Notre Dame honors Holy See Ambassador Joe Donnelly with 2023 Sorin Award

Author: Joanne Norell

Sorin Award
Alongside University of Notre Dame President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., (far left), alumnus Joe Donnelly (second from right), U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, receives the Rev. Edward Frederick Sorin, C.S.C., Award June 3 at the University of Notre Dame.

In recognition of his contributions to the University of Notre Dame and service to his community and the world, alumnus Joe Donnelly, U.S. ambassador to the Holy See, was presented with the 2023 Rev. Edward Frederick Sorin, C.S.C., Award on June 3 at the Alumni Association’s annual reunion celebration.

The Sorin Award is conferred on a graduate who has rendered distinguished service to the University. It was established by the Alumni Association in 1965 and is one of the University’s highest honors.

“Joe Donnelly’s life of public service has reverberated around the world, and we could not be more proud to call him a loyal son of Notre Dame,” Alumni Association Executive Director Dolly Duffy said. “From his early service in the local community to his current appointment as ambassador to the Holy See, Joe has demonstrated a commitment to working with people from all walks of life in an effort to make the world a better place.”

Since January 2022, Donnelly has served as Ambassador to the Holy See after his confirmation with broad bipartisan support in the U.S. Senate. Upon his confirmation, University President Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C., described him as “a person of deep Catholic faith and commitment to public service … (who) has proven throughout his career that he is committed to building relationships and working across divisions.”

Donnelly, born in New York City and raised on Long Island, was a first-generation college student, graduating from Notre Dame with a bachelor's degree in government in 1977 and a law degree in 1981. After working for a law firm in South Bend, he opened a printing business in Mishawaka in 1996. Donnelly served one year on a state election board (1988-89) and then four years on a local school board (1997-2001). 

Donnelly represented Indiana’s 2nd Congressional District, which includes Notre Dame, in the U.S. House of Representatives from 2007 to 2013 before his election to the U.S. Senate from 2013 to 2019. In a state long divided between Democratic urban areas and suburban and rural Republican districts, he earned the reputation of a respected moderate, winning endorsements from business organizations and media outlets throughout Indiana. His 2012 Senate victory made him the first Democrat to win a statewide race in Indiana in more than 10 years.

From 2019 to 2021, Donnelly was a professor of the practice in Notre Dame’s Keough School of Global Affairs and Department of Political Science, where he taught courses on American politics, public policy and leadership.

Donnelly met his wife, Jill, a 1976 Notre Dame graduate, at Notre Dame and the two married in 1979. They have two children: Molly, a 2004 Notre Dame graduate, and Joseph Jr., a 2006 Notre Dame graduate.