A Monogram winner (and some potential future ones) get ready to cheer on the Irish at Saturday's pre-game reception.

Monogram Club Musings: South Florida Edition

Sept. 6, 2011

media-icon-photogallery.gifUSF Weekend Event Photo Gallery


This football season, the Monogram Club will continue to produce the “Monogram Club Musings,” a regular online article following each home football game. The publication will fill Monogram winners in on Club events throughout the season, provide information on alumni and prominent figures that return to campus for the game, and highlight Monogram Club presentations and activities that occur during the weekend.

If you can’t make it to campus, but would like to update the Monogram Club on what you’ve been up to, please send an email to mlafranc@nd.edu and “The Muse” will include it in an upcoming edition.

This past weekend, Monogram winners returned to South Bend to kick off the 2011 football campaign. In addition to participating Monogram Club events throughout the weekend, Monogram winners also bore witness to one of the strangest games ever to occur inside Notre Dame Stadium.

Despite the multiple stadium evacuations on Saturday due to lightning warnings, members still enjoyed the weekend, highlighted by the baseball program’s annual reunion weekend and alumni game. The newest member of the Monogram Club was also inducted on Friday, Sept. 2 in a special ceremony. Keep reading to find out more!

South Florida Game Notes

– The season kicked off in grand fashion in Notre Dame Stadium, as pre-game festivities were highlighted by a special flyover featuring two USAF E/A-18 Growlers.

– Members of the Notre Dame football family who passed away over the last year were recognized during the pre-game flag presentation. The group included 19 football Monogram winners.

– In addition, representatives of three current Notre Dame football families who lost family members in 2010-11 presented the flag, including current Notre Dame receiver TJ Jones, whose father Andre Jones ’97 (a football Monogram winner) died in June. TJ was joined by his mother, Tiffany, and twin sisters, Kayla and Kynna.

– A much talked about storyline leading up to the game, Monogram winner and former Irish assistant coach Skip Holtz ’87 returned to Notre Dame Stadium Saturday as head coach of the USF Bulls. Holtz is in his second season at the helm of the program after spending five seasons as the head coach at East Carolina from 2005-09. Honorary Monogram recipient Beth Holtz was also on hand to see her son return to his alma mater.

– Monogram Club first vice president Haley Scott DeMaria ’95 (swimming) took the field during a third quarter timeout to be recognized as the recipient of the Notre Dame Alumni Association’s 2011 Harvey Foster Award. The award is presented annually to a Notre Dame graduate for service to the community and the University.

Sightings Around Campus

– Fresh off a productive training camp, Minnesota Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph took part in a few television interviews during pre-game festivities on the field. Rudolph pulled down a team-leading six receptions for 44 yards in four preseason games, including a touchdown grab in the exhibition finale against Houston on Sept. 1.

– Chicago Blackhawks vice president and general manager Stan Bowman ’95 made the short trip east on I-90 to watch his alma mater take on USF from the Notre Dame sideline.

– ESPN college basketball analyst Dick Vitale sat with Associated Press National Coach of the Year Mike Brey (honorary) during Friday’s football luncheon. Vitale and Brey are eagerly awaiting the start of another exciting season of Fighting Irish basketball. Brey’s squad tips off the regular season Nov. 14 in Purcell Pavilion.

Baseball Reunion Festivities


Monogram Club president Dick Nussbaum ’74, ’77 set the lineup cards at the annual baseball alumni game on Sept. 2.



More than 20 baseball Monogram winners and their guests attended the events surrounding the program’s annual reunion Sept. 2-3. Baseball head coach Mik Aoki kicked off the weekend with an open practice featuring the 2012 Irish squad on Friday, followed by a meet-and-greet and evening reception in Frank Eck Stadium.

Festivities continued on Saturday morning, as 18 former baseball players participated in the annual alumni game. Monogram Club president Dick Nussbaum ’74, ’77 set the lineup cards and assigned fielding positions for each team, while the recently retired Chuck Lennon ’61, ’62 set up his usual post in the dugout to enjoy the camaraderie that comes with the yearly event.

Although uniforms ran a bit tighter for some than they did during their playing days, baseball Monogram winners were delighted to catch up with the Muse to recall some of their favorite memories from years past.

South Bend native Don Sniegowski ’57 is entering his ninth year of retirement after teaching as an English professor at his alma mater for 41 years. Sniegowski fondly remembers playing for head coach Jake Kline, especially Kline’s penchant for telling a colorful joke or two during a long road trip. Before air travel was the norm in college athletics, Sniegowski and his teammates would spend days journeying by bus to Florida, North Carolina, Arkansas and other weather-friendly destinations during the harsh South Bend winters. During his senior year in 1956, the Irish qualified for what is now the NCAA Super Regionals in Minneapolis. The next season, Notre Dame would make its first appearance in the College World Series.

Speaking of road trips, Tom Cuggino ’68 remembers a specific trip to a tournament in Florida during his junior season. To celebrate a particularly important victory, the Irish jumped into the hotel pool still sporting their grass-stained uniforms.

Cuggino, a retired financial executive from Chicago, values the friendships that he made during his time with the baseball program. As part of a yearly tradition, Cuggino takes in a Notre Dame football game with his 1968 baseball classmates and then heads to Florida a few months later to play golf and catch some spring training action.

Tom Caruso ’79, a dentist with a practice in Utica, N.Y., played second base for the Irish and turned double plays with shortstop and former Monogram Club board member Rick Pullano ’79. Caruso played 12 seasons of amateur ball in the Buffalo area after graduation and was inducted into the Western New York Baseball Hall of Fame in 2007 for his efforts.

Caruso chatted with the Muse about the camaraderie and family atmosphere that make the Notre Dame baseball program so special.

“We truly loved playing for Notre Dame and we take pride in laying the groundwork for the success the program has today,” Caruso said. “We may not keep in touch often enough, but the bonded brotherhood is unbroken.”

Tom Price ’94 spent some of his morning admiring the updates to Frank Eck Stadium, which opened during his senior season. The Danbury, Conn., resident was particularly taken by the new Coach Pat Murphy Locker Room dedicated this past spring.

Currently working as a tax accountant, Price spent five seasons in the minor leagues after graduating from Notre Dame. He played in the Los Angeles Dodgers and Colorado Rockies organizations, and enjoyed his experience most during a stint with the San Antonio Missions. The Muse thought his experience playing winter ball in Maui sounded pretty good, too.

Setting “La Bar” High For Service To Notre Dame Athletics

There are thousands of individuals who make significant contributions to further the mission of the Notre Dame athletics department each year, but to receive one of the University’s most prestigious athletics honors, it takes a lifetime of extraordinary service, leadership and support.

Only 268 honorary Monograms have been awarded in the 95 years since the Club was founded. So to be number 269, Rees LaBar `53 truly had to do something special.

For a lifetime of astounding achievements and service to our Lady’s University, LaBar received his Monogram blazer and scroll at a surprise ceremony on Friday, Sept. 2 at the Morris Inn.


Rees Labar ’53 (center) with his wife Carol (left), and Monogram Club executive director Beth Hunter (right)



Joining LaBar at the function were members of his family, long-time friend and member of the University development office Tom Blum ’68 (honorary), and a number of athletics department staff and associates, including deputy athletics director Bill Scholl ’79 (honorary), Monogram Club president Dick Nussbaum ’74, ’77 (baseball), Monogram Club executive director Beth Hunter (honorary), director of student-athlete academic services Pat Holmes, and Monogram Club alumni/football relations director Reggie Brooks ’93 (football).

Scholl served as master of ceremonies, and commented on how LaBar has delivered consistently when the University has asked him to support a number of Notre Dame initiatives and projects.

“For once Rees, we’re not coming to you to ask for help,” Scholl said. “We’re coming to say thank you, and the way we want to do that is to make you an honorary member of the Monogram Club.”

“This is truly something I would never have expected,” LaBar said. “Being aligned with Notre Dame is truly a special honor. It’s a unique place, and the people here make it easy for you to feel good about yourself.”

LaBar and his wife, Carol, together are two of the largest contributors in Notre Dame history to undergraduate scholarships for deserving students. More than 100 students from the Cincinnati area have attended Notre Dame as a result of their long-time financial support.

In addition, the LaBars have endowed the directorship for Academic Services for Student-Athletes, the department that provides academic support for Notre Dame’s 650 student-athletes. They also have created two Hesburgh Library endowments.

Also significant contributors to the athletics department’s facilities upgrade initiative, the LaBars served as the lead benefactors for the $2.5 million LaBar Practice Complex, a three-field football practice facility that opened in 2008. The FieldTurf practice fields are available for use primarily by the football squad, but also for lacrosse, soccer and RecSports use.

Pre-Game Reception Alumni News & Notes

Not sure if it’s a record, but a jam-packed crowd of 815 Monogram winners and their guests stopped into the Monogram Room to spend some time relaxing and renewing old acquaintances at the Club’s pre-game reception Saturday morning. The menu was burgers, brats, and a personal favorite of the Muse – baked macaroni & cheese.

Here are some of the Monogram winners we caught up with during the afternoon:

Tony Mandolini ’54 (fencing) currently resides in Naples, Fla. and worked as a partner for KPMG before retiring.

Former track & field student-athlete and retired neurosurgeon Peter Sheptak ’59 joined us from Pittsburgh, Pa.

Tom Daley ’86 (soccer) checked in with the Monogram Club from Park City, Utah where he is currently a city attorney.

Jim Varga ’90 (track) of Chicago made the trip back to campus for Labor Day weekend. Varga is currently working with Merrill Lynch.

Former Irish tennis player Kim Pacella ’91 is still heavily involved in the game as a tennis professional in Toledo, Ohio.

Jeff Ajhar ’93 (manager) works as an accountant in Nashville, Tenn.

Mary Therese Williams ’96 (trainer) joined us from Lake Bluff, Ill. where she is involved in marketing.

Chicago resident Kevin Reher ’98 (track) enjoyed the pregame festivities with the Monogram Club. Reher is a portfolio manager in the Windy City.

Recent graduate Colin McCarthy ’11 (cheerleading) also came in from nearby Chicago where he is involved in financial consulting.

— ND —