Nov. 29, 2016
Jim Gibbons (`53, baseball & basketball), a longtime member of the University of Notre Dame community, on Tuesday became the first recipient of the Jesse Harper Award, a new honor bestowed by the Notre Dame Monogram Club.
Due to recovery from a recent illness, Gibbons was unable to attend the award presentation, which took place during halftime of the Notre Dame-Iowa men’s basketball showdown inside Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center. Gibbons’ sons Brian and Kevin accepted the award on his behalf.
The Monogram Club established the Jesse Harper Award during its 100th anniversary celebration as a way to continue to highlight the great accomplishments of its members. The award recognizes Monogram Club members who have demonstrated a committed involvement with the Notre Dame Athletics Department and University. Recipients of the award shall be a Monogram Club member and exhibit one or more of the following:
– Exemplary performance in the spirit and ideals of the University of Notre Dame
– Demonstration of responsibility to and concern for his/her community
– Extraordinary commitment and involvement with youth
– Outstanding achievement in his/her post-Notre Dame career
The award bears Harper’s name as a way to recognize his many contributions to Notre Dame. Harper coached football (1913-17), basketball (1913-18) and baseball (1914-18) at Notre Dame in addition to serving two stints (1913-17, 1931-33) as the University’s athletics director. Harper holds a very special place in the rich history of the Monogram Club as he, along with Knute Rockne, founded the Club in 1916. Recipients of the Jesse Harper Award will reflect Harper’s dedication and commitment to Notre Dame, its athletics department and its student-athletes.
Gibbons earned three Monograms in basketball and two in baseball during his time at Notre Dame. Following his graduation in 1953, he spent one season in professional baseball with the Philadelphia Phillies organization and two years in the United States Army. Gibbons then returned to his hometown of Chicago to teach and coach at his alma mater, Mt. Carmel High School. Less than a year later he accepted a position to coach baseball and basketball at Notre Dame and he spent the next 43 years working at the University.
“I am honored and humbled to be the first recipient of the Jesse Harper award,” said Gibbons. “For me, it is the highlight of a 43-and-a-half-year career at my beloved University of Notre Dame. I will never be able to tell you how much this means to me.”
Gibbons served as an assistant coach for both the Fighting Irish baseball and basketball programs for six years before transitioning to a position in University Relations. He later became the University’s chief protocol officer and was responsible for organizing dedications, convocations, dinners and special dignitary visits. Gibbons remained in that department until he retired in 1999.
“As part of the Monogram Club’s 100th anniversary celebration the Club’s awards committee suggested the establishment of a new award to honor members who have distinguished themselves at Notre Dame and in their individual communities,” said former Monogram Club president Dick Nussbaum (’74, ’77, baseball). “I have known Jim Gibbons for almost 40 years and he was the perfect choice. After his playing and coaching careers at Notre Dame were finished, he served the University as its director of protocol and oversaw hundreds of events, flawlessly welcoming presidents and other honored guests to Notre Dame.
“Following his retirement from Notre Dame he volunteered countless hours of service to the Congregation of Holy Cross and St. Joseph Regional Medical Center. Jim is a Notre Dame legend and the Monogram Club is proud to present its first Jesse Harper Award to him.”
Along the way Gibbons accumulated several honors for his distinguished service to the University. Those accolades include a Presidential Citation in 1979 and the Notre Dame Alumni Association’s James E. Armstrong Award in 1988.
“Jim Gibbons is one of the silent legends of Notre Dame,” said former Notre Dame men’s basketball head coach Digger Phelps (honorary). “Jim worked under Father Hesburgh and Jim Frick, who ran development. Gibb was in charge of special events and did an amazing job with those events. After retiring from Notre Dame he worked for Hospice and in that role he helped many families get through crises.
“I always say if you want to find Jim Gibbons go to the 11:30 a.m. Mass for the retired priests at Holy Cross House. He helps with Mass and was there the morning of February 26, 2015 for Father Hesburgh’s final Mass. I know that was special to Gibb.”
To learn more about Gibbons and his impact at Notre Dame, read Dennis Brown’s Strong of Heart feature on Gibbons from 2013. Click to read story.