. God bless you and Go Irish!

Notre Dame, our mother,
tender, strong and true,
proudly in the heavens
gleams thy gold and blue.
Glory’s mantle cloaks thee,
golden is thy fame,
and our hearts forever
praise thee, Notre Dame;
and our hearts forever
love thee Notre Dame.