Irish. Instead, he embraces it, is empowered by it and does
everything he can to let everyone he comes in contact with know he's
a proud Notre Dame alumnus who played baseball for the school from
1949 to 1951.
"I just can't put into words what going to Notre Dame has meant
for me and my family,'' said Gillis, surrounded by an abundance of
Notre Dame memorabilia in his home office. "I get overcome with
emotion when I talk about the spirit of the school and what a special
place it is. I love supporting the university and what it stands for,
whether we win or lose.
"My wife Jane and I go back to South Bend at least once a year,
and sometimes more. She is from South Bend and we got married when I
was still a student there and we consider it our home away from
Always upbeat, Gillis doesn't like to dwell on wins and losses by
his beloved Irish on the football field. However, Gillis -- a former
president of the Notre Dame Club of Los Angeles -- admitted it was
tough to watch Notre Dame play so poorly Nov. 30 when it lost to USC,
44-13, at the Coliseum.
The loss to the Trojans also meant that the beloved Shillelagh,
the symbolic prize given to the winner of the USC-Notre Dame rivalry,
would reside for a year at USC's Heritage Hall instead of South Bend,
where it has been 15 times since 1983.
The Fighting Irish hold a 42-28 advantage in their storied series
with the Trojans. Five games have ended in ties.
The sting of the loss behind him, Gillis will root for his Irish
today at 9:30 a.m. when Notre Dame (10-2) takes on North Carolina
State (10-3) in the Gator Bowl in Jacksonville, Fla.
"Our athletic area at Notre Dame is also called Heritage Hall and
the original Shillelagh still resides there. The Notre Dame Club in
Los Angeles originated the award in 1952 and it has all the emblems
of the winners of the games dating back to 1926 until 1995, when it
was retired,'' he said. "Original Shillelaghs were made from
blackthorn saplings, trimmed, carved and hung in the family chimney
for seasoning. It was an Irish war-club used for centuries by Irish
defenders against the many invasions of their homeland.
"My wife and I traveled to Ireland in 1996 on behalf of NDCLA and