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viewpoint

To the ND family from Irish Guard alumni

| Friday, September 5, 2014

The Notre Dame Irish Guard is no more. Last spring, for one reason or another — inclusiveness, political correctness, or the rare occasions of poor judgment not uncommon amongst college students — the Administration dismantled this unique and treasured 65-year-old tradition. It was killed quietly behind the closed doors of the Main Building and pronounced dead in The Observer’s final issue before the summer vacation.

Tradition: difficult to define or summarize, yet its mention invariably elicits strong emotions. It’s a concept less sacred these days everywhere in contemporary society, as progress triumphs over history. Progress, of course, is often the stated motive for changing traditions, but change ought only be termed “progress” when a tangible net benefit results. Change for its own sake lacks vision and understanding. This has been the fate of the Irish Guard.

Don’t know what the Guard is? Don’t care that it’s gone? Here is why you should:

The Irish Guard is unique to Notre Dame. For generations of Guardsmen, families, visitors and fans, the Guard was the thing cherished and remembered most from time spent on campus. For decades, a cadre of imposing, stern-faced students clad in Notre Dame Tartan have marched alongside the band. No other university has anything quite like it. Unfortunately, the Irish Guard is not what it once was.

“But wait, didn’t I see the Irish Guard do the Victory Clog on Saturday?” Indeed, there were eight students wearing the uniform. But the eight band members in uniform last week came into their positions after all returning Guardsmen — and the decades-old traditions of which they were stewards — were shown the door.

Today, virtually everything that distinguished the Irish Guard from a color guard has been eliminated. Gone is the famed Inspection, where old Guards and new Guards came together in a unique and public display of stoicism and camaraderie. Gone are the open tryouts where any Notre Dame student — not just members of the marching band — could earn their spot. Gone is the imposing height requirement, which inspired admiration among fans and dismay among opposing football teams. Gone is the shared lineage that links 2014 to the experiences of 1978 and the stories of 1949.

Gone is the tradition. Nothing has been kept, save for the uniforms.

Gutting a tradition such as the Irish Guard for the sake of arbitrary ideals like “citizenship” is not something that can be swept under a rug. It is unfair and unjust to describe the surreptitious disposal of a great tradition as merely a “revision.”

Moreover, the new protocol of selecting Guardsmen only from the ranks of the band, on the pretense that doing so will provide “a stronger pool of applicants” that “exemplify the best qualities of a Notre Dame student,” (“Band restructures Irish Guard,” May 2) alienates all former and formerly aspiring Guardsmen. Such claims also suggest that our service to Our Lady’s University was somehow tainted while simultaneously questioning the character of all Guardsmen.

The Notre Dame Administration and Band leaders suggest that “model Notre Dame students” can be found only in the marching band and that only with these changes will this new Guard include “the kind of person you want for a manager or a CEO of a company.” This is not so. Our ranks include veterans of our nation’s Armed Forces, doctors, corporate executives, entrepreneurs, teachers and community leaders. We owe much of the success in our lives beyond Notre Dame to our education and the habits of discipline, leadership and teamwork that the Guard helped to form. We regret that the Administration and Director of Bands have precluded the vast majority of the student body from sharing in this experience.

It is with sadness that we write this letter. We felt it necessary after an online petition, signed by nearly 3,000 students, alumni and fans of the traditional Irish Guard, was sent to and subsequently ignored by the University, the Department of Student Affairs and the Director of Bands. We hope that, if nothing else, other traditions will be given more thorough consideration before being discarded, as the Irish Guard we knew and loved has been.

In Notre Dame,

Tomas Abrate

Class of 2014

Thomas Altmeyer

Class of 1969

Alex Andreichuk

Class of 1997

Joseph P. H. Babington, Esq.

Class of 1981

Michael Baer

Class of 2011 

Paul Balthrop, MD

Class of 2000

Mark A. Baumgartner

Class of 1978

S. Louis Bridges, Jr., MD, PhD

Class of 1980

Thomas Brisken

Class of 1998

Louis C. Blaum, III, MD, Lt. Col., USAFR

Class of 1993

Matt Clary

Class of 2013

Pat Conklin

Class of 1981

Mike Decker

Class of 1995

Chris Digan

Class of 1981

David A. Ellett

Class of 2013

Justin Funk

Class of 2005

Tim Goldsmith

Class of 2008

Brian T. Hardy, MD, MBA

Class of 1998

Kevin Hardy, DDS, MBA, JD

Class of 2002

Dr. Larry Hartung, USN (Ret)

Class of 1971

Joseph Harris, CPA

Class of 2006

Patrick M. Hess

Class of 2013 

Jerry Hogan

Class of 1972

Kip Horvath

Class of 1969 

Douglas Hummon

Class of 2010

Jack Keeley

Class of 1963

Nick Lambrecht, Esq.

Class of 2002

Edward Linczer

Class of 2014

David B. Leeney

Class of 2000

Joseph V Lillis, MD

Class of 2001

Brent Locey

Class of 2009

Kyle Looft, CPA

Class of 2011

Brian McDonald

Class of 1989

Thomas McGinty

Class of 2003 

Paul Madden, RA

Class of 1978

Brian Martin

Class of 2006

Connor Martin

Class of 2008

Steven McMullen

Class of 1998

John Megall

Class of 1970

Stoney Mitchell, Capt., USNR

Class of 1985

Nathan W. Mogren, DMD

Class of 2002

Patrick Newcomer

Class of 2012

Jim Osborne

Class of 2007 

Andrew Peiffer, J.D.

Class of 2011

Jack Prendergast, Rear Admiral, USN (Ret)

Class of 1979

Paul T. Raih, CFA

Class of 2001

Thomas W. Reagan, 1st Lieutenant, USAF 

Class of 2011

Timothy J. Regan, MD

Class of 1996

Paul Reuvers, Esq.

Class of 1988

Colin Rich

Class of 2011

Bruno M. Rizzo

Class of 1967

Brian T. Rush, CPA

Class of 2002

Richard Saxen, MD

Class of 2000

 R. Christopher Salata, Esq.

Class of 1998 

Andrew Steves

Class of 2010

Colin Sullivan

Class of 2012

Doug Wilson

Class of 2002

Andy Wolf

Class of 1985

Chris Wolf, CPA   

Class of 1970

Ben Wright

Class of 1999

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