Sept. 26, 2016
NOTRE DAME, Ind. ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” The Notre Dame Monogram Club in September presented Joe Mendelson with an honorary Monogram for his many contributions to the University of Notre Dame Athletics Department.
Mendelson established the Joseph T. Mendelson Endowment for Athletics Excellence, which provides funding so that Notre Dame’s Olympic sport programs (that excludes football, men’s basketball and women’s basketball) can enhance its high-performance technology capabilities. The endowment was established in 2006 and allows each program to apply for funding in order to take advantage of unforeseen opportunities that cannot be addressed through the regular annual budgeting process. The fund has covered the cost for items such as golf simulators, swimming platforms, video analysis equipment and GPS trackers used for training.
“Joe Mendelson is always asking what can we do to help our teams get better and what can we do to help our coaches and students grow ÃƒÆ’Â¢ÃƒÂ¢’Â¬” both as student-athletes and human beings,” Notre Dame Deputy Athletics Director and former Monogram Club executive director Jim Fraleigh (’88, manager) said during the surprise presentation. “He is always willing to take the time to meet with our coaches and staff to discuss ways in which we can help our student-athletes perform better. He continues to challenge our coaches and myself to find new opportunities and new technologies that will give our student-athletes an advantage.
“Perhaps the most impressive thing about Joe and the Mendelson Fund is that over the years it has provided support for every one of our Olympic sport programs, every one of our coaches and literally thousands of our student-athletes. And because Joe had the vision to establish this fund as an endowment for excellence, it will continue to provide support to thousands of future Notre Dame student-athletes for years to come.”
Mendelson, who resides in Santa Barbara, California with his wife Barbara, was a valued member of the Notre Dame community long before establishing the fund. He was a charter member of the advisory council for Notre Dame’s Institute for Church Life and he also served on the Snite Museum of Art advisory council. Additionally, Mendelson funded the bronze sculpture of Knute Rockne that resides just outside the Rockne Gate at Notre Dame Stadium. Mendelson has a son, daughter and stepson who graduated from Notre Dame and his father served on the University’s Business Advisory Council.
Mendelson has coached cross country at the high school and collegiate levels in California. He has mentored numerous accomplished runners, including high school state champions and college All-Americans.
“I’ve been a coach and an athlete my whole life,” Mendelson said. “Many years ago I could see that Notre Dame needed some help in certain areas outside of football and basketball and that’s how the idea for the fund came about. I’ve become extremely friendly with the coaches because I’m familiar with their sports. We all speak the same language whether it’s swimming or fencing or whatever it may be. It’s grown to the point of trust with the coaches and it (the fund) is a well-run machine.”
Mendelson’s honorary Monogram presentation took place inside the Schivarelli Players’ Lounge at Notre Dame Stadium. Several Fighting Irish coaches and administrators were in attendance along with leadership from the Monogram Club board of directors, including First Vice President Terri Vitale (’94, ’95, tennis). The event was capped off when members of the Mendelson family surprised the honoree during the ceremony.
“This was the best kept secret in the world,” Mendelson said about receiving an honorary Monogram. “I had no idea I’d even be considered for it. People said I gave a nice little speech, but I don’t even remember what I said. That’s how surprised I was.”