ND trustee and alumnus Jimmy Dunne to deliver commencement address to class of 2021
Observer Staff Report | Tuesday, May 11, 2021
Jimmy Dunne, Notre Dame trustee and a 1978 graduate of the University, will deliver the commencement address to the Notre Dame class of 2021 and will receive an honorary doctor of laws degree, the University announced in a press release Tuesday morning.
In the aftermath of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, Dunne led the recovery of the investment bank he co-founded, Sandler O’Neill. Back then, he was one of the firm’s senior managing partners, the release said. Sixty-eight Sandler O’Neill employees lost their lives in the attacks, including Dunne’s best friend, Chris Quackenbush, as well as his mentor, Herman Sandler.
After 9/11, Dunne and the company created an assistance foundation to care for the families of the employees who died — by providing healthcare to their families, paying their salaries and bonuses and creating scholarships for their children to attend college.
According to the press release, Sandler O’Neill grew to become the largest independent full-service investment banking firm focused on the financial service sector under Dunne’s leadership. Then, in 2020, the firm was acquired by Piper Jaffray and became Piper Sandler, an investment bank in which Dunne now serves as vice chairman and senior managing principal.
University President Fr. John Jenkins said Dunne will send off the 2021 graduates with a message of commitment, honor, integrity and perseverance.
“At a time when our graduates have had to show remarkable resilience in the face of the adversity of the COVID-19 pandemic, Jimmy is someone who personified resilience in the aftermath of the tragic events 20 years ago,” Jenkins said in the release.
Named a University trustee in 2010, Dunne and his wife Susan underwrote the construction of Dunne Hall, a men’s residence hall that opened in 2016, and were among the benefactors to the construction of the Irish Athletics Center and the renovation of Rolfs Athletic Hall. Dunne received an honorary monogram from the athletics department in 2019.
The Dunne family also endowed the Ann F. Dunne and Elizabeth M. Riley Director of Notre Dame’s Harper Cancer Research Institute, alongside their friends Rich and Connie Riley.
In addition to Dunne, Thomas G. Burish — who served as the Charles and Jill Fischer Provost of Notre Dame from 2005 to 2020 — will also receive an honorary degree at the commencement ceremony. In this role, Burish oversaw many offices and programs, including colleges and schools, institutes and centers, libraries, student advising, admissions, financial aid, the Registrar’s Office, Snite Museum of Art and DeBartolo Performing Arts Center.
Some of Burish’s notable achievements during his term include the creation of the IDEA Center, the strengthening of international programs through establishing global gateways and the opening of the Donald R. Keough School of Global Affairs. Burish graduated from Notre Dame in 1972 with summa cum laude distinction.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated that Sandler O’Neill was a law firm. The Observer deeply regrets this error.