This sweeping book offers the definitive account of the life and labors of Edward Sorin, founder of the University of Notre Dame. Born in the west of France in 1814, Sorin was ordained in 1838 and joined the newly founded Congregation of Holy Cross shortly thereafter. In 1841, Father Sorin, along with six Holy Cross brothers, was sent to establish a mission in Indiana. After a year’s service in the Vincennes diocese’s fledgling parochial schools, Sorin was offered a tract of land in the diocese’s northernmost section—on the condition that a college be situated there. Father Sorin and his companions arrived at the lakeside property, located near the south bend of the St. Joseph River, in November 1842.
The next year, the state of Indiana granted a charter to what Sorin proudly and reverently called the University of Notre Dame du Lac. In its early days, Father Sorin’s “university” was composed of a few log shacks and a handful of half-educated brothers, only a few of whom could speak English. There was no money and hardly any students.
But Father Sorin, by sheer willpower, was determined that his university would prosper. Basic to Father Sorin’s success in this regard was his willingness to give free rein to gifted colleagues—men more intellectually sophisticated than himself—and his intuitive understanding of, and growing love for, the unique character of American culture.
Edward Sorin is a lively, colorful history of the man who overcame great odds to found and grow one of the world’s premier Catholic institutions of higher learning.
“This work will surely stand as Sorin’s definitive biography.” —H-Net
“Tracing the astonishing career of this remarkable man has produced not only a definitive biography but a model of how good history should be written. [H]is well crafted, sympathetic narrative is a terrific read.... O’Connell’s magnificent biography, priced reasonably, is a treasure.” —Catholic Library World
“This is a great book, extremely well written, about a great man who made an enormous difference.” —Theological Studies
“The thirty chapters of this book are thoroughly researched and beautifully crafted with rhapsodic descriptions of the place, complex character development and a fine sense of pacing. It reads like a good novel.” —American Historical Review
“Anyone interested in the origins of the University of Notre Dame will cherish this excellent biography of Fr. Edward Sorin. Edward Sorin can be highly recommended. It deserves a place of honor in any well-stocked library.” —Cistercian Studies Quarterly
“Complemented by 40 pages of photos and very through index, this biography of Edward Sorin yields endless rewards and insights for dedicated readers.” —St Anthony Messenger
“O’Connell’s theme is the tug-of-war between two complex personalities, Sorin the obstinate aristocrat and Moreau the quarrelsome peasant. This approach is instructive because their competition serves as a paradigm for a larger issue in American history: the struggle of European institutions—in this case, a religious congregation—to adapt to the American environment. It is an old story, but one to which an important chapter has been added by this excellent biography.” —The Journal of American History
“O’Connell is one of the finest story-tellers of our day, with a craftsman’s handling of the language. This work is a fine tribute to Sorin, to the university which he founded, and to the many fine men and women associated with Holy Cross over the years.” —Catholic Historical Review
“This work is well written, blending historical facts with delightful stories and the humor of human foibles.”—Catholic Southwest
“With the precision of a calligrapher and the lyrical voice of a librettist, Notre Dame professor emeritus Marvin R. O’Connell has crafted a monumental biography... of Edward Sorin. O’Connell’s biography is a respectful and balanced account of a preeminent nineteenth-century Catholic churchman. The student of higher education will find much of interest here in the anecdotal accounts of Notre Dame’s development under Sorin’s leadership...."—History of Education Quarterly