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I knew this was the place for me’

Megan Doyle | Friday, September 7, 2012

Editor’s Note: This story is the second installment in a two-part series on University President Emeritus Fr. Edward Malloy’s presence at Notre Dame. This series is also the second of three similar “From the Office of the President” series on the University presidency to appear in coming weeks.

Before he was a University president, Fr. Edward Malloy was a basketball player.

In four years of basketball at Archbishop Carroll High School in Washington, D.C., he kicked off what would become a 55-game winning streak for his team through his senior year season and the season to follow. Notre Dame was one of 50 schools to offer him a college scholarship to play basketball while earning his degree.

“I came and visited Notre Dame, and I knew this was the place for me,” Malloy said. “I loved it from the first time I arrived.”

Malloy’s official basketball career at Notre Dame ended in the early 1960s, but the lessons he learned as an athlete returned to him when he ascended to the University’s Office of the President in 1987.

“I can honestly say I was never intimidated by the job or felt overwhelmed by the possibility,” Malloy said. “My athletic career, I’m competitive, so there’s something about my strength as an athlete, as a player. … I played at high levels, and so when somebody was a challenge in the big game, I think there’s something about that that prepares you well for various kinds of leadership roles.”

Malloy led Notre Dame through 18 years of immense growth, but he stepped into big shoes when he assumed the position. His predecessor, University President Emeritus Fr. Ted Hesburgh, had just resigned after 35 monumental years.

“Fr. Ted was great to me in the transition and encouraged me to be my own person and do it my way, not to imitate him,” Malloy said.

And Malloy did just that.

“I really believe in group effort,” he said. “I think my experience in basketball, we were successful I think especially in high school because it was a team orientation, so that’s the way I’ve always been. Not that Ted wasn’t team-oriented, but I think in his time in history, he was trying to lead Notre Dame in a very dramatically different direction, and that required a lot of effort on his part.

“For example, he was always a great international citizen and involved in a lot of activities. … I saw my goal as bringing the University in the same international direction that he tried to establish by his own personal example and leadership. I wanted the whole University to go in that direction.”

Malloy expanded Notre Dame’s international presence from nine countries to 17 by the end of his term.

“We had more affiliations with colleges and universities abroad,” he said. “There’s a lot more of our faculty and our administration traveling and building bonds and so on … like what happened in Ireland [last weekend at the Emerald Isle Classic].”

Notre Dame connections followed Malloy throughout his travels to 80 different countries. A couple even recognized him in a hotel in Lhasa, Tibet.

“I could be in some obscure country, and somebody comes up to me in the airport or some restaurant or something ’cause I’m Notre Dame and they’re Notre Dame,” he said. “It’s an amazing experience.”

Malloy’s term was not without controversies of its own, however.

In 1991, African-American and Hispanic students staged a sit-in outside the registrar’s office against the University’s slow progress to integrate more racial diversity into its student body and its policies, according to Notre Dame Magazine.

The University drew major controversy when Malloy presented the Laetare Medal to Sen. Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a New York lawmaker who supported abortion, in 1992.

In 1999, Malloy guided the University through its first major NCAA violation. The organization put the Irish athletic program on two-year probation following the NCAA ruling that Notre Dame committed a major violation in regards to gifts to players by a University representative, according to The Observer archives.

“I think that got negotiated well,” Malloy said of the 1999 incident. “We’ve not had any recurrence. I think we have in place better protective mechanisms.”

For every controversy at Notre Dame before, after and during his presidency, Malloy said the University has always been and will always be a place for open discussion.

“It’s a question about whether you want to be a full university where the great issues are represented and people come and give talks, and in a sense allow you to listen to them and make judgments about what you think about them, or to live in a more isolated way,” he said.

“Notre Dame was a place where the Church could do its thinking, and wecould help society think about the great issues of the day. And you can’t do that unless you invite people or have sometimes controversial topics discussed. I think we’ve done that generally quite appropriately, and I hope we’re always a place where that can go on.”

In the future, Malloy said he hopes to see the professional and graduate schools grow further. But he said seeing the school in the hands of a Holy Cross priest like current University President Fr. John Jenkins is a reassuring moment for the future of Notre Dame.

“For the Notre Dame constituency, the priest-president like Ted and myself and John represent in a sense the whole institution,” he said. “And because we celebrate Mass and do a lot of things that some lay presidents don’t do, it allows us to have a visibility and the consciousness of the peer group that you have when you’re in that role.

“So for the 18 years that I was president and for the years in which I have other roles in other people’s lives, I can hopefully represent the best of what Notre Dame is about.”

More than 50 years after he joined the Irish as a basketball player and eight years after he took a seat from the president’s position, Malloy still plays for the Notre Dame team.

“You feel good about the place you’ve given your life over to, that the next person in line is carrying it forward in pretty much the same general direction that you’ve tried to lead it,” he said.

And so we can kind of sit on the sidelines and cheer and be happy that Notre Dame is prospering.”