John Cardinal O’Hara Society Expands to Include All Graduate Business Programs

Author: Christine Cox

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As a Mendoza alum, you might remember the feeling of walking into your first classroom on your first day and realizing your life is about to change.

Jim Cunningham MBA ’13 certainly remembers: “I walked in and met my classmates who were so brilliant and I wondered if I would be able to keep up,” he recalls. “ Surrounding yourself with high caliber students makes everyone work harder.”

Jim has become passionate about helping others experience it, too. “There is no other school like Mendoza,” says Cunningham, the new associate director of graduate business annual giving. “So many people made it great for me, and I want to pay it forward for others. It’s the Notre Dame way.”

And now there are new ways to support Mendoza programs and students through the expansion of the John Cardinal O’Hara Society, which recognizes the most generous supporters of the graduate business programs.

Since the start of the O’Hara Society in 1999, gifts had supported the MBA and EMBA programs only. This is no longer the case.

Now all Mendoza programs will benefit from the society’s support, which means alumni of the Master of Nonprofit Administration (MNA), Master of Science in Accountancy (MSA) and Master of Science in Business (MSB) programs are eligible for membership by giving back directly to their program.

Additionally, two new Mendoza programs were announced on April 23 that will start in 2015—the Master of Science in Business Analytics (MSBA) and Master of Science in Finance (MSF). Gifts to these programs will also qualify donors for membership in the O’Hara Society.  

“Mendoza is unbelievably fortunate to have so many alumni and friends who believe strongly in our programs,” says Cunningham. “We hope this expansion will encourage more MNA, MSA and MSB alumni to consider supporting Mendoza since they can now support their programs specifically.

“We’re excited about what this will do for Mendoza students and programs.”

Named for the first dean of Notre Dame’s College of Business Administration, the University’s 13th president, and the only Holy Cross priest to be elevated to cardinal, the John Cardinal O’Hara Society recognizes alumni and friends who provide the graduate business programs with these levels of annual support:

  • Associate: $500 – $1,499 for graduate business alumni of the last five years
  • Traditional: $1,500 – $4,999
  • Dean's Circle Blue: $5,000 – $9,999
  • Dean's Circle Gold: $10,000+

Gifts provide critical support for fellowships, recruitment of top business faculty, funding for curriculum and technology enhancements, and more robust services for graduate business alumni.

Cunningham knows firsthand the power of donor support. He was able to come to Notre Dame because of a fellowship to the one-year MBA program. “That was a dream come true,” he says. “Especially for an Irish kid from the south side of Chicago.”

As an MBA candidate, Cunningham served as senior vice president of alumni relations and the lead for the MBA Class Legacy Campaign. “We worked very hard and pushed participation from 68 percent to 98 percent, an MBA record,” he says. “It was a great role because it helped me get to know so many of my classmates. There were 192 people graduating that year and I contacted many of them five or six times.”

Cunningham did such a phenomenal job with the legacy campaign that a few months after graduating from Notre Dame and starting a new job in development at a small college outside Chicago he received a call encouraging him to apply for his current position, which he started in February. “They knew I was passionate about raising funds for Mendoza,” he says. “I had hoped to come back to Notre Dame in a fundraising capacity, but I didn’t think it would be so soon after I graduated. I am ecstatic to be here.”

To his credit, Cunningham has taken off running. He expanded the number of class legacy campaigns from three to six (one for each graduate business program), and is supervising the student directors of each. He is also seeing great success with the John Cardinal O’Hara Society and, as of the time of this publication, 78 students graduating this year have pledged to join the society in 2014.

 “People want to give back to what’s important to them,” he says. “Alumni are transformed by their Mendoza experiences and they want to support the fantastic things happening here. It’s exciting to be part of that every day.”

For more information about the John Cardinal O’Hara Society and membership benefits, please visit or contact Cunningham at or 574-631-4303.