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Joe Kernan's lifelong passion for the University of Notre Dame

NOTRE DAME, Ind. -- Not only was Joe Kernan the former Mayor of South Bend and Governor of Indiana, but he was also a South Bend native who loved Notre Dame.

Kernan graduated from the University in 1968 with a degree in government, but growing up just down the street, his love for The Fighting Irish started early and continued throughout his life.

“Joey grew up just a few blocks from Notre Dame’s campus so it was a part of his entire life and he just loved the place and it loved him back and there wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for the University,” said Mike Collins.

Before he was the public address announcer for Notre Dame, Collins was Joe Kernan’s college roommate — living at the old Fieldhouse in the summer of 1966.

Notre Dame shaped both men as they pursued their careers.

“I think it defined him, what he learned about ethics at Notre Dame,” said Collins. “And I think that’s what carried Joe through his political career.”

Kernan also played catcher on the baseball team in 1967 and ‘68. His pitcher — who he found himself neck and neck with in the vote for team captain — became one of his best friends.

“I won, I was the captain and he took me out to celebrate that night, that just tells you what kind of a guy he was,” said Tom Cuggino.

The love Kernan had for the University was certainly reciprocated. Notre Dame President Rev. Jenkins released a statement, saying in part: “He was always a good friend to Notre Dame and a friend and support to me personally. We were proud to have him as an alumnus.”

Kernan also went on to be an adjunct professor at Notre Dame and gave the 1998 commencement address.

“Almost unanimously they praise him, it turned out to be one of the best commencement addresses that’s ever been delivered,” said Cuggino.

What made it one of the best — some simple words of wisdom.

“Let people get off the elevator before you get on, be civil, don’t take yourself too seriously, don’t cut in line or talk in a movie, vote – please vote,” said Kernan during the 1998 address.

And when asked what Kernan would say about the University of Notre Dame –

“Oh boy, I don’t know if we have enough time. He was just proud of the University and I think with what he accomplished during his lifetime, the University should be very proud of him,” said Cuggino. “You know there’s a saying, ‘You try to be a Notre Dame man’ and he was a Notre Dame man.”

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