Oct. 22, 2004
By Pete LaFleur
The Notre Dame Monogram Club’s mission statement includes a simple, yet fundamental, motto: “Bridging the Gap Between Legend and Legacy.” That phrase also symbolizes the unique Brennan-Boland-Riehle Fund, which provides need-based financial aid to Notre Dame students who are children of dues-paying Monogram Club members.
Former Notre Dame hockey All-American Brian Walsh (’77), considered by many to be the best player ever to skate for the Irish, certainly would qualify for “legendary” status. Walsh’s son Rory – a current member of the Irish hockey team – certainly fills the second part of the equation as a “legacy” member of the Notre Dame program. Together, they form one of several family success stories bound together by the Brennan-Boland-Riehle (BBR) Fund.
Monogram Club members annually donate to the fund and the University handles the principal, with interest providing scholarship money. The fund has grown to approximately $3 million – one of Notre Dame’s largest endowments – and currently helps support 45 sons and daughters of Monogram Club members as they pursue a Notre Dame degree.
“Despite the passing of 25 years, there still is that sense of community that Notre Dame lives on,” says Walsh, a regular contributor to the BBR Fund since his graduation in the late 1970s. “The school has changed its look but that sense of caring has remained the same. And I find that very refreshing.
“Other schools don’t have a fund like this and I don’t think they care to have one. The contributors to the fund go across all sports and genders. The Monogram Club is a very special organization and the success of this fund certainly bears that out.”
Two existing funds took the joint names of Brennan and Boland in 1979, combining for endowed scholarship assistance – while the fund’s third name (Riehle) was added in June of ’04. The fund honors: Joe Boland (’27) , a Rockne-era football player who served as an Irish assistant coach, alumni director and radio voice; Fr. Thomas Brennan, C.S.C., who died in 1972 after endearing himself to many student-athletes as a logic professor and team chaplain; and Fr. Jim Riehle, C.S.C., a longtime athletic department chaplain and executive director emeritus of the Monogram Club.
The 25-year-old fund has assisted 131 recipients whose combined scholarship allocations are nearly $2 million (including $320,000 for 2004-05).
Rory Walsh and his father followed similar paths by venturing away from their home area of Boston. The elder was a celebrated prep star; his son an accomplished player with Div. III scholarship offers. Both ended up heading to the Midwest, where a new world awaited.
“It was a chance to get out of the social and economic situation I grew up in. We had five people sharing three rooms at Notre Dame and that was the most space I’d had in my life,” says Brian Walsh, who spent his youth as one of 11 siblings crammed into a Cambridge, Mass., housing project.
“That experience taught me to take a risk. Just because it was different did not mean it was wrong. I also learned to understand other peoples and cultures, because Boston was so parochial. There’s no question Notre Dame changed my life for the better.”
Walsh had plenty of interest from local powerhouses Boston University and Boston College but opted to play for a program that achieved varsity status just a few years prior to his arrival.
“If I had gone to school in the east, I probably would not have graduated. I would have left early to play pro hockey,” says Walsh, who still holds Notre Dame career records for points (234), assists (145) and hat tricks (8).
“The deal with my dad was that I go to Notre Dame and graduate. Education was most important for me, in the classroom and worldly education from traveling with the team.”
Walsh did not realize it at the time of his graduation, but the famous “Notre Dame connections” quickly would impact his life – as he went on to a sales position with Gilette before moving to a successful career in the beverage business, currently serving as a division vice president for Indev (with brands such as Becks, Bass and Labatts).
“I played some pro hockey but then I was having trouble finding a job. People just thought I was some hockey player looking for work,” recalls Walsh, who has moved his family into 12 different houses over the years.
It was then that former Notre Dame vice president of protocol Jim Gibbons – a Monogram Club member in his own right, as a former Irish baseball and basketball standout – stepped into the picture.
“Jim helped get me the interview with Gilette, because their president was on Notre Dame’s business council,” says Walsh. “That got my foot in the door and I just took it from there.”
A quarter-century later, Rory Walsh followed his father to Notre Dame. He serves as the team’s third goaltender – behind players with All-America credentials – and was part of the historic ’03-’04 squad that qualified for the NCAA Tournament.
“There are so many great things about being a Notre Dame student-athlete and I’m very content here,” says the English literature major, who has developed an interest in the production and marketing side of television broadcasting.
“There’s the right mix of academics and athletics and there are so many Notre Dame connections for later in life. The everyday students here are some pretty amazing people.”
Like his father, the current Walsh on the Irish hockey team has benefited from a change of scenery.
“It’s a different culture and I embrace that. Being exposed to a different part of country and differing viewpoints makes you a better person.”
Walsh credits his parents – Brian and high school sweetheart Claire – with being lifelong role models.
“My dad worked very hard to get where he is and always has wanted the best for us without pushing,” says Walsh.
“He is very humble about his career but I always hear stories from people about his glory days at Notre Dame. I could write a book about him with all the stories I’ve heard and so many of them have grown exponentially over the years – some may not even be true anymore.”
Tori Blainey also is the child of a former hockey player, with her father Jim (’69) playing for the Irish during the first three varsity seasons. Tori likewise has been a trailblazer on the Joyce Center ice as a founding member and president of the Notre Dame women’s hockey club.
Jim Blainey, a native of Markham, Ont., came to Notre Dame as a scholarship football player out of De LaSalle High School, which also produced former Notre Dame athletic director Mike Wadwsorth. He lettered in football and hockey while battling injuries during his Irish career – before returning to Ontario, where he became a high school teacher and coach in several sports.
“I didn’t realize how much Notre Dame meant to me until my daughter started going there,” says Blainey, who coached Tori and her brother Evan during their youth hockey days. “It was very emotional when I took her down for Freshman Orientation. It really hit me how proud I was of her and how grateful I am to the Monogram Club and the Brennan-Boland-Riehle Fund.
“One of the things I cherish the most is that, when you leave Notre Dame, it gives you the ability to want to help and give to others – and I see that developing in Tori. Notre Dame just does a wonderful job enforcing Christian values on its students.”
Tori Blainey admits to being “miserable for the first two weeks” at Notre Dame before getting plugged into various on-campus activities.
“Now, I don’t want to leave,” she says, reflecting on a four-year stretch that has included building friendships with classmates from all over the U.S. “Everybody here and everybody back home always tell me that I’m basically an American now. I haven’t even been home since February.”
Blainey’s involvement with the sports information office helped earn her a summer internship with the Indianapolis Colts and the marketing/French major now has interest in a public relations career.
“I’m so thankful, first of all to my father for being an athlete at Notre Dame and making this all possible,” says Tori, who recently received her class ring and e-mailed her parents to thank them for the chance to attend Notre Dame, a message that brought her proud father to tears.
“This scholarship program is unbelievable and it shows how devoted people are to the Monogram Club and the University.”
Erin Diminick – daughter of former football halfback Gary Diminick (’74) – currently is a senior science-business major with a minor in environmental geosciences. She participated as a coxswain with the Notre Dame novice rowing team as a freshman, has played several interhall sports with Badin Hall (including the ’03 campus football champs) and has served as secretary of the Science-Business Club. Her interests include graduate studies in health care administration while her busy activities have included the Badin Hall Council and athletic committee, brunch chair for Junior Parents Weekend and as a student manager with the Development Office’s phone center and annual fund projects.
Gary Diminick, graduated with a degree in civil engineering and works in Essex Junction, Vt., as a construction manager for Pizzagalli Construction. Erin’s brother Noah attends the University of Vermont Medical School while her brother Sean is a football and lacrosse player at Susquehanna (Pa.) University.
“I grew up with Notre Dame football and have great memories of my first visit in 1993,” says Erin. “I applied early and didn’t question where I was going. I never even applied to other schools.
“I’m very grateful to be a recipient of the Brennan-Boland-Riehle scholarship. The Monogram Club helped make my lifelong dream come true by providing a way to finance my education. I can enter graduate school without tremendous debt and always will be very appreciative of this wonderful scholarship program.”
Kristine Tracy Lewis (’98) – daughter of former basketball guard John Tracy (’67) – was a BBR scholarship recipient and currently lives in Chapel Hill, N.C., with her husband Matt Lewis, who attended Notre Dame on a Navy ROTC scholarship and now is enrolled in the UNC medical school.
The couple has a four-year-old daughter Elizabeth – “who has been singing the Notre Dame Fight Song since she was two,” says Kristine – and 17-month-old son Ted, with a third child on the way. They were married at Sacred Heart Basilica and held their reception in the Joyce Center’s Monogram Room.
“We were thrilled when I was awarded a large grant from the Brennan-Boland-Riehle Fund and it greatly offset student loans I would have taken at that time,” says Kristine, who served on the Junior Parents Weekend committee and was Lewis Hall liturgical commissioner.
“I’ll always be grateful for the assistance the Monogram Club provided,” says John Tracy, who played for the Irish in the John Dee era and has been dean of students at Chicago’s St. Ignatius Prep for 13 years. “This great scholarship fund helped a Catholic school teacher see his daughter experience and graduate from Notre Dame.”