The Notre Dame Alumni Association presented the 2012 Rev. John J. Cavanaugh, C.S.C., Award last week to Virginia Gov. Robert F. McDonnell ’76.
Established in 1985, the Rev. John J. Cavanaugh, C.S.C., Award is conferred on an alumnus/alumna (living or deceased) who is performing or has performed outstanding service in the field of government, patriotism, public service, local, state, or national politics.
Since taking office in 2010, McDonnell, the 71st governor of the Commonwealth of Virginia, has built a reputation for his fiscal stewardship and success in closing substantial budget shortfalls without raising taxes. Virginia’s unemployment rate has fallen since McDonnell took office and it was named by CNBC as “The Top State for Business” in 2011.
Raised in Fairfax County, Va., McDonnell graduated with a bachelor’s degree in business administration from the University of Notre Dame in 1976. He later earned a master’s degree in business administration from Boston University and a master’s degree in public policy and a law degree from Regent University.
After graduating from law school, McDonnell served as a Virginia Beach prosecutor and was elected to the Virginia House of Delegates in 1991. After 14 years representing Virginia Beach in the legislature, he was elected as the 44th attorney general of Virginia in 2005.
The governor also served 21 years in the United States Army in active duty and reserve, retiring with the rank of lieutenant colonel in 1997. He is the chairman of the Republican Governors Association.
McDonnell has been married to his wife, Maureen, for 36 years. The couple has five children, ranging from 20 to 31 years old.
“To be mentioned in the same breath as the past recipients of the Rev. John J. Cavanaugh Award is a tremendous, and truly unexpected, honor,” McDonnell said. “Rev. Cavanaugh’s service to Notre Dame will always be remembered, as will his leadership in setting the University’s course in the years following World War II.
“I came to Notre Dame as a middle-class suburban kid from Virginia. It was my dream to attend this wonderful institution. Thirty-five years later, thanks to the instruction and guidance I received here in South Bend, I’ve got the same job as Patrick Henry and Thomas Jefferson. Nothing I have accomplished would have ever been possible without this incredible University and the people who have dedicated their lives to it.”