Dear Members of the Notre Dame Community,
Nearly fifty years ago, in the fall of 1972, Notre Dame welcomed the first undergraduate class of women. Since the University’s founding, women have played an integral part in the history and success of Notre Dame, from the arrival of four Holy Cross Sisters in 1843 from Le Mans, France, to the present day. While women served on the faculty, were admitted as graduate students, and performed many essential roles at the University prior to 1972, Fr. Theodore Hesburgh’s decision to admit women as undergraduates was transformational for Notre Dame.
The 50th anniversary of this momentous decision coincides with the 50th anniversary of the passage of Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits sex-based discrimination in educational programs and activities. These twin anniversaries provide us an opportunity to celebrate the invaluable contributions of our women students and graduates, both at Notre Dame and beyond, in their communities, our nation, the Church and the world. It is also an opportunity to reflect on the path ahead, as we seek to become an ever more welcoming, inclusive, and diverse community and extend our reach to be a force for good.
Last summer I appointed a steering committee led by Ann Firth, vice president and chief of staff, and Micki Kidder, vice president for university events and enterprises to help us consider how to mark this anniversary. The steering committee has begun to formulate plans for the celebration, choosing “Golden is Thy Fame: 50 Years of Undergraduate Women” as its theme.
As the University marks these important milestones, my office will host several keynote events during the 2022 Spring Semester celebrating the impact that undergraduate women have had on the University. More information about these events will be forthcoming. In addition, we invite the campus community—the colleges and schools, departments and campus units, as well as student and alumni groups—to join us in commemorating the anniversary by hosting events that recognize the impact women have had.
Our celebration will culminate with the 2022 Alumni Reunion in early June. In addition to those class years that would normally be invited to attend Reunion next summer—namely, those class years ending in 2 and 7—undergraduate alumnae of all class years are invited to return to campus for the weekend, with special events in honor of the anniversary on Thursday, June 2 and throughout Reunion weekend, June 3-5. As part of the Reunion celebration, we will recognize in a special way the first cohort of undergraduate women. The Alumni Association will provide additional information later this month about Reunion 2022.
I hope you will join me in the months ahead as we celebrate these historic milestones.
In Notre Dame,
Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C.