Boss Hog

Remembering Drew Danik ’75, Holy Cross Hall’s honorary doctor of reunionology.

Author: Samuel Coffman ’25

Drew Danik, dressed in academic regalia, speaks into a microphone after receiving an honorary doctory of reunionology degree for his work to keep residents of Holy Cross Hall in touch over the years. Danik addresses an august gathering of Holy Cross Hogs in regalia befitting an esteemed reunionologist. Photos provided

Drew Danik ’75 was 6,881 votes short of being named the “Ugliest Man on Campus.” It was a coveted title when Danik lived on campus while getting his teaching degree at Indiana University South Bend. The competition was a part of the annual An Tóstal spring festival, raising money for Sister Marita’s Day School.

Danik even earned an endorsement in The Observer from fellow Holy Cross Hall Hog and reigning “ugliest man” John Guido ‘77. He said it was “the one award he [Danik] has deserved for the seven years that he has been at Notre Dame.”

He also became a Monogram Club member as a student manager for various sports. Among his favorite memories: working as a football manager for the 1975 Orange Bowl, a win over Alabama and coach Ara Parseghian’s final game.

Danik continued to be an illustrious character in the Notre Dame community, organizing 15 reunions of the Holy Cross Hogs, earning him the nickname “Boss Hog.” The beloved leader of the Hogs died May 25 at his home in South Bend. He was 70.

Danik retired from the South Bend Community School Corporation, where he taught English and U.S. history. He had a 44-year career as a teacher and coach, including 37 years in South Bend Schools. He refereed football, basketball and softball, and was named to the Indiana Softball Hall of Fame. He was a husband, father and grandfather.

While at Notre Dame, Danik was a resident of Holy Cross Hall, the now-extinct dormitory that stood atop Holy Cross Hill. The dorm was across St. Mary’s Lake from most of the rest of campus, making it the cheapest residence before the university instituted a flat-fee for housing.

Anthony Abowd ‘75, another Hog, wrote that “Holy Cross Hall was one of the oldest, most run-down dorms and isolated from most campus activities. It was seldom anyone’s first choice for a dorm.”

A diploma identifying Drew Danik as a "Doctor of Reunionology."
Make that "Dr." Boss Hog

The Hogs became a close bunch because of their dorm’s amenities, including a kitchen, a softball field and a large chapel. Additionally, it was the closest hall to Saint Mary’s College, encouraging socialization between the Belles and the Hogs.

Danik told The Observer in 2000, “The guys got real close because we were so far out there. You got back from class, and you pretty much stayed there."

Abowd says there’s a lot of camaraderie among the former residents of Holy Cross Hall: jokes and the same stories they always tell, producing laughs every time. Even though the building was demolished in 1990, Danik pushed the group to stay close.

Every few years the group gathers back on campus, usually coinciding with a home football game. HogFest ’23 was the largest reunion that Danik organized, with over 300 attendees.

To celebrate the 50 years of persistence that Danik put into ensuring the men of Holy Cross Hall stayed connected, he was awarded an “honorary doctorate in reunionology” last year, complete with a signed diploma and custom Holy Cross Hogs academic regalia.

Harry Soza ‘74, helped put together the arrangements for the honorary doctorate. Danik “had his gown,” Soza says, “and wouldn’t take the damn thing off!”

Danik filled their reunions with visits to the hall’s former site, special Masses and prayers, service to the local community, a scholarship funded by former Holy Cross residents, and plenty of time to trade stories and reflect on their time there. “Keeping us connected to the University,” Soza says, “is a service that can’t be understated.”

The marker noting the location of Holy Cross Hall, which stood from 1888-1990.
If you visit the marker, you'll see that the Holy Cross Hall mascot found its way onto the stone, too.

Soza and Abowd, as well as many other Hogs, are members of the Holy Cross Hogs Hall of Fame. Danik, the selection committee of one, recognized individuals who made important contributions to the community. Abowd, for example, was enshrined when he created the Holy Cross Hall page on the Notre Dame Alumni Association’s website — although Danik wasn’t a fan of the newer technology, favoring phone calls and mailed checks when organizing the HogFests.

Soza joked that Danik was a “bulldog without the bully,” not afraid to speak to anyone on campus who could help him with the reunions. He usually was juggling the planning of each reunion with his other duties as a teacher and coach.

Kathy Maloney, who worked at the university for 31 years and handled ticket sales for the Notre Dame Alumni Association, once got a phone call from Danik. He needed lots of tickets to a home football game for one of the reunions. Maloney laughed when she heard him quiet down the kids in his class who were talking in the background. “He really did dedicate himself to making sure the Holy Cross Hall reunion weekends were special,” she says.

Reunion groups used to be recognized over the public address system at football games. It was Maloney’s job to screen the scripts. The men of Holy Cross would always want their Hogs reunion to be announced, too. The scripts never got through Maloney because she knew they would never be approved by her boss.

The Hog mascot has always been a bit taboo at the University. When efforts to put a memorial monument to the hall were underway after the building’s demolition, Hogs wanted their mascot somehow incorporated into the stone, but it was seen by some as too informal.

If you visit the memorial on the sloping lawn of Holy Cross Hill, you’ll see the front of the monument features images of the Golden Dome and the Blessed Virgin, the years of the hall’s existence and a short inscription on its history.

But walk around the back and crouch down, and you’ll see a small hog etched into the stone.

Sam Coffman, a rising senior American studies major and journalism minor, is this magazine’s summer intern.