The ‘gardener’ got me into Notre Dame

Over the years, because I have difficulty hiding my passion for Notre Dame, I have been asked many times how I chose to come here.

Here is the short (LOL) version.

Before my senior year in high school (Gloucester, MA) my mother, father, sister and I took a 10-day driving trip to explore several colleges.  After each visit, my dad asked how I liked things.  I replied “It was nice.” Three Catholic Schools in New England (St. Anselm’s, St. Michaels, and a school in Chestnut Hill, whose name I can’t recall).  The University of Massachusetts, my dad’s alma mater.  And two Ivies (Princeton and Cornell).  The only college we visited outside of the East was Du Lac.  We got here on July 3, 1961.  Everything was closed up for the holiday weekend and they were re-gilding the Dome, like now.

We drove to Main Circle.  There was a card table on the grass with a sign — Campus Tours.  Bill Meeker, a handsome, athletic-looking student, introduced himself.  My dad asked where he was from.  “Southern California.”

He led us towards the main quad.  Past the gargoyles on top of Alumni Hall and along the wall where Rockne and two Terriers were carved.  I liked the ivy on the west side of the Law School.  As soon as I saw the Dome, I told my mother “This is where I am going to college.”  Until the day my mother passed away, at age 97, she related that when we walked past the Stadium, the tunnel gates were open and we walked down to the field, where I hugged the goalpost.  How childish of me.

When the tour ended, my dad said to my mother, “Well, since Cap wants to come here, let’s see if we can find some admissions material.”  My mother said “It’s Fourth of July weekend and everything’s closed up.”  Dad said we’d see if there was a brochure rack outside the administration building where its statue was being gilded.

As we walked towards the Dome, my dad saw an elderly man, white hair, long black pants, white T-shirt, working on the tulips in front of the building.  “Let’s ask the gardener.”

My dad asked the gardener if he knew where we could find admissions literature.  The gardener said, “Yes, I can help you.”  The gardener walked us to the basement doors, pulled out a key to unlock the door, led us to the door on the left where Admissions was then located, and then pulled out another key to let us in.

“I’m Father Moran, Dean of Admissions.”  Only at Notre Dame.  My good friend Rex Rakow used to call the CSC Priests “The Owners.”  Who else but an “owner” would be puttering in the garden on a holiday?

My dad said, “This is the only school Cap is interested in after visiting several others.”  Father Moran asked my high school subjects, grades, and SAT scores.  After I answered, he said, “You qualify for Early Decision.”  I asked what that meant.  He said, “You will apply in September and be accepted in October.”  So I applied to only one school.

Here’s some irony.  Four years later, I was in Summer School and I was the guy giving the campus tours.  One advantage I had was remembering the tour Meeker gave me.  Ten years later, I was Assistant Director of Admissions, helping motivated students gain admittance.  Thirty four years later, in charge of the Stadium Ushers, I was the person most responsible to ensure that nobody got near goalposts I once hugged.

As a final point on campus tourrs … 20 years ago, I wrote the script for the campus tour guides.