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by Ken Bird
Rocky Mountains

Rivers of Canada

Canoe Journeys

Thunder Bay
Atlantic Canada



Father Athol Murray and the Hounds of Notre Dame


Jerry W. BirdIntroduction by Jerry W. Bird

A few years ago, while in Banff, Alberta, Canada, one of my favorite vacation retreats, I met a personal friend and author Jack Gorman, at that time a reporter for the Calgary Herald. Jack was attending an alumni session of the College of Notre Dame and invited me to join some of his fellow hounds for dinner. To make a long story short, I soon became involved in a major fundraising program for an athletic research facility for the college. During that period of worthy effort, I learned the fascinating story of Notre Dame, and Father Murray, its founder, a great Canadian and humanitarian.

One of my proudest moments was a visit to the campus at Wilcox , Sask, south of Regina. Fortunately I brought my youngest son, Ron, and we spent an unforgettable a day with Father Athol Murray. I will provide more comments on what I experienced plus an outline of Jack Gorman's book, "The Hounds of Notre Dame." The same topic was also released as a movie. The following message from the current president of Notre Dame is from the college's website..

Letter from the President
By: Terry O'Malley

"Canada could easily become such a splendid national entity if it could only work out its destiny in harmony and goodwill."

Athol Murray loved Canada. A grand nephew of Sir John A. Macdonald, he admired more the vision and ability of Sir Wilfrid Laurier in interpreting and penetrating with friendliness the 'multiplicity' that is Canada. Murray was born in Toronto, educated in Quebec but created his life work in Saskatchewan. He was fluently bilingual, as was his own father. He felt that the glue that held Canada together was the political philosophy that guaranteed "free government, family rights, individual liberty, property rights, freedom of education ... the way so comprehensive, that it can do justice to all the diversities." In Athol Murray's day, the conflicts of the world of the 30's and 40's demonstrated this was true. It is still true today. He felt the intellectual roots of our civilization are to be found in classical Greek literature and philosophy. He stressed those roots at his College. He stressed also a "vision of greatness" and provided physical representation that would emphatically assert the idealism of Canada. For example, go to Couchiching Park at Orillia, Ontario and see the outstanding bronze monument to Champlain, the Jesuit martyrs and the Hurons. Come to Regina and view the statues of John A. Macdonald or Archbishop Olivier Mathieu. Murray was behind these projects. Come to his Notre Dame College and see the Nicholas de Grandmaison and stained glass portraits of "Great Canadians": Tommy Douglas, Max Bell, Fred Hill, Jean Beliveau, Mother Edith, Henry Carr, John Diefenbaker and others who were to strike vividly the imagination of younger Canada. You cannot leave Notre Dame without recognizing "individuals make the difference."

Murray felt that younger Canada must continue to work out our national destiny that unfulfilled greatness "under the guidance of Almighty God, in good fellowship, in friendly disputation and debate." His hope for his students, as continues today, is that they "only see it, take hold of it," the untapped potential of Canada.

This is my 25th year associated with Notre Dame including an interlude at the University of British Columbia where I coached and completed a thesis on Athol Murray and his educational enterprise. You can imagine that I have experienced the highs and lows, the achievements and disappointments of 'Hounds' down the years. It has been wonderful as in the Saint Irenaeus observation, "the glory of God is a human being (a student) who is fully human, fully alive"; it has been difficult as in the Greek playwright Aeschylus' insight, "he who learns must suffer." Yet wherever I go, I find earnest interest by alumni and friends who support Notre Dame's unique educational experience. The College has a daily and seasonal rhythm with challenges well beyond the weather in Wilcox, with a dedicated teaching, coaching, and support staff. At the end of the day, your son or daughter is to become a better person, a better student, a better athlete, and a better friend. Be sure that the Notre Dame "family" and I are dedicated to the above hopes for your "Hound".

When you arrive at Notre Dame College, you become steeped in legacy. What does all this mean? It relates to the great conversations which began centuries ago and continues today with your son and/or daughter, nephew and/or nieces, and grandson and/or granddaughter. Here is how it started! Legacy matters! Athol Murray of Notre Dame felt that need deeply for himself and for his little College. In his waning years, he spoke simply about it:

"I'd like to be remembered in some small measure much as we remember Augustine, as a guy who could have easily gone very wrong, but, by the grace of God, managed to hold together and do a little work for Him. That's about all!"

What did he do? In a dramatic and personal way at a little Liberal Arts College, Athol Murray set out to be the kind of teacher Henry Adams wrote of - one who "affects eternity". Murray announced that God exists and he would serve Him. In the foyer of Varsity Hall, he set the tone of his College in bronze: "That Notre Dame, under the guidance of Almighty God, may serve in the generations to come, the highest interests of mankind". He designed the College to grow around its Tower of God and the statue of Christ.

However, his vision was not static. Within the "inescapable tradition of western Christian civilization," great ideas and great leaders articulated how we should live. Humanity's conversation began with Abraham and marched down through the years with Plato, Aristotle, Mohammed, Maimonides, Augustine, Aquinas, and modern age scholars and leaders such as Voltaire, Gilson, Maritain, Lincoln, Churchill, Eisenhower, and Hutchins. This dialogue leapt dramatically with the invention of Gutenburg's printing press and Athol Murray's rare book collection marks this transitional period.

Thinkers find a place in the windows, the Tower of God, and other buildings of this campus. Impressive tributes to greatness must be ever present or Athol Murray warned: "Unless these things are done, younger Canada will have no background mutually of the things that must keep us in our tradition." This is called Christian magnificance - doing the great things necessary that God's presence and western ideals may be magnified in the world. These sites are available for you to visit in Jack Gorman's latest work on the Legacy of Notre Dame by contacting the school. This legacy centers the values and ideals that direct our community. The guardians of this legacy are the Notre Dame Board of Directors, alumni, and staff. We continue this conversation, begun with Abraham in the valley of the Ur, with each other and with our students in every way. It is the centering role at Notre Dame.