The University of Notre Dame du Lac (or simply Notre Dame ) is a private Catholic research university located in Notre Dame, an unincorporated community north of the city of South Bend, in St. Joseph County, Indiana, United States — as are Holy Cross College and Saint Mary's College.
It was founded by Father Edward Sorin, CSC, who was also the school's first president. It was established as an all-male institution on November 26, 1842, on land donated by the Bishop of Vincennes. The university first enrolled women undergraduates in 1972. Today, about 47 percent of the student body is female. Notre Dame's Catholic character is evident in the many Holy Cross priests serving the school (most notably the president of the university), its explicit commitment to the Christian faith, numerous ministries funded by the school, as well as in architecture around campus, especially the Main Building's gold dome topped by a golden statue of St. Mary, a famous replica of the Lourdes grotto, the 134-foot-tall (41 m) mosaic of Christ on the side of the Hesburgh Library (entitled "The Word of Life," but affectionately called 'Touchdown Jesus' because of his upraised arms and proximity to the stadium), and the ornate Basilica of the Sacred Heart, along with numerous chapels, statuary and religious iconography.
The university today is organized into five colleges and one professional school, the oldest of which, the College of Arts and Letters, began awarding degrees in 1849. The undergraduate program was ranked 19th among national universities by U.S. News & World Report for 2010-2011. Notre Dame has a comprehensive graduate program with 32 master's and 25 doctoral degree programs. Additionally, the university's library system is one of the 100 largest in the United States.
More than 80% of the university's 8,000 undergraduates live on campus in one of 29 single-sex residence halls, each of which fields teams for more than a dozen intramural sports. Notre Dame's approximately 120,000 alumni are located around the world.
Outside academia, Notre Dame is best known for its sports programs, especially its football team. The teams are members of the NCAA Division I, and are known collectively as the Fighting Irish, a name it adopted in the 1920s. The football team, an Independent, has accumulated eleven consensus national championships, seven Heisman Trophy winners, and sixty-two members in the College Football Hall of Fame. Other ND teams, chiefly in the Big East Conference, have accumulated 14 national championships.