Nov 3, 2017, 8:43 AM EDT
Note: This story appears in the Notre Dame-Wake Forest game day program.
Two days after being named head coach of the Notre Dame women’s tennis program in the fall of 1989, Jay Louderback hadn’t even arrived on campus before making his first recruiting call from his parents’ home in Kansas. The recipient of that call was Terri Vitale, who last week became the 69th president in the long and storied history of the Notre Dame Monogram Club.
“Jay Louderback impressed upon me everything that he was going to build and achieve for the women’s tennis program at Notre Dame,” says Vitale. “My experience absolutely lived up to, and exceeded, everything I had hoped for as a student-athlete competing in Division I women’s tennis. Undeniably, I was able to have a world-class undergraduate educational experience and I was also able to compete in a tennis program committed to excellence. More importantly, I was exposed to all of the intangibles of the Notre Dame experience. There were so many incredible intangibles to my time as a Notre Dame student-athlete that it is truly hard for me to put them into words. However, I absolutely know that the intangibles and the entirety of the experience made my time at Notre Dame so enriching and it is still playing out for me in many meaningful ways today.”
That life includes being surrounded by fellow Monogram winners, from her husband Chris Sforzo (‘94, lacrosse), to her younger sister Sherri (‘96, tennis), who is married to Thomas Krug (’97, football). Terri earned three Monograms during her Fighting Irish career, and she is the first women’s tennis player to hold the title of Monogram Club president.
“The best thing with Terri is that she didn’t care about any individual accolades,” says Louderback, now in his 29th season of coaching the Irish. “All she wanted the team to do is win. No matter where we had her, singles, doubles, it didn’t matter. Sometimes you get kids who feel they should be playing a little higher, but not one thing from her ever. She was the ultimate team player. I never felt like she cared about anything but how we did.”
Vitale received her undergraduate degree in 1994, and her MBA from the Mendoza College of Business in 1995. She joined the Monogram Club board of directors in 2009, and entered the presidential rotation in 2013. She will have a two-year term as Club president.
“The Monogram Club is the connective tissue back to the University and back to the fellowship, tradition and faith that members experienced while they were on campus,” says Vitale. “The Monogram Club strives to continue to bring that to them through regional events, service projects, and through things that enrich their lives even while they’re not currently on campus competing in the Notre Dame jersey. They’re still part of our family and we continue to celebrate all of their accomplishments.”
Vitale has been part of that connective tissue by hosting Notre Dame student-athletes at her home near Sarasota, Florida.
“Over the last six or seven years we’ve been playing a tournament every fall in Sarasota,” says Louderback. “It’s great because at that tournament we’re able to stay with Terri and her family. It’s great for the kids on the team to be able to see how successful she is, and see how she’s able to handle her family, her home life and everything else.”
The family also has held dinners for Chris’ former head coach Kevin Corrigan and the Fighting Irish men’s lacrosse team.
“It’s important for me to learn about what the current student-athlete experience is like,” says Vitale. “I think it’s even more demanding now than when I competed. I’m hearing about their experiences and learning new ways how the Monogram Club can support all the things current student-athletes are doing. It’s also important to learn about what their goals and ambitions are post-graduation because that’s where the Club’s most important work is done.
“Our members have diverse backgrounds, diverse experiences and they have different professional lives, but the common denominator is that they earned a Monogram at Notre Dame. With that comes an immediate sense of camaraderie, respect and understanding. We want to celebrate that. We have so many members who are doing incredible things in their local communities.”
Count Vitale as one of those doing tremendous work in her community. Her father, legendary ESPN broadcaster Dick Vitale, serves on the board of directors for The Jimmy V Foundation for Cancer Research, and that passion has carried over to Terri and Sherri, who both do a tremendous amount of work on behalf of the organization. That is one of several charitable causes Vitale lends her time to, in addition to giving back to the University that has given her so much.
“To be able to serve the University in this way is amazing,” says Vitale about being president of the Monogram Club. “I’m a beneficiary of all the good work that has come before me, and I hope to continue that. We’re fortunate to have great people on the board – and throughout the Club – that want to continue to serve the University and be involved.”
Nearly 30 years after taking the call from Louderback, Vitale has answered the call to serve as president of the Monogram Club.