The state of Indiana was not even three decades old, and still filled up with Indian tribes, when a group of Catholic missionaries charged with converting the heathens were granted land from the state Catholic Diocese to use for a college. Rev. Edward Sorin, along with seven other colleagues, set up immediately in a chapel built by Rev. Stephen Theodore Badin, the missionary who donated the land to the archdiocese. Soon they began building their school in earnest.
On this day, January 15th, in 1844, the University of Notre Dame du Lac was chartered by the Indiana legislature. The university’s name reflected its Catholic character – translated, it means “Our Lady of the Lake,” a reference to the Virgin Mary.
Notre Dame began with twenty-odd students, growing the following year to forty. Eventually it would educate and house thousands, but all were male. The university began accepting very limited numbers of female graduate students from nearby Saint Mary’s College, but not until 1972 did the first female — a transfer from Saint Mary’s — graduate from Notre Dame.