Resolving a ‘major’ conflict
Author: Kevin M. O’Neill (BBA '66)
I entered Notre Dame in September 1962 on a combination Baseball/Basketball Athletic Scholarship. My father graduated ND in 1934, and as a catcher on the baseball team, he was Jake Kline’s 1st Captain. Growing-up in an ND household, made me a “Domer” from the git-go! In those days (1960s), freshmen were not eligible to play NCAA sports, and incoming ND freshmen entered a “Freshman Year of Studies,” without having to choose a specific field of academic pursuit. However, come sophomore year, all that changed, both athletically and academically!
Throughout my elementary and high school years, my strengths and comfort level lay in math and science. I was very good with the “one’s and one’s equal two’s.” In light of those past successes, coupled with recommendations by teachers (Christian Brothers of Albany, NY), and bolstered by parental support, I had declared my major to be Aeronautical Engineering. My sophomore class schedule, including lab work, was challenging, yet manageable…until November, when basketball practice began. You see, contrary to popular belief, curriculum scheduling and basketball practice struggle to maintain a symbiotic relationship. in those ancient days, we practiced, and played home games, in the old Fieldhouse, which was located just east of the LaFortune Student Center, diagonally across from “The Huddle”. On the other hand, the Engineering Building was closer to “The Circle,” Notre Dame Boulevard, and even the Morris Inn. Getting from a 2 p.m.-start lab session to a “dressed-and-ready” 3 p.m.-start basketball practice, was proving to be a challenge beyond me.
After several practice late arrivals, I was summoned to Coach Jordan’s office. He began by saying, “I understand your lateness to practice is caused by engineering classes or labs, is that correct?” I acknowledged that was the case. He asked, “What are you doing in Engineering, anyway?” I mentioned my previous academic successes and guidance counselor suggestions, and then added a reference to President Kennedy’s commitment to reach the moon, ending with my personal editorial conclusion, “That’s where the money will be.”
Coach Jordan stood up, walked around his desk, and sat on the front edge, in front of me. He raised his arms, with palms facing the ceiling, and said, “If you’re that interested in money, why don’t you major in money?” As I write this for the Centennial, looking back for this essay, I can clearly recall him looking like “Touchdown Jesus” of the not-yet-constructed Hesburgh Library! I gave him a quizzical look and said, “Pardon me?” He raised his voice a little, for emphasis, and said, “Money!…Finance!…Major in Business!” So, after discussing with my parents, and obtaining their understanding and approval, I switched majors to Finance in the College of Business Administration. Classes and practices finally co-existed in harmony, and I graduated in 1966 with a BBA-Finance Degree.
As a literary epilogue, and an attestation of the value of a degree from the Mendoza College of Business, I’ll mention that my successful 40-year business career included such positions as Vice President of Customer Service with American Express, Director of Worldwide Reservations with Avis Rent A Car, Director of North American Reservations with Best Western Hotels, and Director of Call Center Operations, Planning and Development with Comcast Cable, all of which contributed to a comfortable and financially secure retirement, spent splitting time between my home in the Chicago suburbs and my winter home in Naples, FL.