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Museum unveils Knute Rockne exhibit

Dan Brombach | Monday, October 1, 2012

Fans of Notre Dame football may be surprised to learn legendary coach Knute Rockne’s professional life extended well beyond the game he helped define.

The South Bend Studebaker Museum recently opened the exhibit “Knute Rockne: The Rest of the Story,” detailing Rockne’s involvement with the automobile manufacturer Studebaker from 1928 until his death in 1931. Museum archivist Andrew Beckman said the exhibit highlights Rockne’s role as a motivational speaker and celebrity spokesman for Studebaker, working during the football offseason so as not to interfere with his coaching duties.

Beckman said the exhibit celebrates the 125th anniversary of Notre Dame football by acquainting people with an interesting, yet lesser-known aspect of the University’s past.

“We thought this would be a great opportunity to reintroduce people to a part of Studebaker and Notre Dame history they may not have been aware of before,” he said.
Rockne was Studebaker’s prized spokesman, he said, using him in advertising campaigns and as a representative at sales and industry meetings across the country. The exhibit features old photographs from these sales meetings, as well as other advertising memorabilia.

“Studebaker would use Rockne in their promotions, in [public relations] photos, so we have a number of those from the late ’20s, including ones showing Rockne with his players hunched around a Studebaker,” Beckman said.

The exhibit also contains one of the “Rockne” line of automobiles Studebaker produced for two years after Rockne’s death in 1931.

“Very few people are aware there was an automobile named after the coach, so we have an actual 1933 Rockne five-window coupe as part of the exhibit,” Beckman said.

Based on past success with Rockne-themed exhibits, Beckman said he expects a tremendous response for the museum’s current offering.  He said most of this successncould be attributed to widespread curiosity about Knute Rockne’s life.

“Every time we do something regarding Rockne, the response is usually surprise followed by fascination,” Beckman said. “That’s what we have traditionally observed.”

Beckman said he hopes people visiting South Bend for Notre Dame football weekends will continue their support of the Studebaker Museum.

“We try and get as many people down here before the football game starts as we can,” Beckman said. “We’ve traditionally been very busy on game Saturdays, so we anticipate that carrying through this year.”

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