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Stadium head usher retires after 15 years

Anna Boarini | Friday, September 2, 2011

After 15 years of supervising students in Notre Dame Stadium and ensuring game days ran smoothly, Crowd Control Program Manager and “head usher” Russell “Cappy” Gagnon retired at the beginning of August.

Gagnon, a 1966 Notre Dame graduate, began his job at the University after working as a security supervisor with Gavin de Becker in Los Angeles.

“In the 80’s I protected celebrities with the best in the business,” Gagnon said. “I worked the security for Cher’s 1990 world tour and Neil Diamond’s California tour in 1984.”

Gagnon said his experience working in security prepared him for his job as the coordinator of stadium personnel.

“I’ve been in charge of security arrangements for some of the largest stadiums and arenas in the world,” he said.

Because of his career, Gagnon witnessed some of Notre Dame’s greatest football moments in the Stadium. His favorite was when Brady Quinn led the Irish comeback against UCLA in 2006.

While Gagnon enjoyed watching the games, his most rewarding experiences as usher were when he received positive feedback from the community, he said.

“At work … my happiest moments are when the students, alumni and guests to the stadium complimented the ushers on something we did well,” he said.

Gagnon said he loved the work and the people he worked with, but he would not miss the 70 or 80-hour weeks leading up to football games or other large on-campus events, like commencement. Instead, he said he is looking forward to being a fan again.

“I’ll be excited to get to do all the things you students get to do on game day,” Gagnon said. “I was waking up at 4 a.m., getting to the stadium when it opened at 6 a.m. and then leaving about an hour-and-a-half after the game ended. I missed out on a lot of things outside the stadium.”

Now that Gagnon is entering retirement, he is looking forward to focusing more on his hobbies, like writing. Gagnon has already written a book on the history of Notre Dame baseball and is currently working on a book about Notre Dame’s greatest athletes.

Jim Smith will take over for Gagnon as the coordinator of stadium personnel. Gagnon trained, promoted and highly recommended Smith for the job.

“When he worked for me, he was my go-to guy,” Gagnon said. “He should just keep on doing what he’s been doing. He’s done a great job.”