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Football Program Story: Monogram Club Celebrating Graduating Seniors

Nov 21, 2014, 2:16 PM EST

Fighting Irish student-athletes proudly display their stoles prior to 2014 commencement exercises (Photo by Mike Bennett/Lighthouse Imaging).

The following feature was first published in the football program for the Notre Dame vs. Louisville game on Nov. 22, 2014. In conjunction with Notre Dame’s recognition of 29 seniors prior to kickoff, here’s a closer look at some of the ways the Monogram Club honors graduates.

At the University of Notre Dame, few words are as much a part of student and alumni vocabulary as “tradition.”

From Bookstore Basketball and interhall football to late night Grotto visits and postgame candlelight dinners, traditions are a fundamental part of life at the University.

Traditions have a particularly special place within the Monogram Club and Notre Dame athletics as well.

As with every game day, they will be integral to the sights and sounds of today’s contest against Louisville. The “Notre Dame Victory March,” “Hike, Notre Dame,” and the “1812 Overture” will reverberate around the stadium, Sergeant Tim McCarthy will deliver a signature traffic safety pun and when the final whistle blows, 80,795 fans—minus a few Cardinals supporters—will stand together in singing the alma mater, “Notre Dame, Our Mother.”

Perhaps the most visible Monogram Club tradition is the varsity letter jacket. Varsity letters have been awarded to Notre Dame student-athletes for more than a century, dating back to before the Club was founded in 1916.

Over the years, the distribution of jackets has varied. Ask many Monogram winners, and they will probably recall picking up their jacket during an ordinary visit to the equipment room. In 2008, the Club hosted its first letter jacket ceremony, establishing a new tradition of recognizing the accomplishments of first-time Monogram winners in a unique way. Last week, parents, family members, coaches and other athletics staff gathered to celebrate as more than 110 student-athletes received letter jackets.

While the ceremony is a momentous occasion in a student-athlete’s career at Notre Dame, the Monogram Club seeks to be present throughout its members’ time at the University. Initiatives such as the team hosting program and Monogram Career Network provide student-athletes with the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. Recently, the Club established two traditions to honor graduating seniors before they depart Notre Dame for their new endeavors.

In May 2014, student-athletes, cheerleaders, managers, athletic trainers and video technicians had the option to wear uniquely designed commencement stoles for the first time, in recognition of their accomplishments and contributions to Notre Dame athletics. The blue stoles featured a gold embroidered monogram on each side, with the mantra “God, Country, Notre Dame” printed on the inside collar.

Motivated to recognize the exceptional careers of their fellow graduates, Student-Athlete Advisory Council leaders Jes Christian and Logan Renwick championed the effort to create this special acknowledgement.

“I spoke to Logan and said, ‘You know, there are so many stoles and cords for academic honors, but there’s nothing for student-athletes.’ It’s an honor in and of itself to be able to achieve both academic success and athletic success,” Christian says.

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Monogram Club Executive Director Brant Ust (’00, baseball) with Jes Christian and Logan Renwick, two former track student-athletes who initiated the idea of the graduation stoles (Photo by Mike Bennett/Lighthouse Imaging).

Working with the Monogram Club and Office of the Registrar, the pair of track and field student-athletes made their vision a reality. The stoles were distributed during Senior Week and at the Fourth Quarter Farewell, the Monogram Club’s commencement weekend event for student-athletes and their families.

Hosted on Saturday morning before official commencement weekend festivities get underway, the Fourth Quarter Farewell is one of the Monogram Club’s newest events. It is a reception that provides a final chance for graduates to celebrate with teammates, coaches and athletics staff.

“We wanted the stoles to be a symbol of the achievement that graduating as a student-athlete is at Notre Dame,” Renwick says. “They’re supposed to symbolize the full journey we’ve had from receiving our first monogram at the letter jacket ceremony to commencement, to commemorate the Notre Dame experience, and signify all the thanks that we have to the University for giving us everything as student-athletes.”

From walking to the stadium to hitting the famed “Play Like A Champion Today” sign, today marks the final time that Notre Dame football seniors will take part in their usual pre-game rituals. Though their days in a blue and gold uniform are waning, they will forever be a part of the Monogram Club family.

“We’re very proud to have been a part of producing these stoles, and to have worked with Jes and Logan in bringing this to fruition,” Monogram Club Executive Director Brant Ust (’00, baseball) says.

“There are so many wonderful, sacred, valued and respected traditions of this University, and for this to be the start of something that we hope is always a part of commencement weekend, the last step in a student-athlete’s unique journey—to be a part of that, I think that’s awesome.”

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