Dec. 8, 2017
Roger Valdiserri (’54, honorary) has been named the recipient of the Monogram Club’s Jesse Harper Award, which recognizes members who have demonstrated a committed involvement with the Notre Dame Athletics Department and University throughout their lives.
The award will be presented to Valdiserri on January 16, and he will be honored at that evening’s Notre Dame-Louisville men’s basketball game.
Valdiserri spent 33 years in athletic administration at Notre Dame, including a 22-year stint as sports information director, before retiring in 1995 as associate athletics director. As sports information director, Valdiserri was part of four national championship football seasons (1966, 1973, 1977, 1988) and other monumental moments for Fighting Irish athletics. He promoted student-athletes who garnered countless national honors and his publications earned more than 50 national awards during his tenure. Valdiserri received an honorary Monogram in 1973.
“I am truly honored by this award especially since it comes from the Notre Dame Monogram Club,” says Valdiserri. “I am certain I’ve had the pleasure of interacting with over 90 percent of its members on a personal basis during by 64 year-long association with Notre Dame athletics. I was also a close friend of Jesse Harper Jr. for many years, which makes this award that much more personal and heartfelt. I do cherish this recognition more than I can express and I am additionally honored that I am following my dear friend Jim Gibbons, the initial honoree of this award.”
As an undergraduate at Notre Dame, Valdiserri served as a student secretary for head football coach Frank Leahy. Following graduation, the Belle Vernon, Pennsylvania native worked for football coach Terry Brennan as an administrative assistant from 1954-59.
Valdiserri joined Mercedes-Benz of North America and served as the company’s public relations director from 1959-64 and then worked one year as public relations director for the Kansas City Chiefs. Valdiserri returned to Notre Dame in 1966 and was the school’s sports information director until 1988. He held the title of assistant athletic director from 1976-82 and was promoted to associate athletics director in 1983.
He garnered a special citation for meritorious service from former Notre Dame president, Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C., in 1987, and was honored with the Special Friendship Award from the Black Sports Information Directors of America in 1988. Valdiserri was awarded the James E. Armstrong Award from Notre Dame’s Alumni Senate in 1990. Last month, he was presented with the Knute Rockne Memorial Society’s Service Award.
“The Monogram Club is so honored to have Roger Valdiserri be the recipient of the Jesse Harper Award,” says Monogram Club president Terri Vitale (’94, ’95, tennis). “No one epitomizes service to this University in a more meaningful way than Roger.
“I had the chance to spend a lot of time with Roger while I was a student-athlete here through his friendship with my parents. He was always so welcoming and encouraging and he really helped me understand and navigate the resources that were available to me as a student-athlete on campus. I don’t think that was any exception because Roger does that for everyone. That’s why whenever you speak his name, people have a smile on their face. They know what an incredible asset he’s been for this University, and what a gem he has been to so many. We’re honored to bestow this award on him.”
Valdiserri also lent his time to numerous committees away from Notre Dame that had great impact within the sports world and beyond. Valdiserri worked closely with Father Hesburgh for nine years on the Knight Commission on Intercollegiate Athletics. He also served as chairman of the NCAA Communications Committee (1990-93), president of the College Sports Information Directors of America (COSIDA) during the 1986-87 school year and earned CoSIDA’s two top awards — the Arch Ward Award (1987) and election to the CoSIDA Hall of Fame (1981). For many years, he served on the NCAA Men’s Basketball Final Four Media Coordination Committee. He worked 22 consecutive Final Fours, nine Super Bowls, three Olympic Games and one World Cup.
One of Valdiserri’s proudest achievements is founding the National Association of Collegiate Marketing Administrators (NACMA), which now boasts a membership of over 1,800 colleges and universities.
“What I found out pretty quickly was that if you attached yourself to Roger’s coattails you would meet everyone of any importance in college athletics,” says current Notre Dame senior associate athletic director John Heisler (honorary), who Valdiserri hired as his assistant in 1978. “It was like following the Pied Piper. When it came to athletics, there wasn’t anyone he didn’t know.
“Roger was arguably the most accomplished and well-known college athletics public relations practitioner of his time. He worked at a time when there were no cell phones and no web sites, so media relations was all about personal relationships. It would be impossible to measure how much his relationships with national media benefitted all the various Notre Dame programs, but it’s safe to say his impact was immense.”
Valdiserri was inducted into the Pittsburgh Chapter of the Italian-American Hall of Fame in 1990. He received the Katha Quinn Award from the U.S. Basketball Writers Association (USBWA) for extraordinary service to the media in 1993, and was inducted into the USBWA Hall of Fame in 2016.
Valdiserri and his late wife, Elaine, are parents to five children, all Notre Dame graduates. Four of their children earned monograms with the Fighting Irish fencing program.
About the Jesse Harper Award
The Monogram Club established the Jesse Harper Award during its 100th anniversary celebration in 2016 as a way to highlight the great accomplishments of its members. Jim Gibbons (’53, baseball/basketball) was the award’s inaugural recipient.
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 reflect Harper’s dedication and commitment to Notre Dame, its athletics department and its student-athletes.
More on Roger Valdiserri
Roger Valdiserri: He Told The Notre Dame Story (Strong of Heart 2013)