Dillon Hall and ‘The Best Job at Notre Dame’
Few of Notre Dame’s many distinctive characteristics are as conspicuous as its residential tradition, which was established in the University’s earliest days. Its founder, Father Edward Sorin, insisted upon the communal ambience familiar to him from French schools, which is why 19th- century students ate, slept, learned, studied, prayed, and recreated together in wings of the University’s first Main Building. In 1889, not long after a catastrophic campus fire destroyed that building, Sorin Hall was opened, and Notre Dame became the first Catholic university in the United States to offer residential halls with private rooms. A committee concerned with University priorities recently concluded that “next to its academic mission and Catholic character, residentiality is the least dispensable of Notre Dame’s hallmarks.”
Today, more than eighty percent of Notre Dame’s undergraduate students live on campus in one of 29 undergraduate residence halls. Most residents stay in the same hall throughout their student years, cultivating distinct identities, experiences, and expressions of community life. “Since students are randomly assigned to their residence halls, the factors that distinguish one dorm from another, it seems to me, are architecture, location, and leadership,” said Rev. Paul Doyle, C.S.C., Corgel Family Rector of Dillon Hall. “The men of Dillon take pride in their beautiful and strategically located home, and their creative contributions to the dorm enrich its tradition year after year.”
The residence hall in which Father Doyle serves is named for Rev. Patrick Dillon, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s second president.
Built in 1931, Dillon was the 13th residence hall to be constructed on campus, and—with its three floors, 81,000 square feet, and a configuration of single, double, triple, and quadruple-occupancy rooms—remains the most capacious. Designed in neo-gothic style by Charles Maginnis and Timothy Walsh, the Boston architects whose other Notre Dame buildings include the nearby Law School and Alumni Hall, Dillon has an ornate exterior whose features include not only stone carvings of students studying, sleeping, and competing in sports, but also a stone carving of a Viking ship carrying Saint Olaf, the Norwegian king who established Christianity in Norway. This, as well as the side altar in Dillon Hall’s Saint Patrick Chapel, honors the memory of the Norwegian native and Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne, who died only a few months before Dillon opened and whose storied football teams helped generate some of the revenues which made its construction possible.
For nearly half a century, on the Thursday evening prior to the first home game of the Notre Dame football season, hall residents have hosted the Dillon Pep Rally on the South Quadrangle of campus. This signature event includes skits (many of which poke affectionate fun at other residence halls), appearances by team members and other celebrity guests, and spontaneous crowd-surfing. Father Doyle himself has occasionally been borne aloft by rally participants.
The hall also hosts three dances a year, numerous athletic competitions, frequent lectures, an annual dorm retreat, and several service projects, but Father Doyle mentioned one Dillon tradition, the Milkshake Mass, with particular fondness.
Mass is offered and well attended daily in the Saint Patrick Chapel, Father Doyle said, adding that one of Dillon’s priests- in-residence, Rev. Joe Corpora, C.S.C., who was recently named a Missionary of Mercy by Pope Francis, celebrates an additional Mass in Spanish there each Sunday afternoon.
Of these celebrations, Dillon’s Thursday night Milkshake Mass has become an increasingly popular campus tradition since Father Doyle became rector in 1997. Combining his love of 16-ounce milkshakes with his enthusiasm for theology and Christian community, Father Doyle began to serve his own homemade milkshakes as an improvised social occasion following the Mass. The attendance at the 10:00 p.m. celebration—and the consumption of the proffered milkshakes— has increased tenfold over the years, facilitated by Dillon’s assistant rectors working standard commercial drink mixers. The Milkshake Mass now regularly draws to the 165-seat chapel an overflow attendance of 250 students.
“Christian community is the name of the game,” Father Doyle said. “Faith, generosity, and competence are manifest in this and all Dillon Hall activities. It’s the rector’s privilege to develop the vision of Christian community and find people who can embrace it. It is the best job at Notre Dame.&rdquo