Past is Prologue: Memories of Life at Notre Dame College

The college years are an exciting time for students who are able to live on campus. “It’s a time of discovery,” said Jeff Rudnik, Notre Dame College’s director of residence life. “In a residence hall community, you live around people you would not necessarily have chosen to be next to, but they become part of your world.”

These close quarters make timeless memories for young minds, no matter when they attended college. “The core friendships and the crazy pranks, they never change,” said Ian Tanner, a graduate assistant for residence life, “and the friendships you make in college are some of the best ones you make in your life.”

As Notre Dame College breaks ground on two new residence halls, we asked alumni for their reminiscences of earlier campus life. Enjoy the memories.

From Rose M. Wereb, Class of 1954

I entered as a freshman in the fall of 1950. At that time, the College consisted only of half a building. The fourth floor was designated Our Lady of Providence Residence Hall. There were approximately 45 students living there. Three to four nuns lived there with us. This was our home and our family.

Rules were consistent with the times. For instance, jeans, slacks etc. were not allowed to be worn beyond the fourth floor. To leave the floor, one had to roll up the pant legs and wear a long coat.

We were not required to attend daily Mass, but you can be sure that mental attendance was taken each morning to see who was present. The bell rang at 6:30 a.m. and Mass was at 7:00 a.m. followed by breakfast. Sunday Mass required that we wear cap and gown. We met in the room across from the Chapel and entered in procession. There was no way of knowing how many of the girls at that mass had their P.J.s rolled up under the gown with plans to head directly back to bed after Mass.

Each weekday evening and Sunday dinner was a formal affair. Table cloths and cloth napkins were set to serve family style, six to a table with representatives from each class at each table. Seating was determined by the table setters and you found your seat by looking for your napkin ring. There would be two nuns at dinner with us. During retreat week, they would also supply us with spiritual readings during dinner.

Passes for the evening were limited and time limits were strictly enforced. One of the Sisters would be on duty at the door when you came in and there was no way of sneaking past her. There was one Sister who was excellent at judging the time between the sight of the headlights entering the driveway and your appearance at the door. It better not be long!

We made good friends. We had a lot of fun and we learned a lot of lessons beyond those for which we were granted degrees.

I look back on those days as some of the happiest of my life. I am so happy for having experienced them and I am thankful to the Sisters of Notre Dame for giving me the opportunity to be a part of the ND family. I still have a very good friend who is the first person I met when I arrived in the dorm at NDC. We both agree that we gained a lot from our days there that today’s students are missing.

From Cheryl Dotter- Dietz, Class of 1976

I remember calligraphy with Sr. St. Kenneth was a favorite class. On several crisp snowy nights some friends and I would “stomp” out a message in calligraphy which could be seen from the upper floors of Alumnae Hall. Sr. St. Kenneth never had the heart to tell us the message was crooked or out of scale, but we had harmless fun practicing!

Pets… ah yes. No pets allowed. So Clare Cavoli promptly got one. It was a goldfish. While we were in Providence Hall, that goldfish traveled to all the rooms to avoid detection. Mostly it would be stowed behind the door so that when Sr. Marla would knock with her ring on the metal door (a most dreadful sound) we could open it just enough to talk, but not enough to reveal the “pet.” I don’t think it ever had a name, poor thing!

I was always one to work ahead of schedule, but my fellow roommates liked to wait until the last minute to do assignments. This particular Friday, we were assigned a paper due in a month. In my diligence, I began researching and typing immediately. Up for a bit of mischief, my roommates dismantled everything in my room and carried out most of the things which could be carried... even my chair and typewriter, when I went to the bathroom. I was frustrated at the time, but now it seems really funny. I still do things ahead of schedule, by the way!

We still all keep in touch 30 plus years later. The dorms were good to us!

From Shelley Fergus Drabik, Class of 1987

Last summer, while attending a multi-day conference at Notre Dame, I revisited my college memories by staying in the residence halls. My assignment to a room in Providence was a milestone; after 20 years, I had completed the NDC residence hall circuit in its entirety. I lived in Alumnae for a summer while doing an undergraduate internship at Case. For the rest of my college years, I was a Harks resident, initially rooming on the first floor, later ascending to the coveted second floor, and finally attaining the ultimate room assignment as the Harks RA (private room, no second bed or desk).

I had a roommate for my first semester only, after which I had a private room. My main driver for privacy was a demanding course schedule. However, the fact that my roommate was a well traveled, boundary-crashing free spirit who talked in her sleep in Swedish, while I was a conservatively raised local girl with 12 years of Catholic education, a preppy wardrobe, and a provincial perspective that had never been on a plane may have had something to do with it. I think fondly of my college roommate, a dear and genuine friend despite our minor stylistic differences, and credit her with spurring my journey toward a broader world view.

Back last summer, as I tried to determine if I could pick up a wireless connection for my laptop or would have to use the drop in the wall, I noted differences between the residence halls today and the residence life I knew. I thought back to when our entire floor gawked as our only math major carried in her long-awaited personal computer, the first owned by a resident. I remembered the decadence of spending a snow day watching brat pack videos in the lounge when one fellow resident brought in a VCR. Gone were formal lounges where we took pictures before dances, kitchenettes where we heated tea kettles and cooked impromptu pasta dinners, and the extra bathroom down the hall where you could take a delightfully serene bubble bath. Gone were the pay phones continuously in use at the beginning of each term, until service was restored for the one rotary phone allotted to each suite. Providence’s basement no longer housed an elementary school, to which in-the-know residents would escape roommates for solitary all-night cram sessions. I wondered if Harks basement was still a lounge; it once had a pool table, vending machines, and the first television on campus to have cable. Gone was the tiny bar tucked into Connelly Center where we drank pitchers of beer before dinner every Friday afternoon and listened to spontaneous tunes from the haunted jukebox. Transformed was the sleepy expanse of undeveloped, skunk-tyrannized land on which stood only the residence halls complex, Administration Building, library, and a small tennis court. Instead, I saw a lively campus life that included sports fields, Keller Center, Starbucks, cell phones, IPods, microwaves, wireless, a quad, and men.


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