A conversation with Dolly Duffy


Dolly Duffy

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Editor's note: Dolly Duffy ’84 began her work with the Notre Dame Alumni Association 10 years ago as associate director. In 2011, she was appointed the executive director and associate vice president for University Relations. Duffy oversees communications, marketing, finance, technology and alumni affinity groups, as well as the professional, academic, spiritual and service programs for the association. She and her husband, Dan Fangman ’84 M.B.A., owned and operated Atchison Products in Atchison, Kansas, and grew it substantially over 17 years before selling it and moving to South Bend with their five children. As the Notre Dame Alumni Association celebrates its 150th year, NDWorks had some questions for the woman at the helm.

NDW: What’s the best part of your job as executive director?

Without a doubt, it’s the people. They say that Notre Dame attracts a certain type of person, and our staff at the Alumni Association is a reflection of that. They are dedicated, honest, warm and without ego. It’s a pleasure to work alongside them every day.  

And then there are the thousands of volunteer leaders I get to interact with on a daily basis. These alumni, parents and friends give up hundreds of hours of their own time each year to lead our Notre Dame clubs, classes and groups. Their dedication to and love for the University is unparalleled. They are a constant source of inspiration and invigoration for all of us at the Alumni Association.

NDW: What’s the most special moment you’ve been a part of at the Alumni Association?

DD:I’ve been lucky enough to be there for so many great Notre Dame moments, including a very recent one. I was with our women’s basketball team in Spokane and Columbus as they won the national title. But if I had to pick one, it would have to be the days following the passing of Father Ted.

The experience of being at the funeral and especially that long, cold walk to the cemetery with our students lining the path is something I’ll never forget. But the other thing that sticks with me is the stories. To a person, everyone I talked to — staff members, alumni, subway alums — in the days and weeks after his death had their own Father Ted story of a small act of kindness or a chance meeting. I came away with an entirely new appreciation for how deeply and broadly he touched the lives of so many in our Notre Dame family.

NDW: What’s the biggest misconception about the Alumni Association?

DD: That’s an easy one: That you need to be a graduate to engage with us. With a few exceptions, our programs and initiatives are open to anyone who loves Notre Dame and wants to connect with other members of the Notre Dame family. Some of our most successful Notre Dame clubs are led by and in some cases made up almost entirely of folks who never went to school here. That’s why, unlike most colleges, we don’t refer to them as “alumni clubs.” Our mandate is to celebrate and strengthen our shared love of Notre Dame, and we invite all parents, friends and staff to join us in doing so.

NDW: What sets Notre Dame’s Alumni Association apart in higher education?

DD: When I talk to executive directors of alumni associations around the country, they say the same thing time and time again: We wish we had your people. The passion of our volunteer leaders is unparalleled and has made our network of Notre Dame clubs the gold standard across the country and around the world. The Notre Dame family is so enthusiastic about this school that we don’t need to spend time figuring out how to ignite their passion. We just need to determine how best to harness it.

The other thing that separates us from so many schools is that we don’t raise money. Our colleagues in the Development Office handle fundraising and do an incredible job. They don’t need us getting in the way. That allows us to focus purely on engaging our alumni and friends, and I give the University so much credit for investing in an organization with that sole focus.