April 25, 2014
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 on April 15 at Club Naimoli in the Purcell Pavilion at the Joyce Center.
More than 80 student-athletes, cheerleaders, managers and trainers, were joined by parents, family members and athletics department staff in recognition of earning their first Monogram.
While varsity letters have been awarded since the Club's inception, the jacket ceremony, a much newer celebration of the Notre Dame Monogram tradition, was introduced in 2008.
In one of his first Monogram Club events since returning to the University in March, new Executive Director Brant Ust ('00, baseball) served as the evening's master of ceremonies. He noted that of the 130,000 living Notre Dame alumni, less than 8,000--about 6 percent--have been endowed with the Monogram.
"Be proud of what you've accomplished here tonight, and be mindful of those that have been with you during the journey--teammates, coaches, administrators, support staff, professors--a lot of people have helped you get to this point, and will continue to help you beyond tonight," Ust said.
After a few opening words, Ust introduced Tricia Bellia, Notre Dame Professor of Law and Chair of the Faculty Board on Athletics. Bellia, who received an honorary Monogram in 2011, encouraged recipients to take a close look at the interlocking ND on the front of their jacket, and think about what it symbolizes.
"Those who have worn Monograms before you, they are not just former Notre Dame student-athletes," Bellia said. "They are military officers, judges, U.S. attorneys, broadcasters, political leaders, and world-class surgeons. Know that you, too, have the tools for success and support structure around you to make the most of that opportunity."
Bellia commended recipients for their achievements, and also added that the evening was the beginning of a new journey and a new challenge.
"The Monogram on your jacket says that you represent Notre Dame today, you'll represent Notre Dame tomorrow, and you'll represent Notre Dame in everything you do in your future," she said. "So cherish that opportunity, and my hope for all of you is that you can draw on the tradition, the unity, the dedication and sacrifice, and the accomplishments that the interlocking ND represents, to help you achieve your full potential as a student, and an athlete here at Notre Dame, and in all that you do in the future."
In the evening's keynote remarks, president Haley Scott DeMaria ('95, swimming) spoke about her experience, and what the Monogram Club means to her.
She recalled the first time she heard the term 'Monogram,' on her recruiting visit in 1991. Following the trip, she decided she was going to attend Notre Dame, and did so with the goal of monogramming for four years.
"I swam when I came here, but I only monogrammed once. And that is the beauty of this evening. That is the beauty of receiving your first Monogram," DeMaria said.
"Whether this is your only Monogram, or your first of four years, you are a lifelong member of this Club."
Through that lifelong membership, DeMaria has built lasting friendships with Monogram winners across the decades--a football manager who graduated in the 1950's, a baseball player from the 1970's, a class of 1989 lacrosse alumnus--and from numerous walks of life--a two-time Olympic gold medalist, a 10-year NBA veteran and a future general in the U.S. Army, just to name a few.
While each of their experiences as student-athletes were different, they are forever united by the common bond of competing for Notre Dame.
Following DeMaria's remarks, Ust invited forward manager for Monogram/football alumni relations Reggie Brooks ('93, football), who called the first-time Monogram winners to the stage. During the presentation of each program, coaches and administrators also joined the student-athletes to celebrate the accomplishment on stage.
Senior men's soccer goalie Adam LaPlaca concluded the program, reflecting upon the Monogram and what it means to be a Notre Dame student-athlete.
Echoing the mantra of his head coach, Bobby Clark, LaPlaca told his fellow student-athletes, "Wherever you are, you must always remember who you are, where you are, and what you represent."
Like Bellia and DeMaria before him, LaPlaca explained that Monogram recipients represent much more than themselves, especially when they put on the interlocking ND.
"You represent everything that Notre Dame stands for--honor, faith, courage, determination, and excellence. You represent your families, and everyone who has supported you, to get you where you are today."
In just six short years, the letter jacket ceremony has become one of the Monogram Club's signature events, and a memorable moment in the Notre Dame career of students who are recognized.
One such member of the Fighting Irish family, senior Johnny Romano, served as this year's football and men's basketball leprechaun. A third generation Domer, Romano grew up hoping to attend Notre Dame, but never imagined he would earn a Monogram.
"To be here with my cousin [football senior] Joe [Romano], my teammates and all these people I've gotten to know through my four years at Notre Dame, and to be able to join that Club, and just be part of an outstanding tradition at Notre Dame really means everything to me," he said.
With each ceremony, and each new group of student-athletes who become members of the Club, it becomes clear just how meaningful it is to receive that first Monogram.
As DeMaria told the student-athletes in attendance, "Being a Monogram winner is one of the accomplishments of which I'm most proud, probably second only to being a parent, and you'll understand that someday when you are a parent."
2014 Spring Letter Jacket Recipients