Faculty and staff donate $12,000 to support ND Law students after Father Mike Show is canceled

Author: Kevin Allen

Notre Dame Law students cheer a musical performance at the 2018 Father Mike Show. Photo by Barbara Johnston/University of Notre Dame.

For decades, one of Notre Dame Law School’s most beloved traditions has been the Father Mike Show hosted by the Student Bar Association. The annual variety show brings out the Law School’s hidden talent, and the auction raises thousands of dollars that the Notre Dame Women’s Legal Forum uses to support students who work in public interest jobs over the summer.

In normal times, the 2020 edition of the Father Mike Show would have been held on April 7. But 2020 is not a normal year. In order to protect the campus community from the spread of the coronavirus, the University of Notre Dame suspended all in-person classes beginning in March and is completing the spring semester through online instruction.

Even though this year’s Father Mike Show had to be canceled, the tradition was kept alive as faculty and staff contributed more than $12,000 to replace the money that would have been raised by the show’s auction. They raised the money in secret and shared the news with students on April 7 — the day the Father Mike Show was scheduled to take place.

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Rachel Palermo, a second-year law student and president of the Notre Dame Women’s Legal Forum, said hosting the Father Mike Show auction is one of her favorite parts of leading the Women’s Legal Forum. The auction items are usually dinners, outings, and other fun items donated by faculty and staff members.

The auction proceeds are used to offer summer stipends to students who are engaged in public interest work and dedicated to empowering women. Eight to twelve students typically receive the stipends each year.

“Women have historically been shut out from opportunities in the legal field, and we've been proud to host the auction year after year to ensure that finances are not an additional barrier to accessing the legal market,” Palermo said.

When the Father Mike Show was canceled, Palermo was worried the Women’s Legal Forum would not be able to offer the stipend program this year.

“I was completely floored when we were told that the faculty and staff had been raising the funds to surprise us,” she said. “From the faculty, to career counselors, to administrators, to administrative assistants — they all pitched in to keep our stipend program alive. Their generosity and thoughtfulness made me even more grateful and proud to go to Notre Dame Law. Our members will be able to do great things in their communities now because of the generosity of our Notre Dame Law School family.”

Margaret Manning, a third-year law student who is secretary of Notre Dame Law School’s Student Bar Association for this academic year, was the lead organizer for the 2020 Father Mike Show.

“I’m sure many students are disappointed. It’s one more memory we won’t have as a part of our spring 2020 semester,” Manning said.

“But beyond the laughs, the talent, and the time shared with friends, the Father Mike Show and auction was a source of fundraising for the Women’s Legal Forum for many years. Without the thousands of dollars raised through the auction, WLF cannot fund its summer stipends,” she said. “I think I speak for all students when I say we are truly grateful for the generosity of the professors and staff members who chipped in to continue this Father Mike tradition. Our faculty never cease to amaze.”

Manning added that, in addition to raising money, faculty and staff have been submitting virtual acts to boost student morale during these challenging times. "The Father Mike Show may look a little different this year," she said, "but the spirit of Father Mike is present."

The Father Mike Show is also special for the Law School’s faculty and staff members — especially those who knew Rev. Michael D. McCafferty, C.S.C., for whom the variety show is named.

McCafferty ’69, ’73 J.D., ’74 M.A. was a revered faculty member and assistant dean who died of non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma in 1987. He always loved the Law School’s variety show. He would often play the role of “roving reporter” during the faculty news skit and close out the evening with an Irish jig on stage.