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Rockne honored at Ellis Island

Sam Davis | Friday, April 23, 2004

Late Notre Dame football coach Knute Rockne was one of six Americans honored at a ceremony Wednesday at the Statue of Liberty.

The Ellis Island Family Heritage Award was presented to members of Rockne’s family, including John, his only living offspring.

This award celebrates Ellis Island as the door to America for the 17 million immigrants who set foot on U.S. soil there. At the age of five, Rockne came to the United States through Ellis Island with his mother and sisters.

Other recipients of this year’s Ellis Island Family Heritage Award included film director Martin Scorese, National Football League commissioner Paul Tagliabue, former U.S. Treasury Secretary Robert Rubin and Nobel Prize winner Harold Varmus.

Besides Rockne, those recipients are the grandchildren of Ellis Island immigrants.

Each award included the presentation of a copy of the original ship’s passenger manifest documenting the recipient’s, or the recipient’s ancestor’s, arrival at Ellis Island.

Chinese-American architect I.M. Pei became the first recipient of the new Peopling of American Award, which is given to a United States immigrant who doesn’t trace his roots to Ellis Island.

Along with Rockne’s family at Wednesday’s ceremony, were Notre Dame representatives John Heisler, associate director of athletics, and Matthew Storin, associate vice president for news and information.

On March 31, the 73rd anniversary of Rockne’s fatal plane crash, the Kansas Turnpike Authority dedicated a memorial very close to the location where Rockne died.

Rockne was the Notre Dame football coach from 1918-30. He won three consensus national titles (1924, 1929 and 1930). His .881 winning percentage (105-12-5) is the highest winning percentage in college football history.