Discovering Notre Dame’s magic
Author: Jane Bloom (BBA '04)
From an early age, I knew that my dad was extremely proud to be a Notre Dame graduate. His Domer status is a significant part of his identity. Over the years, my mom honed her ability to drown out his yelling at the TV whenever the Irish played. I uncomfortably looked on as he yelled, “Go Irish!” to anyone wearing Notre Dame attire, whether we were in an airport, at the gas station or in the middle of a foreign city. I wouldn’t know until years later that there are (many) others like him.
When it came time to apply to college, I was eager to forge my own path, much like any high school student ready to embark on their adult life. Nevertheless, when I was accepted to Notre Dame, it seemed right. I achieved a unique feat, entering Notre Dame as an intended marketing major and graduating as a marketing major. Despite wanting to do it my own way, I was following in my dad’s footsteps, yet again, as he was also a marketing major.
During my four years at Notre Dame, I had moments of ambivalence with my college choice. I missed my family, the ocean (which I had never lived more than 20 minutes from) and New York pizza and bagels. My mom convinced me that my placement in Lyons Hall was meant to be as it is by the water (where I have always been happiest.) My dad encouraged me to open my heart and mind. He believed that in time, I, too, would discover Notre Dame’s magic.
I thoroughly enjoyed my marketing classes. I am extremely appreciative for Notre Dame’s prioritization of strong verbal and written communication abilities, regardless of one’s major. This focus has benefitted me tremendously in my professional, academic, and personal life. Notre Dame makes a concerted effort to draw attention to the world outside the Notre Dame campus, beyond one’s own life and circumstances. This global perspective influenced me in earning my Master in Global Affairs with a concentration in International Relations from New York University, seven years after graduating from Notre Dame.
Though I am replete with fond reminiscences of my time as a Notre Dame undergraduate, as the years pass by, memories fade into the background. One facet of my undergraduate years that has stayed very much in my present-day life is a person-Professor Carl Ackermann. (This is the last time I will refer to him as Professor, as per his request.) My post Notre Dame life is anchored with Carl chats. Every six months or so, we catch up. Carl has been there through my victories, challenges, and fumbles. He has a detailed Jane dossier; I never know what he’ll bring up months or even years later. We had a hotly contested mini golf match during Senior Week. The victor is unclear years later; however, that’s beside the point. Our respective “golf games” come up often during our talks.
Taking Carl’s Introduction to Finance class led me to consider majoring in finance. Recognizing that I am not overwhelmingly quantitatively oriented, I reasoned that I would struggle with the concepts if they weren’t presented Carl’s way. He has a way of taking a complex (sometimes dry) topic and making it interesting, approachable, and applicable to real life. Looking back on my Notre Dame days, it seems a rather carefree and easy time.
Nevertheless, the combination of exams, papers, reading, presentations and growing up provided a decent amount of stress and angst. Imagine nervously sitting down to take a finance exam and suddenly, someone in a gorilla suit comes running into the classroom with a box of snacks and drinks. Quickly, you realize that the guy in the suit is your professor! You smile and your test day jitters instantly diminish as you apply the concepts learned in class to the exam questions. Being able to make people laugh and put them at ease is one of Carl’s gifts.
Finance instruction was only one part of being Carl’s student. He continually emphasized that the best part of graduating from a university of Notre Dame’s caliber is that our educational background and productive careers would provide us with the resources to improve lives. Carl was not only talking about financial assistance. He subtly taught us about the most precious asset of all-time. I’m not sure how Carl juggles teaching, mentoring former students, gorilla suit purchases, charitable endeavors, and sleep, but he does it with humor and grace.
Carl makes the lives of those around him better. He is one of those rare people that “walks the walk.” Carl’s generous nature is defined by humbleness and humility. He’s not out for kudos or awards; it’s innate in his way of being to lend a hand, an ear, guidance, or a kind thought. I remember receiving an email from Carl to our class regarding office hours to review a recent exam. He had to attend a funeral but assured us that this event would not take away from his time for us. I was blown away that someone would think about office hours despite experiencing a death in the family. That example is indicative of Carl’s selfless way of life.
I sincerely appreciate that Carl takes time to be a part of my life. As a self-confessed overachiever who has too many interests, I continually second guess whether my career path and life choices are the right ones. Carl has a way of presenting the chapters of my life as a captivating story. He has made me realize that if I’m happy, able to provide for myself and help others, I’m on the right path. I am continually spurred on by a desire to succeed, learn and look outside myself. My time at Notre Dame reinforced that drive in me, but also provided me with Carl who supports me as I reflect. Recently, I read Alex Trebek’s book “The Answer Is…Reflections on My Life.” He opined, “A good education and a kind heart will serve you well throughout your entire life.” I cannot think of a better way to sum up Notre Dame’s impact on my life.
One of the unique things about Notre Dame that I didn’t quite understand at 17 is the concept of connection. My Dad and I were always close, but our shared Notre Dame history bonded us even more. I don’t know when it happened, but suddenly, I can’t help but yell, “Go Irish,” to anyone wearing Notre Dame garb. My ongoing conversations with Carl have linked me to a simpler time in life when a trip to the Grotto made everything a little easier and more possible. I miss the days which included a daily glance of the Golden Dome. Though many alumni are fiercely loyal to their alma mater, it’s frankly different with Notre Dame. My Dad was right — Notre Dame is magic.