Diversity and Inclusion Celebrated at Notre Dame

MLK Speech by Fr. Jenkins, C.S.C.

Notre Dame has formally committed itself to “a spirit of inclusion among the members of this community for distinct reasons articulated in our Christian tradition. We prize the uniqueness of all persons as God’s creatures. We welcome all people, regardless of color, gender, religion, ethnicity, sexual orientation, social or economic class, and nationality, for example, precisely because of Christ’s calling to treat others as we desire to be treated. ... The spirit of inclusion at Notre Dame flows from our character as a community of scholarship, teaching, learning, and service founded upon Jesus Christ.”

Two recent commemorative events at Notre Dame have celebrated both that spirit and the communal character from which it flows.

In an induction ceremony last October 13, Notre Dame’s president, Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., added two plaques to the Wall of Honor on the first floor of the Main Building. One plaque honors Rev. John S. Dunne, C.S.C. The second plaque honors the first generation of African-American students at Notre Dame. The Wall of Honor, established in 1999 by then-President Rev. Edward “Monk” Malloy, C.S.C., memorializes men and women “whose contributions to Notre Dame have been lasting, pervasive, and profound.” The date chosen for the ceremony is also Founder’s Day, the feast of Saint Edward the Confessor, patron saint of Notre Dame’s founder, Rev. Edward Sorin, C.S.C. The feast of Saint Edward the Confessor has been annually celebrated on campus since 1868 in honor of Father Sorin and all of the men and women whose lives and work have made the University what it is today.

The plaque honoring Notre Dame’s first generation of African-American students which Father Jenkins blessed and installed includes three names: 1947 alumnus Frazier Thompson, the first African-American student to enroll at Notre Dame; 1956 alumna Goldie Lee Ivory, the first African-American woman to earn a Notre Dame degree; and 1958 alumnus Aubrey Lewis, the earliest African-American graduate who would later become a Notre Dame Trustee.

“These are people who were real trailblazers,” Father Jenkins told the crowd assembled, including family members of the honorees and University leaders. “They made Notre Dame a richer, better, more diverse place. We’re able to do what we can today because of their contributions.”

The Founder’s Day celebration concluded with a Mass at which Father Jenkins presided in Notre Dame’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart.

On the third Monday of January, Martin Luther King Day, Notre Dame honored the legacy of the civil rights leader and martyr with a series of events encouraging conversation and reflection on diversity and inclusion. 

“We at Notre Dame must participate in and learn from the ongoing national and even global conversation on diversity and inclusion,” said Father Jenkins. “Perhaps most importantly, I hope we will use this occasion to re ect on the values that are so central both to Dr. King’s legacy and to Notre Dame’s mission.”

Modifying plans for a previously announced midnight march— due to a ferocious winter storm—the events celebrating Martin Luther King, Walk the Walk Week, began at 12:01 a.m. Monday with a candlelit prayer service in the Main Building, where Father Jenkins led a public prayer service.

Later that day, Father Jenkins hosted a Martin Luther King Day celebration in the Joyce Center, leading a live-streamed discussion including Hugh Page, University vice president, associate provost, and dean of the First Year of Studies; John McGreevy, I.A. O’Shaughnessy Dean of the College of Arts and Letters and professor of history; Katie Washington Cole, University Trustee and valedictorian from the Class of 2010; Luis Fraga, the Arthur Foundation Endowed Professor of Transformative Latino Leadership and professor of political science; Jennifer Mason McAward, acting director of the Notre Dame Center for Civil and Human Rights and associate professor of law; and Steven Waller, a member of the Class of 2017 and mechanical engineering and economics major. Community-building lunches, open to Notre Dame faculty, students, and staff, were also held simultaneously in the University’s North and South Dining Halls.

The celebration of Martin Luther King Day was concluded in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart with an evening Mass at which Father Jenkins presided and sacred music was provided by Notre Dame’s Voices of Faith Gospel Choir.

ND Students Celebrating Martin Luther King Jr

MLK Day Walk by ND Students