In 1920, the Sisters of Charity of St. Louis opened the Notre Dame of the Prairies Convent and St. Augustine residential elementary and high school for boys and girls at Wilcox, Saskatchewan; a small town on the Canadian prairies 49 kilometres (25 miles) south of Regina, the provincial capital. In 1927, a new parish priest arrived—Father (Père) Athol Murray—for whom the college is named today.
In the beginning, the College had no running water or central heat. In 1930, fees were just $18 per month, but many students couldn't afford to pay. Père Murray accepted students on the basis that they desired an education, not on their ability to pay. A side of beef, a chicken, a bucket of coal and produce were often accepted instead of money. Students came from everywhere and from every type of social, cultural and religious background.
Murray was assisted by Sister Mary Edith McCullough. Her teaching career spanned 30 years at Wilcox. Sr. Edith ran the elementary and high schools while Père spent most of his time with the students in the Arts programs. In 1933, Père Murray succeeded in obtaining an official affiliation with the University of Ottawa.
Père Murray believed in the Greek philosophy of developing the mind, body and spirit and envisioned a school that could develop great scholars and athletes through an equal emphasis on the disciplines of academics, athletics and faith. Notre Dame's longstanding success in developing well-balanced individuals is a testament to that vision.
Though Père Murray died in 1975, his legacy lives on. Père's beloved Notre Dame College continues to produce many of North America's finest student-athletes through a balanced program that emphasizes the values of good character, leadership and community living. Père's motto, "Luctor et Emergo" (Struggle and Emerge), is still reinforced today.
Père Murray and the Hounds, the story of Saskatchewan's Notre Dame College, by Jack Gorman
Père - A Père Murray Compendium, by Jack Gorman
Legacy . . . the treasures of Notre Dame, by Jack Gorman
The Hounds of Notre Dame - a movie based on the compelling story of Père Murray and the Hounds
Tales from the Shacks, by Richard Dukes
Notre Dame of the Prairies, by Alice Henderson
- The Rink, by Chris Cuthbert and Scott Russell