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Observer alumnus leaves $50k estate gift to paper, establishes Observer Technology Fund

| Friday, March 19, 2021

In 1967, the freshly established Observer printed an ad calling for help in any department. John McCoy, Notre Dame class of 1969, answered. He worked on layout, managed with the business department, assisted anyone who needed help and later became a columnist. McCoy made a mark on The Observer then.

In early 2020, McCoy left for a ski trip in Taos, New Mexico. He was unreachable for a few days; his sister contacted local authorities and reported him missing. A few weeks later, McCoy was presumed dead. His family hosted a memorial service in February 2020 where his friends and family grieved and eulogized his memory. His remains were later found in June of 2020.

In late 2020, McCoy’s sisters connected with University officials to grant one of McCoy’s wishes. A gift of $50,000 was granted to the paper from his estate, establishing a new Observer Technology Fund on Feb. 6, making a mark on The Observer now.

Photo of John McCoy.

News of the gift shocked Managing Editor, senior Mariah Rush.

“We found out as a surprise on a Zoom call; it was just a normal budget meeting,” Rush said. “It was in right before Christmas, and we kind of just said it was like a Christmas gift.”

One of McCoy’s best friends and fellow Observer alumnus Dennis Gallagher (Notre Dame class of 1968) wasn’t as surprised.

“He was very, very systematic about things like that,” Gallagher said. “It was a decision to support one element of Notre Dame that he especially loved.”

Gallagher and McCoy met during their time working at The Observer. They bonded during late nights at the office, establishing a bond that lasted long after leaving the tri-campus community.

After graduating, the pair wrote letters to stay in touch while Gallagher was in graduate school and McCoy served in the Peace Corps. They maintained their friendship throughout the years by meeting up to go to Notre Dame football games and hockey games. 

“I’ve known him, it seems like all my life but actually only since I was 20,” he said. “He is the godfather of my son and used to go Christmas caroling with us when we had a neighborhood Christmas caroling. It’s a very long friendship. I really miss him.”

And it all started at the paper. After late nights of producing pages, Observer staffers would head to Louie’s Pizza to eat, drink and talk about life.

“We would talk about the world; we talk about the war,” Gallagher said. “We’d talk about journalism and whether we wanted to do it. John was a business major in a group of English majors, and he was interested in the paper, but I think he saw his future in accounting and then in law. But he also wanted to see the world, which he started to do with the Peace Corps and continued his all adult life going on all sorts of places. It was a small group. A very close one at the time.”

Gallagher spoke at McCoy’s memorial service where he saw many of McCoy’s friends from Notre Dame, including Observer staffers from the class of ’68 who took McCoy under their wing.

“I think all of us, especially John, we went on to the lives that were really enriched by our experience with The Observer whether or not we continued in journalism,” Gallagher said. “They’re my people after more than 50 years — 53, I guess this year.”

The proof of these close bonds is evident in McCoy’s gift to the paper, junior Editor-in-Chief Adriana Perez said.

“It warms my heart. It’s great to see the lasting relationships and connections that come from working on the paper beyond just the student journalism that we’re doing, which is in itself, very important,” Perez said. “Just thinking about the important role that The Observer plays in so many lives — I can’t even fathom it. This is just like a small glimpse into that.”

The Fund will help future generations of the paper, Rush said, something that’s comforting knowing that she will graduate this spring. 

“It was such a weight lifted off my shoulders even though I wasn’t really specifically worried about our debt,” she said. “But just knowing student journalists in the coming years could have better computers and potentially not lose all of their work, that pretty much solidifies that — obviously The Observer is going to continue on, obviously, we want it to continue on forever — but this is definitely a huge step towards that.”

Perez said she is thankful for the gift and what it means for the paper now and in the future.

“Technology is the way forward, and I’m sure we’ll find more uses in terms of bringing The Observer into the digital world a little bit more as well,” Perez said. “But more generally, too, I hope that this indicates that there are people out there willing to support us, not only financially, but also just who understand the importance of the mission of the paper here for the tri-campus community.”

Knowing the Observer Technology Fund was started by an alumnus makes it all the more special to Rush.

“It just means the most coming from someone who did so much and had such a strong bond with his fellow Observer people and his fellow peers,” she said. “It’s heartbreaking to hear about the passing of someone who lived so well and had such good friends that they still kept in contact with, but it’s comforting to know The Observer has an angel-type figure, people that really still appreciate The Observer.”

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About Maria Leontaras

Maria Leontaras is a senior at Saint Mary's pursuing a student-designed major in Interactive Journalism with minors in mathematics and Journalism, Ethics and Democracy. Maria used to serve as the Editor-in-Chief of The Observer when she wasn't busy tweeting about movies and One Direction.

Contact Maria