Newman Studies Journal

Volume 8, Issue 2, Fall 2011

Edward Jeremy Miller
Pages 19-28

John Henry Newman’s Idea of Alma Mater

Why is a college or university called an alma mater? This essay looks to Newman for an answer, first by pointing out his love for Trinity College, Oxford, his undergraduate alma mater. The author, sharing his experience of Louvain as his alma mater, emphasizes that an alma mater is not a theoretical concept, but a matter of real apprehension. This essay then examines two sources where Newman discussed the Catholic University of Ireland as an alma mater: his inaugural university sermon, where he insisted that the university must be a mother to its students; and his first annual report to the Irish bishops, where he emphasized that the students’ resident life must provide a sense of community and a love for their alma mater. In sum, if a university is truly to be a “nourishing mother,” she must provide her students not only with an intellectual education, but also with moral discipline.