James V. Gibbons, the assistant vice president for special events and protocol for 37 years at the University of Notre Dame, died October 2, 2017. He was 87.
Jim was born and raised in Chicago, IL. Jim was preceded in death by his parents, Marie and Frank, and his siblings Tom, Florence, Kay, Jack and Rich.
Jim was a standout baseball, basketball and football player at Mt. Carmel High School on Chicago’s south side. He was widely recruited in all sports. In 1949, he attended Notre Dame initially on a football scholarship, but eventually ended up starring in baseball and basketball. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Phillies as a pitcher and played for one season in their system before being drafted into the U.S. Army. He spent the next two years in New Orleans as a military policeman, and then returned to Mt. Carmel to teach civics and speech and to coach basketball and baseball. Jim is credited with starting Mt. Carmel High School’s baseball program.
Jim returned to Notre Dame in 1956 as an assistant baseball and basketball coach. Among the student-athletes he recruited were future Hall of Fame baseball player Carl Yastrzemski, professional baseball and basketball player Ron Reed, and the same Edward Malloy who became the university president.
“For that, I will be forever grateful,” Father Malloy said. “Jim was a person of faith, a dedicated Notre Dame representative and someone with a great network of friends. He oversaw more public events than anyone in his generation. His spirit of generosity and service will be long remembered.” Father Malloy felt Jim was always a hard worker who was meticulously prepared. He also said that “Jim was also a master of names and faces. This made him an outstanding ambassador of the University. He was always energetic, supportive, candid and open to change. By the time he retired, he had built one of the most outstanding hospitality operations in American higher education.”
A 1953 graduate of Notre Dame, Jim worked at his alma mater for 43 years, six in athletics as an assistant baseball and basketball coach, and then for 37 in University Relations, primarily leading the special events department. He organized the campus visits of four U.S. presidents and numerous international heads of state, the dedication of 38 buildings on the campus, and hundreds of dinners, receptions and convocations. Jim worked closely with two Notre Dame presidents. First he served under Father Hesburgh for 27 years and later Father Malloy. Jim retired from Notre Dame in 1999.
After six years, Jim left coaching and joined the University Relations division, first in the public relations office and then as the University’s chief protocol officer. In addition to his full-time job, Jim also refereed high school and college basketball games for many years, and for more than two decades served as a radio and television color analyst on Atlantic Coast Conference, Missouri Valley Conference, and Notre Dame basketball games.
Jim spent most of his retirement years serving as a volunteer at St. Joseph Regional Medical Center (former and current facilities) five days a week, where he would call recently discharged patients and make hospital room visits. For many years, Jim was a member of both the St. Joseph Regional Medical Center Foundation Board and the Hospice Board.
Gibbons was awarded a Presidential Citation in 1979 for outstanding contributions to the University, and in 1988 received the Notre Dame Alumni Association’s James E. Armstrong Award, which honors a University graduate and employee for distinguished service. In addition, he received the Edward “Moose” Krause Award from the Notre Dame Club of Chicago and the inaugural Jesse Harper Award from the Notre Dame Monogram Club. William and Janie Kelly of Southern Pines, North Carolina, established the James V. Gibbons Scholarship for Notre Dame students who demonstrate loyalty, spirit, and intellectual and athletic achievement. Jim received the Hospice Caring Award in 1999. Additionally, in 2005, former Governor Joe Kernan bestowed on Jim the Sagamore of the Wabash, which is the highest award from the state of Indiana.
Gibbons is survived by his wife of 59 years, Betty Ann; four adult children, Nancy, Brian, Kevin (Mary) and Mike (Mary Beth); six grandchildren, Brian Jr., Kayla, Lauren, Cory (Abby), Tyler, and Olivia; and two great-grandchildren, Wyatt and Whitley.
Memorial contributions can be made to Center for Hospice Care, 501 Comfort Place, Mishawaka, IN 46545, the Christ Child Society, 308 S. Scott Street, PO Box 1286, South Bend, IN 46624, Center for the Homeless, 813 S. Michigan Street, South Bend, IN 46601, or to the James V. Gibbons Scholarship Fund at Notre Dame.
The family would like to thank the staff at Center for Hospice Care, especially Nichole, Bonnie, David, and Sue. The family would also like to thank Dan and Mary from Senior 1 Care.
There will be no visitation. Father Malloy will preside at a Mass of Christian Burial at 9:30 am Monday, October 9, 2017 in the Basilica of the Sacred Heart on the campus of the University of Notre Dame. Graveside services and burial will follow in Cedar Grove Cemetery.
Palmer Funeral Home - Hickey Chapel is assisting the family with arrangements. Online condolences may be left for the Gibbons family at www.palmerfuneralhomes.com.