John F. “Jack” Sandner, a longtime member of the University of Notre Dame’s Board of Trustees and retired chairman of the Chicago Mercantile Exchange, died Thursday (March 11) at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago after suffering a stroke. He was 79.
“A great friend and mentor to many at Notre Dame, throughout Chicagoland, across the country and around the world, Jack epitomized what it means to be a loyal son of Our Lady’s University,” Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., said. “His sage advice, fighting spirit and infectious personality made him a valued member of our Board. We join in praying for the repose of Jack’s soul and offer our condolences to his wife, Carole, and his children — who were always the center of his life.”
Raised on Chicago’s South Side, Sandner came by his “fighting spirit” quite literally. Under the coaching of the great middleweight boxing champion Tony Zale, Sandner became a Golden Gloves champion as a teenager and won 58 of his 60 amateur bouts.
He gave up the “sweet science” to attend college, earning a bachelor’s degree from South Illinois University, and then a law degree from Notre Dame, where he received the law school’s Dean’s Award and won the three-year appellate advocacy competition. While attending law school, he met Carole, who was a nurse at a South Bend hospital.
Sandner began a career in law but became interested in the futures industry and purchased a seat on the Chicago Mercantile Exchange (CME) in 1971. He soon launched his own firm and by 1980 had become so well regarded at the Merc that he was elected to his first of many terms as its chairman.
As the exchange’s longest-tenured chairman during the 1980s and ’90s, Sandner led it from agricultural commodities into new products, including the S&P 500, while also overseeing the evolution from open outcry to electronic trading. He stepped down as chairman in 1997 but remained on the board and as an adviser until 2018.
“Today is an extremely difficult day for our company and our industry,” CME Group Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Terry Duffy said in a statement following Sandner’s passing, calling him a “true visionary who made many contributions to our industry.”
Sandner was inducted into the Futures Industry Association’s Hall of Fame and, in addition to his service to Notre Dame, he was a member of the boards of Chicago’s Rush University Medical Center, Shedd Aquarium and Museum of Science and Industry as well as many other organizations.
Before his election to Notre Dame’s Board in 1993, Sandner served on the advisory council of the law school. His family funded the acquisition of the Chicago Bar Association’s library to create the law school’s John F. Sandner Family Law Library Collection. A gift from the family also made possible the construction of a new facility for the University’s Alliance for Catholic Education, named in honor of Carole Sandner.
An advocate for special needs programs, he was a recipient of the Horatio Alger Award, a Points of Light Award and, in 2006, an honorary degree from Notre Dame.
Sandner is survived by his wife, eight children and seven grandchildren. Two sons and a daughter graduated from Notre Dame, and two daughters are Saint Mary’s College alumnae.
Services will be private and he will be buried at Cedar Grove Cemetery on Notre Dame’s campus.
In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made online to the Jack Sandner Alliance for Catholic Education Memorial Fund, or by mail to 405 Main Building, University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame IN 46556.