FORMER SUBWAY ALUMNI LEADER REFLECTS ON HIS "NOTRE DAME ODYSSEY"


Herb Juliano
(1922-1998)
It has been said that the truest believers are not those born to the faith, but those who are its fervent converts. Although Herb Juliano was not a Notre Dame alumni, he became one of the Notre Dame's most devoted servants. In this introductory chapter to his fascinating book Notre Dame Odyssey, Herb writes lyrically about Notre Dame, his "special place." I believe it is one of the most beautiful and insightful descriptions of the University ever written. Chapter One: The Alpha and the Omega.
I am the University. I am the spirit of Notre Dame. To some I am the broad campus and the college buildings. Others think of me as throngs of students, the faculty, the work in classrooms and in laboratories. To still others I am the games, the joy, the excitement, the spirit of winning, the pride. I am the University you selected to attend, the school you chose to be your Alma Mater, the "gracious mother" who will aid you in your preparation for life. I am all of these things and more.

If the spirit of Notre Dame had voice, perhaps those would be its words. But, I believe its message would wax more personal. No one comes to Notre Dame by accident. God sends each of us here for some specific purpose. We are all drawn by a common desire to let that mysterious something about this special place rub off on us. Most of all, we are summoned by a spirit-the spirit of many great men, priests and brothers and teachers and coaches, who devoted their lives to nurturing that indomitable spirit.

Michael Novak, in his book "THE JOY OF SPORTS" (Basic Books, New York, 1976), wrote: "The very words Notre Dame mean a certain kind of spirit: a spirit of never quitting, of using one's wit, of playing with desperate seriousness and intense delight, of achieving not just excellence, but a certain kind of flair that must be thought of as gift and grace. You can't think of Notre Dame without invoking a world in which grace and the miraculous are as linked to human excellence as atmosphere to earth."

There is no university in the world whose name is more synonymous with "spirit" than the University of Notre Dame. Yet, there is nothing more difficult to define than the Notre Dame spirit. Who or what, precisely, is responsible for this spirit has inspired a great deal of speculation. Perhaps the definitive answer lies in the words of Notre Dame's President Emeritus, Father Theodore M. Hesburgh: "A proud Notre Dame tradition of doing everything with style, spirit and excellence." Or, in the words of another observer, perhaps it is "just one more reflection of Notre Dame's commitment to excellence."

One thing is certain: it is easy to misunderstand Notre Dame without visiting the campus, and it is hard to visit the campus without seeing that Catholic education is Notre Dame's reason for being, although multi-million-dollar football television contracts in recent years have raised some eyebrows.

Nevertheless, its majesty on the football field is merely an extension of the inspiring leadership provided through the years by the University itself. Its remarkable endurance as a symbol of college football merely reflects an unwavering standard of excellence.

The reputation and glory of Notre Dame football is kept alive from year to year not by any one man, but by many men and boys who come from all walks of life to give more of themselves than might be expected, because they are realizing a dream.

Many people equate the beginning of Notre Dame football tradition with the games, legends and eras of some of its more prominent and contemporary personalities. To be sure, names like Rockne and Gipp and the Four Horsemen are all but synonymous with Notre Dame football, but it is interesting to note that the Fighting Irish played their first game a year before Knute Rockne was born.

Throughout the first twenty-five years of Notre Dame football, 1887-1912, coaches like James L. Morrison, Frank Hering (Notre Dame's first full-time football coach who is also credited with the establishment of Mothers' Day), Thomas Barry and Jack Marks, to mention a few, were building a tradition with a cumulative 113-31-13 record. During this period, James F. Faragher led the Irish to their first undefeated season of intercollegiate football, in 1903, scoring 292 points against their opponents cumulatively, while not allowing a single point to be scored against themselves. That year, Louis "Red" Salmon captained the team and won honors as Notre Dame's first All American player, earning him the position of coach the following year. [Editor's note: see the Out Of Bounds section of the Irish Reveries page for more on Red Salmon]

Around the turn of the century, when baseball was the preeminent college sport, Notre Dame consistently fielded quality teams, sending more players to the professional ranks than any other college. It was during this period that several legends were born, including those of Cap Anson, John Henry Shillington and Louis Sockalexis, all of whom will be written about in the following pages.

Over the years, Notre Dame's basketball teams have consistently defeated larger schools which take pride in their hardcourt prowess. Often during the six years in which I lived in the Athletic and Convocation Center (now named for Father Edmund P. Joyce), I would take guests up to the auxiliary press box with me to watch a game of major consequence, when the unnerving roar made it impossible to exchange a single word, and almost always the Fighting Irish would come through with the expected upset. But the name of the game that made the tradition is football.

This book is the issue of love and egoism. For most of the past forty-two years, this beautiful campus with its hallowed halls, lakes, walks, buildings and graveyards has been my home. When I first set foot and eyes on the Notre Dame campus, I fell in love with the natural beauty, the mood, the tempo, the spirit, the history and the tradition of this place. It is a love affair which has endured without dimming to this day.

Here at Notre Dame the excitement of growth still abounds, just as it has since the golden dome, Notre Dame's familiar landmark and the shining symbol of its tradition, first cast its glint across the Indiana plains. As a campus dweller for most of these years, I was witness to it daily. Having lived in nine buildings on the campus, including the Athletic and Convocation Center, the focal point of activity for present-day coaches and athletes, just across the street from the football stadium, I could almost feel the presence of the great ghosts. George Gipp, perhaps the most controversial and multi-talented man ever to play for Notre Dame, whose untimely death brought him a measure of immortality; the Four Horsemen, who won immortality on the typewriter of Grantiand Rice: "Outlined against a blue-gray October sky."

At pep-rallies, when the band strikes up the most famous fight song in the world, "Cheer, Cheer for Old Notre Dame," even the most intellectual student finds himself as wildly carried away in the uproar as generations of Notre Dame men before him. The festooning streamers, the firecrackers, the band, the placards, the buttons, the hawkers, the upsets, the classic confrontations, the games of the year, the games of the century, the battles of the north, east, south and west-all of these things and more at once reflect and contribute to the ever-living, ever-loving Notre Dame spirit. But, first and foremost, Notre Dame is people.

In my capacities as assistant to the late Joe Boland on the Irish Football Network, as radio-television sportscaster, as curator of the International Sports and Games Research Collection, as research assistant in the Sports lnfotmation Department, and as founder and director of the National Subway Alumni Association, I encountered living links to the Notre Dame tradition almost daily. It was commonplace to rub elbows and break bread with Edward "Moose" Krause, Notre Dame's human landmark; with the late Donald C. "Chet" Grant, one of Rockne's great quarterbacks and George Gipp's teammate and roommate, who later coached under Elmer Layden and who has written brilliantly of his life and times with Rockne; and with Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Executive Vice President Emeritus and former chairman of the Faculty Board in Control of Athletics, an articulate man with an aura of strength about him.

Notre Dame has long been deeply involved with athletics at all levels- recreational, intramural, club and intercollegiate. There are many and mixed reasons for this involvement, not the least being its commitment to a belief that sports add a dimension to our sense of what it is to be human, including, as they often do on this campus, welcome interludes of festivity. Notre Dame has pledged itself to excellence in both education and athletics. Sports have been a factor that has held the Notre Dame family together over many difficult years. They have been part of the curious mix that makes Notre Dame "a place with a sense of place."

Though Notre Dame, like most other colleges, is feeling the winds of change, (everywhere you look there is demolition and construction), the link back to the past is, remarkably, as strong today as ever. Once a year I am reminded of the earliest days of the University. At Christmas time, Potawatomi Indians from Dowagiac and other southern Michigan communities, representing forefathers who inhabited an Indian Mission on the land that would later become Notre Dame, make their annual trek to the campus to accept gifts of food, in keeping with a tradition started by Father Edward Sorin, C.S.C., when he founded the University.

I have spent countless hours listening to the old priests and brothers tell tales of the "superstition tree," the ghost of Washington Hall, the water pump near the old field house where disagreements between students were finally settled by fisticuffs, the intriguing chain of events surrounding the jeweled crown presented to the University as a gift by Empress Eugenie, wife of Napoleon III, who was himself a generous benefactor, and many other legends from the past. Tradition is reflected everywhere.

I am fortunate, indeed, that my life has taken me deep into the realm of spirited and spiritual Notre Dame life. I have met and mingled with champions-players, coaches, administrators, trainers, and cheerleaders. I cherish these friendships, but most of all I cherish the memory of students I have known and come to love. Make no mistake about it, Notre Dame's most valuable resource is its students. In my daily prayers, I thank God for having sent them into my life.

If I were to pick the perfect time and place to extol the beauty-both natural and spiritual-of the Notre Dame campus, it most certainly would be at 6:45 in the evening at the grotto. It is precisely at that moment, every day of the year, without exception, ihat a small group of faithful comprised of students, staff, religious and friends of the University, begin a recitation of the Holy Rosary in devotion to the Lady after whom the school is named. And it is at this time, for the better part of the year, that the sun is setting beyond the mirrored lake of St. Mary's, splashing its rays of reds, pinks and blues across the stone face of the grotto and onto the white and blue image of Our Lady as she looks down from her perch, in the rocks.

It was here, to the grotto, that I brought my troubled mind on my very first visit to the Notre Dame campus, after having been told by the good Brother Superior that, in his opinion, I really didn't want to be a Holy Cross Brother. And it was here, by the grace of God, that an unidentified Brother appeared who, recognizing my torment, suggested that perhaps I would be more interested in training to be a Brother in the Priests' Province. These Brothers, he said, were trained to work in offices and departments at Notre Dame, an exciting and rewarding life about which Father Daniel O'Neill, the vocations director, would be happy to talk with me.

Even in the short time I had been on campus, I sensed that this was a special place where one could find happiness in a dedicated life. I agreed to talk with Father O'Neill and set in motion the wheels that would take me on a long journey, fascinating and exciting, through the worlds of spirituality and sports on the Notre Dame campus. Though this journey has culminated in a full circle, taking me back to the grotto where it started, the journey is not over.

In these, my "retirement" years, I seldom miss a rosary at the grotto, often leading the hymn singing and the praying of the decades. Sometimes, on a cold and blustery Christmas Eve, when all the students have abandoned the campus and snow covers the ground around the Nativity scene in front of the grotto, Brother Beatus and I will be the only semblance of the faithful, but the rosary is recited. Notre Dame may cancel Masses in Sacred Heart Church when there is a conflict
in time with football game kick-offs, but the rosary at the grotto is never canceled. And usually, at some point during these Christmas Eve rosaries, Brother Dennis, chief sacristan of Sacred Heart Church, can be seen trudging through the snow to place the infant Jesus in the crib that is part of the Nativity.

Then comes spring, followed by summer, bringing with it a renewal of appreciation of life and the beauty of creation. The beauty of summer flowers in meticulously tended flower beds, the birds singing in the trees that surround the grotto, makes it easy for one to share in God's joy at His creation when He once said, "it is good."

Here at Notre Dame one is fortunate to be surrounded on all sides by the peaceful beauty of God's creation. The squirrels that roam the grounds brazenly begging for bits of food, and the ducks and geese that frequent the two natural lakes, St. Mary's and St. Joseph's, keep one in touch with nature's ever-renewing life cycle. They lead us beyond what can be seen to the Unseen One who walks beside us on life's journey. The days of summer are a time of grace at Notre Dame. The quiet evenings at the grotto when we are usually joined by a few summer school students who are trying desperately in six short weeks to become a part of the spirit of this place. The visitors who are here for a conference or seminar and who roam the campus during their precious free time looking for bits of history.

Autumn, of course, is a special time at Notre Dame. It's that time of year when Mother Nature spreads her most colorful carpet; when the red fires smoulder on trees and ivy covered walls; when optimistic students return to their habitats in anticipation of a new academic year; and the campus crackles with the prospects of a crisp, new football season.

This is the Notre Dame that few are privileged to experience; the far cry from the tumult and the shouting at football and basketball games that causes you to fear for your very hearing. Yet, those experiences, too, are part and parcel of life at this exciting institution.

My Notre Dame odyssey has produced personal memoirs touching on five decades at Our Lady's University, though I cannot include all incidents and events as they are too numerous to relate or recall. I will, however, make an effort to include all those people, things and events which could help you form an imaginary mosaic in your mind of this "special place."

Herb Juliano 1993

To read previous installments of Herb's archive please click below:

August 1998