Oct. 1, 2004
By Pete LaFleur
The Notre Dame family lost a legendary figure on May 2, 2004, as the University’s former executive vice president Rev. Edmund P. “Ned” Joyce, C.S.C., died at Holy Cross House on campus. He was 87.
The death of Father Joyce – who had been a central figure in Notre Dame’s athletic success for nearly four decades – came at a time when the athletic department already was in mourning for former athletic director Mike Wadsworth, who had passed away four days earlier at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minn. (see sidebar).
Father Joyce, whose namesake is Notre Dame’s primary athletic facility, the Joyce Center, retired in 1987 after serving 35 years as chief financial officer during the presidency of Rev. Theodore M. Hesburgh, C.S.C.
Father Hesburgh fittingly gave the eulogy at Father Joyce’s Mass of Christian Burial, held at Notre Dame’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart. His words to the congregation included a passage from a letter he had just received from Pete Dawkins, the legendary Army football player and 1958 Heisman Trophy winner who also was a standout hockey player and attended Oxford (where he starred in rugby) before becoming the youngest general in the U.S. Army history, at the age of 45.
“(The letter from) Pete Dawkins said, `Father Ned was always there when there was a problem in athletics. And he always had an answer. But the thing that shone through him in that long series of relationships with the NCAA was (that) he believed athletes should be students and students should be athletes,” said Father Hesburgh, in relaying the comments from Dawkins.
Dawkins letter also told of Father Joyce’s belief that “athletes should not just put out, but they should take in the wisdom of the schools in which they serve – and (Father Joyce) would stand up to all the naysayers and repeat that again and again.”
“And things are beginning to change because of Ned,” added Father Hesburgh.
Father Joyce’s life story is one of amazing accomplishment tempered by a humble, caring persona. Many will remember him as a tremendous fundraiser … but just as many will remember him as a nurturing priest and loyal friend.
“I think Notre Dame is a better university today because he did so many things that only he had the qualities of understanding and ability to take care of,” said Father Hesburgh, at the funeral mass. “I can’t tell you how many millions of dollars he raised to make this a better place.”
In his 1992 book, “Travels with Ted & Ned,” Father Hesburgh earlier had written, “When I was away, (Ned) was acting president, the man in charge. … I never worried for a moment about how the university was doing in my absence. I knew I had nothing to worry about. He was a man of impeccable moral character, shrewd judgment, rocklike fidelity and unfailing dependability.”
“Travels with Ned & Ted” chronicles the friendship of Notre Dame’s dynamic former leaders and highlights their exciting post-retirement journeys that included traveling thousands of miles across the great parks in the American West and Alaska, spending a month on an explorer ship that traversed the entire Amazon River, serving as co-chaplains on the oceanliner Queen Elizabeth II. for a round-the-world trip – and, finally, a return tour of duty on the explorer ship for a voyage to the Antarctic.
Jim Gibbons, Notre Dame’s former assistant vice president for special events and protocol, offered a telling tribute to Father Joyce following his death.
“Father Joyce was a respected voice in intercollegiate athletics, one listened to in NCAA and College Football Association circles,” said Gibbons. “He monitored the integrity of athletics at Notre Dame very carefully, paying particular attention to admission standards and graduation rates. He was proud of the fact that athletics at Notre Dame earned a surplus that went to support academic aspirations at the University and contributed to the overall fiscal prosperity.
“(He and Father Hesburgh) made up one of the most successful administrative teams on any American campus. ‘Ted has the books, and Ned has the tickets’ was a standard way of describing the way in which they divided their tasks – but, of course, Father Joyce’s influence extended well beyond athletics into the overall management of the fiscal fortunes of Notre Dame.”
Father Joyce was born in British Honduras (now Belize) on Jan. 26, 1917, and graduated from Spartanburg (S.C.) High School. He was the first student from South Carolina ever to attend Notre Dame and earned his bachelor’s degree in accounting, magna cum laude, in 1937. He worked with the L.C. Dodge accounting firm in Spartanburg and became a certified public accountant in ’39.
He entered Holy Cross College in Washington, D.C. – then the C.S.C.’s theological house of studies – in 1945 and was ordained to the priesthood in 1949 at Notre Dame’s Sacred Heart Church. After ordination, Father Joyce was named Notre Dame’s assistant vice president for business affairs and then acting vice president in 1949. His tenure was interrupted by a year of advanced study at Oxford University in England. He returned in ’51 as vice president for business affairs and in ’52 was elevated to executive vice president, also serving as chairman of the Faculty Board on Athletics and the University building committee.
Father Joyce was an influential voice in the NCAA, particularly dealing with educational integrity in college athletics. He was instrumental in forming the College Football Association and served as its secretary-treasurer while the National Football Foundation honored Father Joyce with its Distinguished American Award.
President Eisenhower appointed Father Joyce to the Board of Visitors of the U.S. Naval Academy, and the U.S. Air Force awarded him an Exceptional Service Medal. He was inducted into the Indiana Academy in 1990 and three endowed chairs were established in his name at Notre Dame. After retirement, Father Joyce served as honorary chair of the Badin Guild, a planned giving organization for benefactors who provide estate gifts to the University. He also was a life trustee of the University.
Gifts in honor of Father Joyce may be made to the Rev. Edmund P. Joyce, C.S.C., Fund for Notre Dame (1100 Grace Hall, Notre Dame, IN 46556).