Nov 17, 2017, 9:59 AM EDT
Note: This story appears in the Notre Dame-Navy game day program.
There had been 67 Monogram Club presidents before him, but Kevin O’Connor had the unique distinction of being the one to lead the Club from its first century into its second century.
O’Connor, a 1989 Notre Dame graduate and former captain of the men’s lacrosse team, served as Monogram Club president for two years before handing the president’s gavel to Terri Vitale (’94, ’95, tennis) on Oct. 28. O’Connor used the Club’s milestone 100th anniversary in 2016 as a reason to celebrate and reflect on the remarkable history of the organization, but also to shape the Club with an eye on the next 100 years.
“It was an extremely rewarding experience to serve as president of the Monogram Club for the past two years,” says O’Connor. “I was fortunate to witness the Club celebrate its 100th anniversary and to help kick off the strategic planning process that will determine the Club’s direction for the next 100 years.
“We remain more committed than ever to supporting our members through the Monogram Career Network as well as the Brennan-Boland-Riehle Scholarship Fund and the Heaton Fund. Thanks to the support of its members, the Monogram Club continues to be a force for good – for current and former Notre Dame student-athletes.”
When O’Connor took office in September of 2015 the Monogram Career Network (MCN) was still in its infancy. The MCN has continued to evolve through the work of the Club’s board of directors and other program advocates. The MCN has connected hundreds of current student-athletes with Monogram alumni to help in the career discernment process in addition to being a resource – and member benefit – for Monogram winners. One such resource is the Club’s partnership with the Stayer Center for Executive Education at the Mendoza College of Business. Club members can receive discounted rates on courses that can assist with professional development or a job transition.
“A student-athlete’s decision to attend and compete at Notre Dame is not a four-year decision – it is a lifetime decision,” says O’Connor. “The Monogram Club helps to make that a reality every day.”
That lifetime decision involves staying connected with the Club and University even when it’s difficult to make it back to campus. That is why O’Connor made it a priority for the Club to have a greater presence throughout the country so members could engage without having to travel great distances. Over the past two years the Monogram Club held events in New York, Chicago, San Francisco, San Antonio, Washington, D.C., Phoenix, Houston, Boston and Indianapolis.
The Brennan-Boland-Riehle Scholarship Fund continued its amazing growth under O’Connor’s leadership. Nearly $575,000 in financial assistance was issued to Notre Dame students who are the sons and daughters of Monogram Club members.
Another key Monogram Club initiative, the Catastrophic Relief Fund, was renamed the Heaton Fund in 2015 to honor former Club president Mike Heaton (’68, ’71, football & golf). Heaton was instrumental in the founding of the fund, which assists Monogram Club members facing problems as a result of catastrophic events.
That commitment to service and community is appropriate since the Monogram Club’s highest honor is the Edward “Moose” Krause Distinguished Service Award. During his term, O’Connor was able to present the award to two extremely worthy recipients – Justice Alan Page (’67, football) and U.S. Army Lt. Gen. Bryan Fenton (’87, manager).
The Club also desired a way to honor members who have given so much of their professional lives to Notre Dame. So, to coincide with its 100th anniversary, the Monogram Club established the Jesse Harper Award, and the first recipient was Notre Dame legend Jim Gibbons (’53, baseball & basketball).
The aforementioned programs, initiatives and recognitions would not have been possible without the loyal membership that allowed the Club to reach its second century. Whether when speaking at the Monogram Jacket Ceremony or in letters to membership, O’Connor emphasized the fact that the Monogram Club is funded solely by membership contributions.
“The Club is able to do what it does only because its members continue to support it financially through payment of annual dues,” says O’Connor. “That financial support is crucial so we can continue to support all of the various programs in place for our members and current student-athletes.”
In addition to the annual membership contributions, O’Connor is among many Monogram winners who go above and beyond in their support of the University and the athletics department. In 2016, O’Connor and his family endowed a scholarship for the men’s lacrosse program.
“Our gift to endow a lacrosse scholarship is an expression of our gratitude to Notre Dame and to Coach Corrigan for his exemplary and long-standing leadership of the men’s lacrosse program,” says O’Connor. “It is a privilege to give back and to help ensure that the program will have the necessary resources to always compete at the highest level while upholding the academic and spiritual values that make Notre Dame unique.”
While the Monogram Club strives to deliver on the lifetime promise made to student-athletes, many times it’s its members, like O’Connor, who make a pledge of their own back to their alma mater.