Alumni Association announces inaugural Lennon Life Prize recipients

Author: Josh Flynt

Chuck and Joan Lennon Gospel of Life Initiative
Chuck and Joan Lennon Gospel of Life Initiative

The Notre Dame Alumni Association recently announced the inaugural recipients of the Lennon Life Prize, part of the new Chuck and Joan Lennon Gospel of Life Initiative, a set of programs aimed at activating the University of Notre Dame’s robust clubs network to be forces for good in upholding the value of life at all stages.

The Notre Dame clubs of Lehigh Valley, Greater Boston and Indianapolis were selected by a campus committee as recipients of $5,000 prizes, awarded to help sponsor each club’s ideas supporting a wide range of pro-life causes and community organizations. The clubs of Charlotte, Lake County, St. Joseph Valley, Staten Island and Wichita were named as honorable mention winners and will receive $500 each. 

The Lennon Gospel of Life Initiative was co-created with Chuck Lennon, who served as associate vice president of University relations and executive director of the association for 31 years, and his wife, Joan. Lennon retired in 2011.

In concert with the Catholic Church’s longstanding defense of all human life, the Gospel of Life Initiative seeks to provide support to vulnerable populations around the world, and the Lennon Life Prize aims to generate a host of ideas for clubs to impact their local community through the innovative use of funding and involvement of club members.

“We were so pleased to receive such numerous and impactful submissions from our clubs in this first year of awarding the Lennon Life Prize. Our alumni and friend volunteers are the lifeblood of our outreach to the country and the world, and we are incredibly encouraged by so many expressing the desire to be a voice for the voiceless in society,” said Dolly Duffy, executive director of the Notre Dame Alumni Association and associate vice president of University relations. 

The first award recipient, the Notre Dame Club of Lehigh Valley, plans to host a series of pro-life events in partnership with local Catholic high schools. Students and club members will help clean, paint and provide ongoing service at a local crisis pregnancy center. In addition, the club will host rosaries, Masses for the unborn and inspirational and educational pro-life speakers at each of the Catholic schools. Finally, the club plans to assist its members and local students as they unite to attend the annual March for Life in Washington, D.C.

Another recipient of the prize, the Notre Dame Club of Greater Boston, plans to focus its efforts in building a partnership with the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program. The program was founded in 1985 by Dr. Jim O’Connell '70 and today serves more than 11,000 homeless people each year.

In 2017, the Boston program launched HER (Health, Empowerment and Resources) Saturday, a program that provides a welcoming space for homeless women. HER Saturday’s dedicated women-only weekend clinic provides a safe and trusted source of care and enrichment for an average of 50 individuals each week, many of whom are victims of domestic violence and other trauma. The Boston club will sponsor one HER Saturday per month, and club volunteers will provide supplies and support for the women at the clinic in advance of the sponsored times and, when appropriate, on the designated days.

In considering outreach to those with food insecurity, the Notre Dame Club of Indianapolis will partner with five local Notre Dame Alliance For Catholic Education Academies to provide “Shamrock Sacks” to students during the Christmas holiday break. These bags will be filled with nutritious, easy-to-prepare food supplies, in an effort to help needy students and their families during the school break. Of the 1,192 students at the five-center city elementary schools, 95 percent are eligible for federal free and reduced lunch. In conjunction with a club Mass at St. Philip Neri on Dec. 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, the volunteers will gather to prepare the Shamrock Sacks to be distributed to each school.

In addition to the three top award winners, the clubs earning an honorable mention designation plan to execute a wide variety of projects benefiting the poor, developmentally disabled, asylum seekers and refugees, at-risk pregnant women, and victims of human trafficking and abuse victims.   

Notre Dame clubs are encouraged to apply for the 2019 Lennon Life Prize. More information can be found at The 2019 recipients will be announced during the Alumni Leadership Conference on campus April 11-13.

Originally published by Josh Flynt, Alumni Association, at on Oct. 31.