Aug. 30, 2005
Aug. 30, 2005
By Pete LaFleur
The Tuesday Testimonials return this week as former Irish softball player Lizzy Lemire (’01) – recently hired at her alma mater as an assistant coach – shares her Notre Dame experiences. Lemire’s Notre Dame story has several unique dimensions – including: a family relative (Jack Elder) who was one of the top football players in the Knute Rockne era; quickly discovering an extended family as a member of the Irish softball program (while thousands of miles away from home), and ending her career as a student-athlete with a special and memorable graduation ceremony in a hotel banquet room (details below).
Lemire’s career highlights included receiving the 2001 BIG EAST Conference player-of-the-year award and earning a spot with the U.S. National Softball Team program. She was a team captain on the most successful squad in Irish softball history, leading the 2001 team to a 54-7 overall record, a No. 7 ranking in the national polls and the program’s first number-one seed in the NCAA Championship.
As a senior in ’01, Lemire hit .324 (including .383 in BIG EAST play) with 38 RBI, 10 stolen bases and 3 home runs. She currently shares the single-season record for doubles (17, in ’99) and her career numbers included a .332 average, 28 stolen bases, 126 RBI, 9 home runs and 43 doubles – in addition to leaving a legacy as one of the best defensive outfielders in Notre Dame history.
Lemire’s senior class compiled a .738 four-year winning percentage (177-63) that included two BIG EAST tournament championships, four BIG EAST regular-season titles and three consecutive NCAA regional appearances.
Lizzy Lemire was the BIG EAST player of the year in 2001 before playing with the U.S. National Team program.
After her graduation from Notre Dame (with a degree in sociology and computer applications), Lemire earned a spot on the U.S. National Team. She was selected for the USA Red team that won the 2001 U.S. Cup in Hawaii. The USA Red eventually met the USA Blue in the 2001 Canada Cup, getting the best of the split U.S. national team in a 3-2 semifinal. Former Irish players Jennifer Sharron and Jarrah Myers were members of the USA Blue team.
Lemire returned to Notre Dame as a compliance and business/legal affairs intern in the athletic department during the 2001-02 academic year. She moved on to the University of Massachusetts as a compliance office graduate assistant, earning a master’s in sports management in ’03. While at UMass, she was a volunteer assistant for the softball team. Lemire moved on to Boston College as an intern in the athletic department office. She later worked through several different projects with the BC development office and was hired at Stanford as an annual giving associate in April of 2004.
Tuesday Testimonial – Entry #9, Lizzy Lemire (softball, `01); August 30, 2005
“As Chuck Lennon, executive director of the Notre Dame Alumni Association, likes to say, “Notre Dame is not a 4-year decision; it is a 64-year decision”. There is no comment that speaks more for the university than these words. Notre Dame is a place that has shaped my life in ways that I would have never imagined and it will leave its lasting impression on me until the day I die.
“It’s funny how life has a way of working itself out. How different people and experiences enter in and out of your life for no particular reason and leave their lasting impressions. I write this Tuesday Testimonial passage nearly five months after the passing of my mother, my best friend and the woman who is solely responsible for my attendance at the University of Notre Dame.
“For me, Notre Dame was not an option, it was THE option! This became apparent at the young age of 10, when I used to attend family reunions with my great uncle Jack Elder, who played football for Kunte Rockne and won a national championship in 1929. He, his wife, their 10 children and the children of those 10 children used to sing the Notre Dame Victory March. I thought it sounded so great and knew I had to learn more about this place they called Notre Dame. So, my mother taught me what it meant to be a fan of the Fighting Irish. Religiously, she would turn on the football games every Saturday and cheer on the blue and gold.
“When I was 12 years old, she brought to my attention a brochure for the Notre Dame Softball Camp. As she held it out in her hands, it was as if the daylight darkened and lights from the heavenly sky beamed upon the brochure. “They have a softball team!!!” I thought to myself.
“No matter how much money it cost, my mom made it a point to fly me out from California to South Bend to attend camp and see the University. My soon-to-be head coach Liz Miller probably would not even remember, but at the camp I won the “Future Notre Dame Player” award. It meant the world to me. When I was 14 years old, those same heavenly lights appeared from the sky as my mom held out passes in her hand to a sneak preview screening of this movie they called “Rudy”. I left the theater, eyes welted with tears, knowing that I had a little bit of Rudy inside of me and that my dream was a possibility.
“On Oct. 7th, 1996, I called Liz Miller and made my commitment to the University of Notre Dame. From that point on was where the real journey began. I remember the first time I put on my softball uniform as I dressed for our fall alumni game. I stood and looked in the locker-room mirror and couldn’t believe the sight. I was wearing the words “Irish” across my chest. Never have I felt more humbled, yet proud. I remember seeing that feeling in my parents’ eyes too, on the first day they saw me in that same uniform.
“Notre Dame is community, tradition, love and spirituality, but above all Notre Dame means family. I have such a strong sense of fulfillment knowing that the minute I was accepted to the University, my family was too. That is the beauty of Notre Dame. Knowing my parents were always welcome helped our bond grow stronger and always kept us close. They frequently traveled to our tournaments and games to cheer on the Irish and you could guarantee at least one football weekend a year.
“Notre Dame was the core of my relationship with my mother. We talked for hours upon end about every possible topic there was to cover. How the football team looked, the dynamic of our softball team, how classes were going, how amazing the CJ’s Pub Burger really is, the snow, the sleet, the ice, my batting average (or lack thereof), the amazing touchdown run Joey Getheral made to beat Navy on the last play of the game, the beauty of the Grotto both at daytime and night, the freshman year graffiti dance, the Zahm Hall ‘bun-run,’ how it never fails that you get goose bumps the size of mountains every time the band marches through the Joyce Center on a Friday night, the Dome, the Lakes, the Basillica – these are only a few topics to note.
Kathi and Lizzy Lemire shared a special bond when it came to their love and appreciation for Notre Dame.
“While my mother never attended Notre Dame, I loved how she truly understood every single one of those topics; they were not just my experiences, they were her’s too. The great thing was that I saw this same relationship with so many of my friends and their parents. I am forever indebted to the University for opening their arms and showing us what it means to be family.
“During those days and months when mom and dad weren’t physically there, the Notre Dame softball program was my family away from sunny Southern California. I think it is amazing how the program has grown over the years and has served as a springboard for young women to grow personally and professionally and enter the world better people for it.
“All of the players and coaches that I encountered throughout my four years each had their own unique touch on my life and have helped me become the person that I am today. Coach Liz Miller provided a perfect balance of maternal support, yet high expectations, from all of her players. She challenged me as a person, as a player and as a leader and – while there was adversity along the way – I am able to respect myself more today knowing that I was challenged and that I succeeded. As a player, you knew you were really challenged if you were sentenced to the ‘Liz Miller School of Sliding/Diving,’ whereby you would spend a whole practice on the gravel-lined warning track and put your body through sheer pain. It happened to at least one freshman every year. As the freshman walked the ‘green mile’ to the warning track, we all shook our heads knowing it would be so painful yet it would be for the best and shet would be better for it in the end.
“My teammates were my sisters and my best friends. You get to learn a whole lot about a person when you spend well over 50% of every day together, whether it be on the field, in the weight room, in the training room, on the road or in the locker room. You learn that the game of softball is a lot more than averages and accomplishments. It’s a team concept with the emphasis on the group as a whole. Through this, your sisters will always have your back and pick you up when you fall.
Lizzy Lemire helped lead Notre Dame to a 54-7 record and the nation’s No. 7 ranking in 2001.
“I’ll never forget having 15 girls at my side when our team showed up in Sydney, Australia, for our foreign trip. I walked off the plane and soon realized that my wallet, passport and credit cards were still sitting in the terminal back in Los Angeles. We all look back now and laugh, but at the time I nearly gave coach Miller cardiac arrest. Quickly to my side were my teammates, who let me know that it is human to err and that they would wait for me (while I went to the U.S. Consulate and got a new passport issued) to see the sights and tour the country.
“By my senior year, the team was 53-3 and ranked 7th nationally heading into postseason. The NCAA regional tournament fell on the same weekend as Notre Dame’s graduation. Ironically, the tournament site was in Iowa City at the University of Iowa, the only other school I was recruited by in high school. Our senior class willingly accepted we would miss our graduation ceremony (where President George Bush was speaking) and travel to Iowa City to bring home a championship for the Irish. To our surprise, the Saturday night before the championship game the Alumni Association flew Chuck Lennon up to give our senior class a beautiful graduation ceremony.
“Despite knowing that I graduated in a Hampton Inn, there is no other way I would have wanted to leave the University of Notre Dame. The ceremony summed up my four years at Notre Dame. We all sat in cap and gown with our parents at our side. The room was filled with all of my other Notre Dame family members. My teammates, coaches, strength coach and academic advisor all helped carry me through Notre Dame and they were all there to see me off into the world. I’ll never forget that night and what it meant to me.
Notre Dame’s 2001 softball senior class, at their special “on the road” graduation (from left): Danielle Klayman, Sarah Kirkman, Jen Sharron, Melanie Alkire and Lizzy Lemire.
“Three years after leaving campus, I return to the University in a whole new capacity. I have been away and faced the challenges of graduate school and the working world and I have faced the reality of life. My mother’s battle against cancer taught me more about life than anything else. I learned that love and family are qualities that should never be lost. She was passionate in everything she ever loved, may it be her family or friends or Notre Dame, and she loved it to the max.
“It’s kind of funny how the world works and how everything seems to come full circle. When the opportunity was presented for me to return to Notre Dame and be a part of the softball team again, I knew deep down in my heart that it was the right thing to do and in fact that maybe some higher powers were working above for me to return home (Thanks Mom!). I now get to work with some of my best friends day in and day out and I get to pass on the same lessons that were taught to me as a student-athlete at Notre Dame. I only hope I can make half the impression on these girls that Notre Dame made on me.
“On the eve of my mother’s passing, a FedEx package was sent to our house. It was a signed football from new Notre Dame head coach Charlie Weis. On the football was inscribed, “To Kathi Lemire, The Greatest Notre Dame Fan Alive. Go Irish. Charlie Weis.’ She never got to see that football, but I have no doubt that she will be shaking down the thunder from the skies and that the Irish will have a stellar season with a little help from Kathi Lemire come this fall.”
Do you have a recommendation of a former Notre Dame student-athlete to participate in the “Tuesday Testimonial” series? If so, please pass on the individual’s name and contact info. (if available) to Monogram Club archivist/publicist Pete LaFleur at firstname.lastname@example.org.