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‘Mickey was our leader’: Notre Dame journalism program benefactor dies after battle with cancer

“There isn’t a single story. I can’t give you a single instance that I would say sums him up for me,” Notre Dame graduate Anne Thompson said. “When I think of Mickey Gallivan, that’s what I think – commitment.”

Michael Dennis Gallivan, known to friends and family as Mickey, died Aug. 22, 2022, after a long battle with cancer. 

Thompson, chief environmental affairs correspondent for NBC News, said she knew Gallivan through her work on the advisory board of the Notre Dame John W. Gallivan journalism, ethics and democracy (JED) program.

The program, which students can take to earn a minor, bears the name of Mickey’s late father, John “Jack” W. Gallivan. Both Mickey and Jack Gallivan were graduates of Notre Dame in 1967 and 1937, respectively. 

As a gift to his father’s journalistic legacy with the Salt Lake Tribune, Mickey and other family members endowed the JED program with large financial gifts in 1999. He expressed that this endowment was meant to inspire young journalists. 

“For more than 60 years, Jack Gallivan has defined what journalistic excellence should be in the communities of America. He approaches his profession as a responsibility. Fairness, a pure heart, and rational leadership have been his life’s tools. His family hopes that by this endowment the John W. Gallivan Program in Journalism, Ethics & Democracy can inspire like-minded leaders in the world’s news media,” Mickey Gallivan said in a 1999 press release written by University spokesperson Dennis Brown. 

Brown said the University is thankful for the contributions made by Mickey to Notre Dame and to journalism. 

“The Notre Dame journalism program supported by Mr. Gallivan and his family has educated scores of students who are making a difference in the field and our country. The University community joins with his family and friends in mourning his passing while celebrating a life so very well lived,” he wrote in an email. 

The JED community within the University and beyond has expressed gratitude for Mickey’s continued presence in the program and sympathies for his loss. 

Jason Kelly, the interim director of the JED program, said he enjoys using the colloquial term “Gallivan program” to describe both Jack and Mickey’s contributions to the program. 

“The shorthand as we refer to it is the Gallivan Program because, for us, that means [Mickey’s] name is on it too. We’re thinking as much of Mickey as John, and that’s a testament to the impact he had,” Kelly said. “[Mickey] wasn’t someone who wanted a lot of credit for things.”

Although Kelly said he had only recently met Mickey, he explained how impactful his generosity and interest were to students. 

“The thing that really stands out [about Mickey] is just how he was just a really nice guy, really generous guy in every sense of the term,” Kelly said. “It was really important to him to stay involved and to stay up to date on what was happening. He loved hearing about what students were doing.”

Kelly also said he believed Mickey was a great role model for JED students. 

“He’s the kind of person that we all really aspire to be and certainly someone who represents what we want our students to become – a successful person, but also someone who’s contributing broadly to the community in valuable, beneficial ways and doing it with a lot of humility,” he said.

Thompson said the lasting impact Mickey made on her was his leadership style and commitment to everything he loved. 

“[Robert Schmuhl] led the advisory board, but certainly I always thought of Mickey as a leader of that board. He would not thump his chest or speak the loudest or speak the longest, but it was his passion and commitment that made him a leader in that group,” she explained.  

Thompson noted that working with Mickey inspired her to be a better journalist.

“[Mickey] could make me want to go out, go chase stories again,” she said. “If I was in a lull, he certainly had enthusiasm and passion, and when mine was waiting, just talking to him would inspire me.”

Robert Schmuhl, the founding director of the John W. Gallivan program, wrote an in memoriam remembrance of Mickey. In the piece, Schmuhl describes Mickey as “wise and merry.”

“Mickey’s personal commitment to Notre Dame’s Gallivan Program encompassed more than two decades. He served as an original — and continuing — member of the Advisory Board, faithfully participating in all the regular meetings. He brought wise, worldly suggestions to the discussions along with a smiling measure of Irish merriment,” Schmuhl said in the remembrance. 

Schmuhl wrote in an email to The Observer that Mickey Gallivan was an advocate for ethical journalism. 

“Mickey Gallivan understood the important role journalism plays in American democracy, and he became a champion of Notre Dame’s approach that puts ethical considerations central to all journalistic work,” Schmuhl said in an email. 

Mickey Gallivan will be laid to rest on Aug. 31, 2022, in his hometown of Salt Lake City, Utah.

Bella Laufenberg

Contact Bella at ilaufenb@nd.edu