With our 50th Reunion in focus, next June 2-5, know that plans are crystallizing to ensure a memorable, enjoyable gathering of the ’66 clan. Local arrangements are being coordinated by class president Cap Gagnon along with class VP Greg Rust and South benders Ray Flynn, Joe Guiltinan and Pat Farrell. The class dorm will likely be McGlinn Hall, but arrangements are also being made to secure rooms at a local hotel (Editor’s Note: the South Bend Doubletree, formerly the Marriott Downtown, is the official hotel for our class).

Free shuttle service will be available and if you need and additional incentive, rumor has it that the Nightlighters will emerge from retirement for an encore performance. Bob Basche is still a chick magnet, but the groupies have turned into hens. Tony Andrea and Tom Meyer are tuning up the vocal chords, and Bob Straker will be sitting in from on high.

The crucial component in making this event truly special is you. Put aside any plans, reservations or excuses you have and commit to gather with your brothers of the Dome. Class dinners will happen Friday and Saturday evenings, so good socializing will be in order. Lots more information will be forthcoming, and you can obtain more details via reunion.nd.edu. Be sure to check out the latest edition of the class web site (1966.undclass.org), which Jack Gerken initiated and maintains.

Members of each 50-year Reunion class are approached to consider making a special gift to the University to commemorate the momentous milestone. Many of us have been supporting ND for most of the 50 years since we graduated, expressing gratitude for the preparation ND provided to help us confront the real world, out of belief in ND’s extraordinary mission as a leader in Catholic higher education, or for a host of other reasons that matter to us individually. If you haven’t been contacted, you can expect someone to reach out to you in the coming weeks/months about your willingness to make a gift commitment.

Thanks to the creativity of John Twohey, ably assisted by Tom Bettag and Minch Lewis and yours truly, we have a unique funding option to consider along with other important ND philanthropic needs. John’s concept is that since ND is the touchstone, the mother lode of football, and given the growing crisis related to head injury in football and other impact sports, it would make eminent sense for ND to be a significant “player” in gathering data and ultimately contributing to potential solutions to this problem.

The outcome of our discussion with University and Athletic Department officials is the establishment of the Class of 1966 Pete Duranko Fund for Student Athlete Safety. This will be a distinct program at ND, and funds raised will initially be used to acquire software, purchase equipment and cover the cost of staff time. The goal is to plan and implement a program that will first serve ND student athletes, but will hopefully have a much broader impact. The hope is to raise a minimum of $350,000 in current use funds, again in memory of Pete “Diesel” Duranko, a gentle giant and dear friend to many of us who distinguished himself as an all-American at ND and went on to play with the Denver Broncos.

Unfortunately, Pete died in 2013 of ALS, which may have been related to head trauma resulting in CTE (chronic traumatic encephalopathy) that he experienced throughout his career. You may opt to designate all or part of your 50th anniversary gift to the Class of 1966 Pete Duranko Fund for Student Athlete Safety. Information about this program is being disseminated, and this endeavor is totally voluntary (Editor’s Note: More information is available on the Home Page above).

That does it for this edition. A cursory calculation suggests that this is probably around my 235th column since I began scribing in 1968. Thanks for sharing the life of your times, keep the news coming and definitely plan to join in the 50th.

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