April 4, 2013
NOTRE DAME, Ind. - The University of Notre Dame Monogram Club awarded letter jackets to first-time Monogram winners at the organization's annual spring letter jacket ceremony Wednesday night in the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
More than 130 individuals, including student-athletes, coaches, parents and administrators, gathered in Club Naimoli to celebrate an important Notre Dame tradition, started by the Monogram Club five years ago.
Although the organization has awarded letter jackets to varsity student-athletes since the Club's inception in 1898, a formal ceremony was implemented in 2008 to properly honor student-athletes for the illustrious accomplishments to which only 7,500 individuals in the history of Notre Dame have been endowed.
"Tonight is very special," Monogram Club executive director Beth Hunter said, "As it marks an extraordinary milestone in the lives of our 59 recipients because through perseverance, dedication and hard work, each of you have earned the right to become part of the Monogram Club, which is no small feat."
After her remarks, Hunter introduced University of Notre Dame athletics director Jack Swarbrick ('76), who shared a story about the origin of the varsity letter, when in the 1800's, the captain of the Harvard baseball team gave notable team members the opportunity to keep their uniform at the end of the season.
Swarbrick praised the student-athletes for their admirable achievements and reflected upon what the monogram means at Notre Dame. The connected nature of the letters is no coincidence, he explained. The N and the D interlock, because while earning the monogram is an individual accomplishment, it symbolizes a student-athlete's successes as a member of a team.
"You earn the monogram. You don't get it," Swarbrick said. "You started the process of being excellent enough to have the Notre Dame monogram way before you got here."
"It brings with it special responsibility because every time you wear that jacket, you represent everybody who helped you earn it. You represent the university, you represent a team, you represent a family, and you represent everyone who came before you who won that letter."
While the letter jacket embodies athletic triumphs and academic success at Notre Dame, it also serves as a reminder of the resolve and determination it takes for student-athletes to achieve in the professional world once their time at the University has come to an end.
Former Irish wide receiver Lake Dawson ('94), a six-year veteran of the National Football League, stressed the importance of this lesson in the evening's keynote address. Dawson is now entering his seventh season in the Tennessee Titans front office, and currently serves as the organization's Vice President of Player Personnel.
"For me, the Monogram Club is distinguished and worth celebrating because it is a symbol of Notre Dame's principles," Dawson said. "As student-athletes at Notre Dame, we embrace a higher standard, and strong belief in faith, God, values, tradition, hard work, being purpose-driven and a commitment to excellence. This standard has helped shape and mold the success I've achieved in my life and will do the same for you both professionally and personally."
Dawson also encouraged the student-athletes to take advantage of every opportunity they are presented with while at Notre Dame.
"Get to know the people in your dorm, get to know your other fellow student-athletes, get involved in the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, get to know your administrators, get to know your professors. You never know when your paths may cross," he said. "One day you're going to look back, just like I was today, you're going to see your name up that wall and going to want to show that to your kids. You won't believe the great things you'll accomplish and some of the wonderful people that you'll accomplish them with."
At the conclusion of Dawson's address, Hunter welcomed faculty athletic representative Patricia Bellia to the podium, who invited the student-athletes up to the stage by sport. During the presentation of each group, coaches and administrators joined the athletes to celebrate the accomplishment, along with Swarbrick, Dawson, University president Rev. John I. Jenkins, C.S.C. ('76, '78) and Monogram Club president Dick Nussbaum ('74 & '77, baseball).
After the announcement of each team, sophomore volleyball libero Erin Klosterman spoke to her fellow student-athletes, sharing her unique experience as a transfer student and describing what it meant to receive the prestigious honor from the Monogram Club.
"Every time we put on that uniform, it is not the number on the jersey that is important, rather it is the large ND that we wear proudly," Klosterman said. "We are representing more than ourselves. We are representing the University of Notre Dame."
"As the newest members of the Monogram Club we represent Notre Dame now more than ever," she added.
Breaking away from the scheduled agenda, the ceremony also featured a special honorary monogram presentation, as Hunter invited volleyball head coach and 1999 honorary monogram recipient Debbie Brown to the stage to present the final jacket of the evening to Jack Swarbrick.
"Your vision and leadership are having an incredible impact on our student-athletes' success in their respective sports, as well as a positive impact in our local community and the opportunities afforded through innovative facility design and usage," Brown said.
"I was hoping you would talk about the significance of the interlocking ND, and you didn't disappoint me. You understand more clearly than anyone what this means and you have lived it, you have earned it and we want to celebrate it with you."
More than a dozen Notre Dame head coaches joined the festivities on stage, including 1997 honorary monogram recipient Muffet McGraw, who outfitted Swarbrick with the jacket.
The presentation came as a complete surprise to the fifth-year vice president and director of athletics.
"I'm truly honored, but not worthy," Swarbrick said. "The decision is really very easy to be here because of the people I get to work with, and because I get to work with all of you - student-athletes, coaches, administrators - I have a special understanding of how I don't deserve this honor, but I will cherish it and I will wear this jacket proudly."
Fr. Jenkins concluded the evening, thanking Dawson for returning for the ceremony, recognizing Swarbrick's dedication to enriching the lives of student-athletes and offering a prayer of gratitude for all the blessings bestowed upon the athletic department and monogram winners.
2013 SPRING LETTER JACKET RECIPIENTS