A true Domer
Renee Griffin | Wednesday, October 8, 2014
Notre Dame alumni love to tell us current students that the experiences in our four years here will last us a lifetime. I think this cliché might actually be an understatement, in one case in particular.
Brigadier General James Smith, Notre Dame Law School graduate class of 1989, passed away last week from cancer complications at the age of 54. He exemplified all the best principles that Notre Dame stands for and passed on those values, and his love for this University, to the many others who survive him.
Smith was a classmate of my dad’s and they remained close friends for 28 years. About 40 members of the 1989 Law School class were present at his funeral. I can only hope the friendships I develop here are as powerful and long lasting.
Further evidence that Smith was about as Irish as you can get: he met his wife, Jenny, while they were both law students here. He proposed to her at the Grotto. They were married in the Basilica. His retirement ceremony from the Air Force, held just over a week before his death, was in the courtroom at the Eck School of Law.
Smith’s passion for Notre Dame sports also surpassed that of the average crazed alumnus. His presence at the “orange van” tailgate was all but guaranteed for every home game and his sons – Luke, 17, Matt, 11, and Joe, 10 – definitely know more about the football team than the vast majority of actual Notre Dame students.
I’m confident that few are able to stick to the motto of “God, Country, Notre Dame” as well as Smith did. He began his service in the Air Force in 1982 after four years an ROTC student at the University of Virginia, and steadily rose through the ranks, receiving praise from prominent military figures the whole way up.
He was promoted to Brigadier General in 2010, and the awards and decorations he received wouldn’t all fit into a column this size. He received letters from four different presidents thanking him for his contributions to this country. He served in places like Bosnia and Herzegovina and spent substantial time at the Pentagon, probably doing things too important for us to know about.
As great a mark as this school left on Smith, he left perhaps an even stronger impression on countless Notre Dame students in the past, present and future. Myself included.
Rest in peace, Mr. Smith, and go Irish.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.