Nov. 11, 2005
By Ken Kleppel
In a “Flash”, his playing days at Notre Dame were over.
Fifty-four months and five football seasons following that initial seven-hundred mile trek from his home in New Jersey to his dorm room in Alumni Hall, Darrell Gordon stood on the turf of Sun Devil Stadium a national champion. Gordon earned his final of sixteen career starts at the 1989 Fiesta Bowl in his last collegiate game played.
The sun set gloriously across the desert sky that memorable January 2, but the sun was just beginning to rise on Gordon’s lifetime of service to others. And despite all his travels and accomplishments, those Gordon would help most were children who often never left the four blocks surrounding their own home.
His purpose? The education and development of youth, especially those in need.
His method? R-I-C-H-E-R, a moniker developed during his work with the NCAA but inspired by his days at Notre Dame, based on (R) Respect, (I) Integrity, (C) Caring, (H) Harmony, (E) Excellence, and (R) Responsibility.
“Those were the great principles that I began to develop at Notre Dame,” says Gordon. “My time there introduced me to the diversity that I needed to succeed in life. Notre Dame opened my eyes to opportunities that I never saw before. It was a fabulous experience in learning how to be a better leader.”
Gordon earned his Bachelor’s degree in Economics and Business in 1988, a Master’s degree of Science and Administration in 1989, and his Juris Doctorate from Northern Kentucky’s Chase College of Law in 1997. In between Gordon’s journey would take him from an internship on Wall Street at the New York Stock Exchange to a program of study in non-profit management at the Harvard Business School; from managerial positions with Advance Drainage Systems in southern Ohio to a professorship in sports law at Ball State University in central Indiana; from a clerkship with a prominent Cincinnati law firm to a position with the sports management firm IMG; and from Kansas City to Indianapolis and a career with the NCAA where Gordon worked in the Membership Service Group and also coordinated the “Stay in Bounds” program that promotes sportsmanship among youth.
Gordon’s vocation, however, would ultimately lead him to the Wernle Children’s Home, a residential treatment behavioral health care agency in Richmond, Indiana, whose primary goal is the rehabilitation of children afflicted by such problems as abuse, neglect, mental illness, or conduct disorder. As Wernle’s Chief Executive Officer since 2001, Gordon oversees all aspects of the organization, including finance, development, philanthropy, and control.
“To finally see those youth have hope is what I strive for,” says Gordon. “There is a life that they have not considered before coming to us. The program is in place to allow youth to have faith and confidence and be able to take care of themselves independently of their families. My passion is to put all of those pieces together to let the kids have an opportunity to get better.”
For his efforts, Gordon has been honored by both his alma maters, receiving the William D. Reynolds Award from Notre Dame in recognition of his work for the betterment of the quality of life for youth, as well as the Exceptional Service Award honoring those graduates of the Chase College of Law exhibiting the ideals of the law school through daily contributions of service.
Gordon was known as “Flash” on the gridiron. His impact away from it, however, will last much longer than any moment in time.