Once upon a time, Gaudreau had choice to make, and he's TTC glad he picked Irish

March 11, 1994|By John Steadman

Now it's more than 40 years later and Bill Gaudreau, president of a Baltimore architectural firm involved in diversified projects all over the country, is able to evaluate objectively what making a decision to enroll at Notre Dame meant to him in shaping his career and his life.

Gaudreau hadn't planned attending Notre Dame and only went there to visit at the urging of Ed Hargaden, his coach at Loyola High School, who wrote a letter of recommendation. The Naval Academy, Maryland and Columbia, among others, were interested in this standout young quarterback and vigorously recruited him.

His preference was Columbia. At Maryland, he met coach Jim Tatum and related his overwhelming ambition -- to be an architect, which was getting to be a family tradition since his father and two brothers were similarly involved. Tatum told him, "Why, Bill, here at Maryland, we have the finest architectural school in the country."

There was only one serious problem. At the time, Maryland didn't even offer the subject. It was a case of an over-zealous coach attempting to entice a football prospect he wanted to accomodate, even if he had to invent courses the university didn't list in its catalog.

"I was impressed with coach Lou Little at Columbia," Gaudreau said. "He and Mrs. Little were kind to me during a weekend visit. Little told me I'd have a seven-year scholarship, four years of undergradute school and three more in the school of architecture. I went to Notre Dame to please Ed Hargaden and it became the greatest move I ever made."

At Notre Dame, when he mentioned to coach Frank Leahy he aspired to study architecture, Leahy immediately sent him to meet the professors and some of the students.

"At a drawing board was a strong-looking fellow, a few years older than I was, who introduced himself as Joe Gasparella," recalls Bill. "He had been a Notre Dame quarterback, was then playing with the Pittsburgh Steelers but was back as a graduate student. I was so impressed Gasparella was interested in what I wanted to be that Notre Dame got my attention."

Gaudreau then wrote to Tatum and Little to inform them of his decision. Little replied, offering congratulations and saying how impressed he was with Bill's character and transcript. Tatum, to the contrary, told the youngster he made the wrong choice. Both letters are still in Gaudreau's possession and reflect the difference in men, coaches and philosophies.

At Notre Dame, Gaudreau became a starting defensive back because Ralph Guglielmi entered a year after he did and, being a quarterback, was such a standout he played four varsity seasons. Gaudreau, following a fellow Loyola product, Bob Williams, a consenus All-America, injured a knee but played on a team that had such standouts as Johnny Lattner, Jim Mutscheller, Dick Szymanski, Dan Shannon and John Petitbon.

"My two sons, David and Bill Jr., went to Notre Dame, are architects and work in the firm," he said. "We talk about Notre Dame and how some people misunderstand what it's all about. High principles distinguish Notre Dame. Athletes don't get special treatment. The passing grade when I was there was 70, but athletes had to get 77. I believe if you go there the school touches you and you leave a better person."

Going to Notre Dame also allowed Gaudreau to meet a girl named Mary Kelly, who was attending another South Bend school, St. Mary's of the Lake. She became his wife.

Playing under Leahy was an unforgettable experience for Gaudreau: "I remember a teammate, Bob Kelly, saying before a game, 'I wonder if the coach's locker room talk will be about the missionary nuns in India?' By gosh, that's just what he told us, that we had to play well so as not to disappointment the nuns in India. Kelly and I could hardly keep from laughing but we dared not do that before the kickoff."

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