June 6, 2006

NOTRE DAME, Ind. – The annual Notre Dame Monogram Club dinner took place Thursday evening, June 1, in the Joyce Center’s Sports Heritage Hall, with an overflow crowd in attendance. The group of monogram winners was treated to remarks from club president Julie Doyle, head volleyball coach Debbie Brown, and head football coach Charlie Weis. The event also featured the presentation of the organization’s highest honor, the Edward “Moose” Krause Distinguished Service Award, to former basketball player Dr. Carol Lally Shields, as well as the surprise awarding of honorary monograms to four individuals who have provided exceptional service to Notre Dame: Micki Boulac, Jeff Jeffers, Keith Penrod, and Rex Rakow.

Monogram Club executive director Jim Fraleigh served as the master of ceremonies of the entire event, with executive director emeritus Rev. Jim Riehle, C.S.C., kicking off the evening with an invocation. After dinner, Fraleigh addressed the group, previewing the agenda and thanking the club’s staff for its dedicated service. Next Doyle – a former volleyball player and the first woman president of the Monogram Club – addressed the membership, highlighting some of the club’s accomplishments at the midway point in her two-year term.

Excerpts from Julie Doyle’s Address

“I would like to touch on a few important activities and milestones that we can be proud of. First, the Brennan-Boland-Riehle Scholarship Fund. Listen to these numbers: $300,000 … 50 … $5 million. These numbers represent this club’s strongest legacy. $300,000 is the amount of money the club provided in scholarship assistance to 50 sons and daughters of Monogram [Club] members this past year. $5 million is the equity milestone [in market value] the Brennan-Boland-Riehle Scholarship Fund passed for the first time this year. Thanks to all of you that donated to the BBR Fund and thanks to the wonderful investment decisions made by Scott Malpass and the university’s investment team, the BBR fund is truly allowing us to meet the challenge stated in our motto of `Bridging the Gap Between Legend and Legacy.’ There is more good financial news. Dues are up by over 18% from last year, with every sport showing an increase in dues-paid members from 2005.”

“Tonight I want to share briefly with you our plans for an upcoming celebration. One of the primary goals of the Monogram Club is to celebrate the heritage of Notre Dame athletics. In this room, the ring of names and priceless memorabilia is evidence of that commitment. This next school year, we will take time to celebrate the 35th anniversary of women’s athletics. From the first years of coeducation when the only intercollegiate options available to women were club sports to the current time when every one of our 13 women’s varsity programs are competitive on the national level, there is much to celebrate. We have identified and located the first five female monogram winners – three of which earned monograms for tennis and two who did so for fencing, in the 1976-77 school year. These five women will join me on September 9 to carry the flag on field for the home football opener against Penn State. This will kick off a yearlong celebration of women’s athletics at Notre Dame. The celebration will culminate with a weekend of events April 27-29, 2007, here at Notre Dame. All female athletes that earned a monogram or played varsity or club sports will be invited back for a weekend of fellowship, remembrance, and fun. … I want all of you to get the word out. We really want to make sure that we are reaching out to those former women athletes at Notre Dame, to have them reconnect with the university and reconnect with the Monogram Club and have the experience all of you are having.”

Monogram Club first vice-president Marc Kelly then recognized the four directors completing their terms on the club’s board: women’s basketball manager Christy Grady (’98), soccer player Marvin Lett (’87), baseball manager Kevin McDermott (’73), and basketball player Mike Mitchell (’82). He also introduced the five directors who were elected by the general membership earlier in the day to serve three-year terms (2006-09): football manager Don Bouffard (’66), baseball player Randall Brooks (’97), hockey player Dave Caron (’77), swimmer Haley Scott DeMaria (’95), and volleyball player Katie Neff (’04) – who actually joined the board in 2005, filling the final year of a vacant term.

Next, Monogram Club board member Dick Nussbaum – who will serve as president of the Notre Dame Alumni Association in 2007-08 – presented the James E. Armstrong Award to assistant athletics director Brian Boulac. The honor is conferred on an alumnus or alumna who is a current employee of Notre Dame and has rendered distinguished service to the university.

Doyle then introduced Brown, who reflected both on when she was presented with an honorary monogram in 1999 and on the Irish volleyball team’s outstanding 2005 season, in which it was 30-4 and peaked at an all-time high of fifth in the national rankings.

Excerpts from Debbie Brown’s Address

“In preparation for this evening, I have been thinking about the last Monogram Club dinner I attended, which was seven years ago. Fr. Riehle, Missy Conboy, my husband Dennis, and several people were in on a little plan to get me here. Dennis and I had put together a program for the Alumni Association, talking about Title IX and how it impacted girls and women and how it had impacted me, so he called me up and said, `Deb, the Monogram Club wants you to do a five-minute summary of the program at its dinner.’ I kind of thought, `That’s a little strange. But it’s the Monogram Club, and whatever they want me to do, I’ll do it. Because they do so much for us.’ So Father, Dennis, and Missy were all in on it, giving me little tidbits on what I could say. So I came to the dinner, and I was a little nervous about it. I was sitting out there in the audience, and all of the sudden they are announcing the honorary monograms – and I was caught completely off guard. I was called up here in one of the more humbling and emotional experiences I’ve had, and I was presented an honorary monogram.”

“I want to talk a little about our team, because it is such a joy to be able to work here and to represent the University of Notre Dame. We had probably our best season ever in 2005. We had four wins over top-10 teams, gathered 30 wins, reached the highest ranking we ever had at #5, were in the top 10 for 11 weeks of the season and finished ranked 11th. Plus, it was our 14th consecutive trip to the NCAA tournament. The season was awesome, and one of the reasons it was so fun was because of the great group of seniors that we had. We had five seniors on the team this year, all of whom gave an incredible amount to the team and to the university. They will be very difficult to replace.”

“So sometimes I look at next year, thinking, `We lost five seniors and an assistant coach [Robin Davis, who is now the head coach at Boise State]. Okay – this is going to be tough.’ But, it’s actually not, because we are so excited about what we have coming in next year. We have seven freshmen coming in on a roster of 15. So that is a young team, as 11 of our 15 will be freshmen or sophomores. But I can assure you it is not a rebuilding year for us. We have raised the level and raised the bar. I can stand up here and confidently tell you that because I know the quality of the student-athletes that we have.”

“I really want to thank you for your continued support, not just of the volleyball program, but of all of programs at Notre Dame. I know our student-athletes have an absolutely incredible experience when they are here, and a lot of that is directly related to what you do and how you continue to support the student-athletes. The little extra things that we get to do on the road that you help fund are just incredible. I want to thank you on behalf of the student-athletes.”

Next was the presentation of three honorary monograms. Fraleigh presented one to Rakow, the director of Notre Dame Security Police for the last 20 years who was stricken with an inoperable brain tumor last fall and is currently undergoing treatment. Nussbaum returned to the dais to present one to “The Dean of Local Sports,” Jeff Jeffers – longtime sports director and anchor at WNDU-TV in South Bend – after recognizing Jeffers’ son Scott, who recently returned from his second tour in Iraq and was greeted by a standing ovation from the Monogram Club membership. Former football player Kevin Hart then presented one to Micki Boulac, Brian’s wife and a prominent South Bend lawyer. She was recognized for years of touching the lives of countless Notre Dame student-athletes.

Notre Dame deputy director of athletics Missy Conboy then introduced one of her former Irish basketball teammates – Dr. Shields – as the recipient of the Krause Award, annually conferred on an active member who is distinguished in his or her profession, demonstrates responsibility to and concern for the community and displays an outstanding dedication to the spirit and ideals of the University of Notre Dame. Shields, a 1979 graduate and currently a member of the Monogram Club board of directors, was the first woman to be recognized with the accolade.

Capping off the evening was club second vice-president and former football player Joe Restic introducing Weis, who first reflected on last season and then presented an honorary monogram to Keith Penrod. A fixture at Notre Dame sporting events for the past 30 years, Penrod suffers from cerebral palsy, but has touched the lives of hundreds of Irish student-athletes.

Excerpts from Charlie Weis’ Address

“Before I get going, I want to thank [my wife] Maura and [my son] Charlie for coming tonight. I was sitting a couple seats away from [NFL Hall of Famer] Gale Sayers at a basketball game this year, and I thought about his book that I read when I was younger, called I Am Third that was inspired by [Sayers’ teammate] Brian Piccolo and made into the movie `Brian’s Song.’ I remember the saying, `God is first. My family is second. And I am third,’ and how much of an impact those quotes had on me when I read that book. I tweaked that a little bit with my own personality – as I normally do. I think Notre Dame football has to come in third, and I get pushed to fourth or fifth!”

“I’ve been thinking about where I was last year when I spoke to you and where I am now. I really like the fact that the bar has been raised. I really like that. The number one sin that can occur at this time is that people say that you are preseason ranked really high after last year no one even cared about you, and now your players are going to have big heads. Trust me – I will bring them down. Big heads are not going to be the problem. I will let them have big heads until about August 6 when they show up. Then those heads are going to be beaten on a regular basis. I’m not worried about the magazines. I’m not worried about the hype. I’m just worrying about winning one game at a time, because that is the mentality that I grew up in.”

“I also grew up in the mentality of understanding what Notre Dame is all about. Tonight I talked [with Debbie Brown] and learned a lot more about the volleyball program, because I actually support the other sports here. I try to pop in to see just about every other team play. I try not to be a distraction, but I like to see what is going on. From somebody who went to school here and was not an athlete here, the one message or theme that I give to anyone who represents this university – especially as a coach, whether it is as a football coach, a volleyball coach, or a volleyball coach – I tell people that the one thing you have to understand about this place is that tradition never graduates. It doesn’t make a difference who graduates. We are a special place. Tradition never graduates. I can already tell you that heading into next year, before we play one game, there will be a lot of cynics at the end of this coming season, saying, `Well, you lost Quinn, you lost Samardzija, you lost McKnight, you lost your offensive line, you lost Abiamiri and Landri, you lost guys from your secondary.’ And I’m going to say, `So what?”

“I’m not happy with how the season went. I’m very disappointed, to be perfectly honest with you. I felt I blew the Michigan State game. I think the team came in flat. We rallied, which was nice, but the bottom line is that we lost, and that’s not good. Against USC, we can talk about that play as long as you want, but the bottom line is we had an opportunity to win, and we didn’t. That’s just the way it is. Let’s quit whining about it; they won, and we lost. That’s just the way it goes. We had an opportunity to put them away, and we didn’t. That’s our fault, and I obviously will take that responsibility. Then we went to the bowl game, and we came out flat. I will take responsibility for that, too. Hopefully I learned a little bit about that long layoff. I’m used to a week or two weeks before a Super Bowl. I really hadn’t experienced that long a time period. I think I learned some valuable lessons of how I will do it differently this year.”

Check back to www.ndmonogramclub.com for photos from the event, as well as more in-depth stories about the week’s Monogram Club events and award winners.