Notre Dame College Prep was the first educational venture in the Chicago Metropolitan area for the Priests of Holy Cross, Indiana Province.
His Eminence, Samuel Cardinal Stritch, Archbishop of Chicago invited the Holy Cross Fathers to establish a school in this northern section of the Diocese. He wrote, “Everybody knows your teaching experience and everybody knows your devotion to Catholic youths.
In June, 1955, the Priests of the Holy Cross assigned 16 priests to begin the ministry of Catholic education at Notre Dame College Prep in Niles, Illinois. A team of dedicated lay men and women joined the priests in this ministry.
Education required a building, so on 30 acres of low-lying land, Rev. John Lane, CSC oversaw the construction of the building. What emerged was a sleek, modern educational facility.
It was Fr. Lane who supervised the first placement test for the initial students. This was held at St. Mary of the Woods Church. Fr. Lane operated for two years from a storefront office at the corner of Harlem and Dempster. It was from this small office that more than 500 freshmen and 300 sophomores found their way into the first Notre Dame classes.
One very significant event in the formation of Notre Dame was the appointment of Rev. James d'Autremont, CSC as the first principal.
Students must have a name to rally around and Fr. d’Autremont, after talking with students, decided on the name DONS. He did not want a school dedicated to Our Lady, Notre Dame, to rally around an animal name. He chose DONS because it is the Spanish word for “gentlemen.” Notre Dame students are the Gentlemen of Mary.
In 2006, the Congregation of Holy Cross ended their sponsorship of Notre Dame. Ownership was assumed by a board of lay people on January 1, 2007. The Archdiocese of Chicago placed the Catholicity of the school under the oversight of the Notre Dame Education Association, an Association of Christian Faithful, composed of the lay board and other members. Under this new leadership Notre Dame continues to grow and prosper.