Dec. 13, 2007
Frank E. Eck, a University of Notre Dame alumnus, benefactor and advisor, died today (Dec. 13) in Columbus, Ohio, of complications from open heart surgery. He was 84.
“Frank was a tremendously generous man – with his time, counsel and resources – and we join with his family and many friends in mourning his death,” said Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., Notre Dame’s president. “Frank’s wonderful spirit, wide smile and boundless enthusiasm will be missed.”
A 1944 graduate of Notre Dame, Eck was chairman of Advanced Drainage Systems (ADS) of Columbus. He earned his bachelor’s degree in chemical engineering and had served on the College of Engineering Advisory Council since 1984.
After serving in the U.S. Navy in the latter stages of World War II, Eck attended Harvard Business School and earned a master’s of business administration degree in 1949. He worked for more than 20 years in the petrochemical industry, then joined ADS in 1973 as vice president for sales and marketing. He soon was appointed president of the firm and took it from a small regional manufacturer serving the agriculture market to the world’s largest producer of plastic drainage pipe used primarily in the civil engineering industry.
Eck’s contributions to Notre Dame have totaled more than $35 million. The most recent, a $21 million gift in 2005, is underwriting the current construction of the Eck Hall of Law, which includes a second building for the Notre Dame Law School and a multipurpose facility in a neo-Gothic archway that will link the new structure to the existing building. The gift was the fifth largest in Notre Dame’s history, the largest ever to the Law School, and one of the largest in the history of American legal education.
Eck’s previous benefactions to Notre Dame endowed a library collection in chemical engineering and underwrote construction of the Eck Tennis Pavilion in 1987, Frank Eck Baseball Stadium in 1994, and the Eck Center, which includes the Hammes Notre Dame Bookstore, visitors’ center and Alumni Association headquarters, in 1999. He also underwrote a key addition to Eck Stadium in 2000, when an adjoining 9,000-square-foot indoor hitting and pitching facility opened to provide the Notre Dame baseball team with a valuable year-round practice area.
“Frank Eck is the quintessential example of the student who, early on, fell madly in love his institution; and over the years, the bond between Frank and his alma mater only grew stronger,” said Notre Dame director of athletics Kevin White.
“Frank’s unfailing affection for Notre Dame was clearly evident by way of his inordinate vision and generosity, which has touched the lives of an infinite number of Notre Dame family members. For anyone who ever has been a part of Notre Dame, Frank always will be an iconic figure.”
A longtime supporter of the Irish football, baseball and tennis programs, Eck was made an honorary member of the Notre Dame Monogram Club in 1988. Eck is survived by four children: Candy, Kelly, Frank Jr. and Daniel. A wake is scheduled for Sunday (Dec. 16) from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. at Schoedinger Funeral Home in Columbus, Ohio, 43221. A funeral Mass will be said Monday (Dec. 17) at 10 a.m. at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Upper Arlington, Ohio.
Additional comments follow below from the Notre Dame head coaches whose teams have benefitted from Eck’s generosity over the years:
“No one can appreciate more than I the level of Frank Eck’s impact on the tennis program. His generosity made it possible for us to build a team that ultimately competed in the NCAA finals, all within five years of his donation. His interest in our program, and me personally, made our relationship very special.” – Notre Dame head men’s tennis coach Bobby Bayliss
“Frank was such an integral part of the tennis programs at Notre Dame and he is one of the main reasons that our teams have risen to such a high stature on the national level. He was very generous with his donation for the indoor tennis center. He always was a great person to be around and often would play tennis with me and the team members when he came into town. He will be deeply missed.” – Notre Dame women’s tennis coach Jay Louderback
“Today, Notre Dame has lost a wonderful member of its family and the baseball team is mourning this loss. Frank Eck was tremendously influential on our baseball program and his generosity was unprecedented. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family at this time and the baseball program at Notre Dame will deeply miss him. Frank was a very instrumental person in the rise of the baseball program at Notre Dame, due to his generosity in the building of both our beautiful stadium and the indoor facility. He had a great passion for the game of baseball and truly helped put Notre Dame baseball in the national spotlight.” – Notre Dame head baseball coach Dave Schrage