Former Notre Dame quarterback and 1964 Heisman Trophy winner John Huarte and his wife, Eileen, have made a $1 million gift to his alma mater to establish an endowment for grants-in-aid to Irish student-athletes. Long time members of Notre Dame’s Joyce Grants-in-Aid Program, the Huarte’s newest scholarship gift provides Notre Dame Athletics with the flexibility to direct their generosity to athletics scholarships in the area of greatest need for any given year, and brings their cumulative support of athletics scholarships to $1.5 million.
“John and Eileen’s gift adds another chapter to their storied legacy at Notre Dame,” said Jack Swarbrick, vice president and James E. Rohr Director of Athletics. “John’s accolades as a student-athlete are well-documented and have earned him a rightful place in Notre Dame lore. But it’s the commitment of John and Eileen to their family, their business, and other Fighting Irish student-athletes that truly speaks to who they are. We thank them for this tremendous gift which ensures stories like John and Eileen’s will continue for generations to come.”
A native of Anaheim, California, Huarte grew up listening to Notre Dame games on the radio as he worked at his father’s citrus farm. He came to Notre Dame in 1961, and played sparingly until his senior season of 1964. That year, under the tutelage of first-year head coach Ara Parseghian, he led the Irish to a 9-1 record. He set 12 team records, including most passes and passing yards in a season, threw for 16 touchdowns and ran for three more.
His performance earned him the Heisman Trophy – Notre Dame’s sixth recipient at the time – as well as UPI Player of the Year and consensus first-team All-America honors. He was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2005.
“You can’t pay it back; you can only pay it forward,” said John Huarte. “For me, it goes back to some of the group I learned from, guys from the ’40’s and ’50’s. Leon Hart, Johnny Lujack, Johnny Lattner – those guys were great about coming back and being involved with the program and setting an example. I always wanted to be like them. It just so happens football was my mainstay. But all the sports at Notre Dame, from track, to fencing, to baseball, represent the University so well and are deserving of support. We felt it was important to help them all.”
Huarte was a second-round selection of the New York Jets in the 1965 American Football League draft and went on to play professionally with the Boston Patriots, Philadelphia Eagles, Minnesota Vikings, Kansas City Chiefs and Chicago Bears. He finished his career in 1975 with Memphis of the World Football League.
Post-football, Huarte founded Arizona Tile in 1977. Beginning with a small store in San Diego, he has grown the company to more than 25 locations in seven western states. It specializes in tile, marble and granite countertops and is the largest importer of granite in North America.
Huarte is a member of the board of trustees for St. John’s Health Foundation in Santa Monica, California. He and Eileen are the parents of five grown children and fourteen grandchildren.