By Scott Frano ’13
Alumni Association Writing Intern
You don’t have to be a Notre Dame alum to join a Notre Dame club, and the Notre Dame Club of Gettysburg has shown that you just need a love of the University to be repeatedly recognized for outstanding work.
The Gettysburg club was given the Outstanding Club Award for Size F at the most recent Alumni Senate in April. It was the club’s third victory in that category since the club was approved in 2004.
But what makes the Gettysburg club’s success even more special is that only 13 of the club’s 152 members are actually Notre Dame alumni; 92 percent of the members are “subway alums” whose love of the University isn’t diminished by the fact they don’t have a Notre Dame degree.
John A. Murphy ’55 started organizing the club in 2003. He wanted to strengthen the ties between Notre Dame and Gettysburg already in place with twin statues of Rev. William Corby, C.S.C. One stands on the Gettysburg battlefield, the other in front of Corby Hall on campus, and both show him offering general absolution to the members of the Irish Brigade before battle. Corby was Notre Dame’s president from 1866-72 and from 1877-81.
Murphy realized that he would need non-alums to join due to the small number of graduates in the area. He was not deterred, though, as he had been amazed at the passion of a subway alum he previously met in Long Island. As it turned out, he did not have to search too hard to find more members.
“We only have one Catholic high school in our area, south central Pennsylvania, called Delone Catholic High School,” Murphy said. “People came from a little town called McSherrystown, and they were so devoted to their community and their high school that they also loved Notre Dame. I was seeing a lot of energy coming toward us for getting involved in club activities.”
Club member Jim Conrad joined the club near its inception upon hearing about it from a friend. He said the club recruits new members, mostly non-alums, but that they are careful to emphasize that the club is about more than just supporting the football team.
“One of the reasons our club is fairly big for a small area is that when we see someone wearing a Notre Dame hat or shirt we’ll talk to them about the club and ask if they would like to come join,” Conrad said. “Most of them are subway alumni, not grads .... We do not pump up the club as a means of getting tickets to football games. We go out and we find people who have a love for Notre Dame — the University, not just the football program.”
Many alums vividly remember their first time stepping on campus, and the same is true for subway alums. Current club president Rick Staub first visited Notre Dame in 1986 for a football game against USC and was stunned when he walked onto the campus.
“As soon as my wife and I walked on campus, we looked at each other and were like, ‘Wow’,” Staub said. “It was unbelievable.”
Eight club members, including Murphy, Staub, and Conrad, attended Alumni Senate this year on campus to receive the award. The awards carry huge weight for the subway alums.
“It gives us recognition,” Conrad said. “It shows that the Alumni Association thinks we’re important and that we’re part of the group .... Speaking for myself, there’s always a little piece of me that says I’m not an absolute member because I did not graduate from Notre Dame. But Notre Dame has welcomed us and continues to welcome us.”
For Staub, membership in the Gettysburg club has provided him with an amazing opportunity.
“If you love the University and want to get involved and have your name associated with it, it’s the place to go,” Staub said. “As someone who never had a chance to attend Notre Dame, this is quite an experience.”