Notre Dame Announces Endowment to Grow, Support Athletic Program

CAPE GIRARDEAU, Mo., June 19, 2021 –Notre Dame Regional High School (NDHS) has announced the establishment of the Jeff Bohnert Athletic Endowment to provide a perpetual funding source as it envisions the future of its athletics programs.

“This endowment will be the first of its kind at Notre Dame Regional High School and we envision the primary means of allowing our school to maintain a strong athletic tradition by providing a sustainable source of funding to benefit all student-athletes at Notre Dame,” said Alex Jackson, NDHS Development Director. “The endowment will assist us in continuing the positive force athletics has in the lives of our students while keeping the costs of our athletic programs independent of tuition costs.”

Jeff (’82), who passed away in April 2020, excelled in and was voted MVP for basketball and baseball during his high school career, earning Notre Dame’s Bulldog Award. He continued his baseball career at Mineral Area College and Southeast Missouri State University. Later, as president of Drury Southwest (DSW) Signs, Jeff provided ongoing and unselfish marketing collateral to support Notre Dame.

Jeff’s parents, Carolyn and Bill Bohnert of Cape Girardeau, both 1960 graduates of Cape Catholic High, forerunner to Notre Dame, said they are honored that Notre Dame officials approached them about creating the endowment in tribute to their son.

Bill said Notre Dame Regional High School has been central to their family life. Jeff was inducted into Notre Dame’s Hall of Fame in 2005, just four years after Bill was enshrined. Bill also excelled in baseball and basketball during high school, and coached Jeff from an early age. He and Jeff are among 102 Notre Dame Regional High School Hall of Fame inductees. In addition to the family’s athletic legacy at the school and their membership in the Booster Club, Carolyn has served on the Notre Dame Foundation Board for many years. She also has volunteered countless hours in support of the Bingo fundraiser since its inception in 1991, receiving the Foundation’s Annunciation Award for her efforts.

Not only will the Jeff Bohnert Athletic Endowment be a special legacy for their family, but it will provide the groundwork to sustain Notre Dame’s athletics program so it can continue to be a positive force in the lives of its students for many years to come – a tradition near and dear to the hearts of the Bohnert family.

In conjunction with the endowment, Notre Dame also has announced the establishment of a Fairway of Champions for its annual summer and fall golf tournaments. Notre Dame will make Fairway of Champions signs available for purchase in honor of or in memory of NDHS Athletic Hall of Fame members. For $100 annually, a sign featuring a photo honoring an NDHS Athletic Hall of Fame member will be placed along the Fairway of Champions at the school’s golf tournaments. Fairway of Champions signs also can be purchased in perpetuity for posting at all future golf tournaments with a $2,000 donation. All Fairway of Champions proceeds will support the growth of the Jeff Bohnert Athletic Endowment benefiting athletic programs at Notre Dame.

The Fairway of Champions was announced with a soft rollout and a prototype sign recognizing Jeff Bohnert at Notre Dame’s Tony Buehrle Alumni Golf Tournament June 18 at the Cape Girardeau Country Club. Sign orders are now being accepted for the Fairway of Champions’ debut at Notre Dame’s Mitre Cup Oct. 4 at Dalhousie Golf Club in Cape Girardeau.

A gift from the Bohnert family, in addition to memorial gifts from family and friends upon Jeff’s death and proceeds from the inaugural Fairway of Champions are seeding the endowment. The goal is to grow the endowment to $1 million through individual gifts, the Fairway of Champions, and other fundraisers, with interest income from the endowment to be used to support all 22 Notre Dame athletic teams, said Jeff Graviett, Notre Dame athletic director.

Bill acknowledges it will take time before the endowment becomes “a money maker,” but envisions it eventually supporting all facets of athletics — uniforms, travel, equipment and other needs.  It will also help limit the high school’s solicitation of parents, friends and alumni to support individual athletic fundraisers.

“It would be fantastic if we could get that type of backing,” Carolyn said. “It is going to benefit many, many people.”

Jeff’s sister Lindsay Bingaman (’01), said the endowment will provide a “safety net” or a “reserve” so the Athletics Department is not “starting at ground zero each year” with fundraising. With the endowment, “you will have that cushion,” she said.

The Jeff Bohnert Athletic Endowment will serve as an investment structure to fund maintenance costs, but in particular, the growth and future of Notre Dame athletics, Jackson said. Until now, private support through corporate sponsorships, gate fees, ticket sales, concessions, golf tournaments, fundraisers and individual gifts have sustained the athletic program, and these efforts have enabled the Booster Club to meet the needs of Notre Dame’s student-athletes. Because of the generosity and dedicated work of its Booster Club, Notre Dame, unlike many private high schools, has been able to fund athletics without using tuition dollars to support it.

“It’s amazing the job that’s been done over the years” to sustain Notre Dame athletics, Graviett said.

However, as the school looks to its future, Graviett said he began researching athletics funding mechanisms at other private high schools. At many of them, a portion of tuition or an endowment is in place to support athletics. An athletics endowment is a concept Notre Dame has considered for some time.  “I can’t think of a better person” for whom to name the endowment, he said. “Jeff was heavily involved in sports here, and what he meant to the school in the business world at Drury Southwest was a blessing.”

Jackson said, “As president of DSW Signs, Jeff was always quick with recognizing the successes of Notre Dame’s student-athletes with digital signage congratulating them on state championships to greet them as they came back into town. Jeff also helped with printing school signage to recognize athletic corporate sponsors and wrapped many of Notre Dame’s buses with school colors and Bulldog graphics.”

Bill recalled Jeff installing a generator to initially light the new Notre Dame Bulldog billboard just west of Cape Girardeau along Route K. Electricity had not yet been connected to it, and Jeff wanted to ensure fans headed to a school ballgame that evening would see the new outdoor sign.

“He would do anything for anybody,” Bill said. “He always jumped in with both feet.”

Notre Dame Principal Tim Garner said, “Jeff was a constant supporter of Notre Dame.  Even after his daughters Haley (’07) and Brooke (’12) graduated, Jeff would do whatever he could to help Notre Dame.  He wanted no fanfare for his actions, he simply wanted to help Notre Dame.”

Jeff and his wife Tammy (’82)’s daughters continued their father’s athletic legacy at Notre Dame during all four years of their high school careers with Haley participating in volleyball and track, and Brooke competing in volleyball and basketball.

“With the establishment of an athletic endowment in Jeff’s name, the Bohnert family continues the longstanding support their family has given to Notre Dame Regional High School,” Garner added. “This endowment will ensure that Notre Dame athletics has the necessary support to continue to upkeep and expand its already fantastic athletic facilities for future generations.  The establishment of this endowment means that Jeff and the entire Bohnert family will continue to be synonymous with the Notre Dame athletic program’s legacy and success.”

Jackson said, “(Jeff) really understood the power of athletics and the lasting impact it can have in the lives of students.”

Graviett said, “I’m excited about (the endowment) and getting it tied in with our Fairway of Champions. This is an opportunity to take our Booster Club to the next level. Having an endowment like this will keep us moving in the right direction.”

The Jeff Bohnert Athletic Endowment “will allow the Booster Club’s fundraisers to not just meet the needs of Notre Dame’s student-athletes but also make improvements to athletic programs to benefit Notre Dame’s student-athletes as well” for many years to come, Jackson said.

Jeff would have been “very honored and very humbled” about the endowment named in his memory, Bill said.

“He did nothing for the glory of it,” Carolyn said. “He just wanted to help.”

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