Notre Dame's future built on long, strong foundation

Author: Dennis K. Brown


In a Michiana Point of View published Dec. 20, University of Notre Dame alumnus Charles S. Hayes made some pointed — and unwarranted — criticisms of his alma mater.

At the core of his commentary is the suggestion that, other than football, “not much has come out of Notre Dame since Rev. Julius Nieuwland discovered synthetic rubber (in the 1920s).”

Thousands of Notre Dame faculty members and graduates who have made important contributions to the nation and the world might disagree.

Among the areas in which Hayes claims Notre Dame is lacking in influence or leadership:

• Politics — He wrote that other than former vice presidential candidate William Miller, former Democratic Party chair Paul Butler and current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, “few … Notre Dame graduates have ever earned a prominent position in the national political arena.”

Among the many others Hayes seems to have overlooked are former Secretary of the Interior and Arizona Gov. Bruce Babbitt, President Reagan’s national security adviser Richard Allen, Reagan campaign manager John Sears, former U.S. Census Bureau director John Keane, former Puerto Rico Gov. Pedro Rossello, the current President Bush’s chief speech writer William McGurn, National Labor Relations chairman Robert Battista, and current U.S. Reps. Joe Donnelly, Michael Ferguson, Peter King, Daniel Lungren, Mark Souder and Peter Visclosky.

• Arts and media — Regis Philbin and sportswriter Red Smith are the only examples of Notre Dame figures who have influenced the arts and media, according to Hayes.

Again, the list of prominent Notre Dame graduates in these fields is lengthy and includes: author and editor Robert Sam Anson; NBC News correspondents Dr. Bob Arnot and Anne Thompson; film producer Tony Bill; actor William Mapother; Pulitzer-Prize winners George Dohrmann, Jerry Kammer and Edwin O’Connor; La Opinion chairman Ignacio Lozano; CBS News reporter Hannah Storm; Fox News Channel analyst Andrew Napolitano; author Nicholas Sparks; former “Nightline” producer Tom Bettag; political commentators William Pfaff and Mark Shields; retired Newsweek correspondent Kenneth Woodward; GQ editor-in-chief Jim Nelson; and former Boston Globe editor Matthew Storin.

• Catholic Church — Hayes notes, correctly, that Notre Dame has produced only one cardinal, John O’Hara. He ignores, however, the contributions of bishops and archbishops such as William Borders, Daniel Jenky and Raymond Hunthausen. In addition, numerous priests who graduated from Notre Dame have led Catholic colleges and universities, including Revs. Edward Malloy, E. William Beauchamp, Ernest Bartell, Thomas Chambers, Mathias Doyle, Donald Merrifield, Laurence Murphy, Thomas O’Hara, and David Tyson; Brother Michael McGinniss; and Sisters Dorothy Ann Kelly and Diane Steele.

• Business and law — Hayes claims that Notre Dame graduates are “just now starting to make an impact” in these fields. Again, that simply isn’t true.

The list of retired corporate chief executive officers, presidents and chairs includes Thomas Carney of Metatech Corp.; Paul Charron of Liz Claiborne; Al DeCrane of Texaco; James Dowdle of Tribune Media Operations; Robert Galvin of Motorola; Joe Haggar of Haggar Co.; John Kinsella with Leo Burnett Advertising; Lucio Noto of Mobil Corp.; Michael Pasquale with Hershey Foods Corp.; and Philip Purcell with Morgan Stanley.

Current executives include Joseph Fitzsimmons, chief financial officer for Wendy’s International; Cyrus Freidheim, CEO of Sun-Times Media Group; David Goebel, president and CEO of Applebee’s; Andrew McKenna, chairman of McDonald’s Corp.; Stephen Odland, chairman and CEO of Office Depot; Christopher John Policinski, president and CEO of Land O’Lakes Inc.; William Shaw, president and CEO of Marriott International; and Arthur Velasquez, president and CEO of Azteca Foods, Inc.

In law, a half-dozen Notre Dame graduates serve on state Supreme Courts and at least as many are district and appellate judges. The attorneys general of Vermont and Colorado are graduates, and those who serve as partners in prestigious law firms nationwide are far too many to name.

• Military — Hayes suggests that university graduates ought to have a "prominent voice in our country’s military affairs … " They already do.

Space does not allow for a full list, but among the Notre Dame graduates who have served our country are former Secretary of the Air Force Donald Rice, former Secretary of the Army Francis Harvey, former astronaut Navy Capt. James Wetherbee, current astronaut Air Force Col. Michael Good, and former Irish basketball star Danielle Green, who lost part of an arm while serving in Iraq. In addition, Jeffrey Talley, an associate professor in the College of Engineering, has served as a strategic planner for the War on Terrorism Directorate of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and recently was promoted to brigadier general in the U.S. Army Reserves.

• Olympics — “Very few (Notre Dame) athletes have ever participated in the modern Olympics,” according to Hayes.

One can dispute the meaning of “very few,” but 10 Irish athletes have won Olympic medals, including 2004 gold medalists Shannon Boxx, Kate Sobrero Markgraf, Ruth Riley and Mariel Zagunis.

Hayes goes on to suggest that Notre Dame needs to produce "important research, both scientific and social, that will have significant impact in the future … " His implication is that the university has not done this, when, in fact, there are scores of examples of faculty research in areas of considerable import, including tropical diseases, radiation chemistry, cancer, child development, astrophysics, the environmental sciences, genome sequencing, robotics, marketing in society and aerodynamics. In addition, Notre Dame faculty members have won 29 fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities in the last eight years, more than for any other university in the nation.

Notre Dame has aggressive plans for continuing to grow as a pre-eminent research university with a distinctive Catholic character and an unsurpassed commitment to undergraduate education. It is a plan built on a long and strong foundation.

Dennis K. Brown is the assistant vice president for news and information at the University of Notre Dame.

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