The Shirt Project began in 1990 through the vision and leadership of Brennan Harvath, ‘91. As Chairman of AnTostal, the Student Union Board’s spring celebration, Harvath envisioned raising money for AnTostal by selling t-shirts to Notre Dame students. The Shirt, as it became known, was intended to unify the student body in Notre Dame Stadium for the home football game against Michigan on September 15, 1990. With Notre Dame and Michigan having similar team colors, Harvath’s vision was for the crowd to be unified in green, symbolic of the Fighting Irish. More than 9,000 shirts were sold, and over 85% of the student body wore The Shirt 1990 to the game. In fact, shirt sales generated $17,000, with a portion of the funds being allocated to each of Notre Dame’s residence halls.
Due to the popularity of The Shirt 1990, the program continued the following year with the subsequent Chairman of AnTostal once again coordinating the project. As the success and notoriety of The Shirt continued to grow, revenue exceeded the needs of the Student Union Board. Thus, The Shirt Project became its own student organization, and student leaders decided to distribute annual profits to other student organizations.
In 1993, profits from The Shirt Project were used to offset the medical expenses of a student who had been paralyzed. Additional funds were used to establish memorial scholarships in the names of Meghan Beeler and Colleen Hipp, two members of the Notre Dame varsity swimming team who had died in a bus accident in 1992.
The Blue Shirt: The T-Shirt for the Cause
Sister Jean Lenz, an Assistant Vice President in the Office of Student Affairs, recognized the success of The Shirt 1990. At the time, Sister Lenz was providing support to Zhengde Wang, a Chinese doctoral student who was seriously injured when he was hit by a car in October of 1989. Thus, Sister Lenz approached Joe Cassidy, then Director of Student Activities, with the idea of selling another shirt and using all proceeds to defray the cost of Wang’s increasing medical expenses. With the October 20, 1990 home football game against Miami drawing near, Cassidy and Lenz presented their idea to Hall Presidents’ Council, and the student leaders agreed to support the fundraiser by selling the shirts on campus.
The Notre Dame Athletic Department generated media attention and all 17,000 navy blue shirts printed for the game were sold out before kickoff. A second version of the “T Shirt for the Cause” was printed after the game, and an additional 15,300 of these shirts were sold. The 32,300 total shirts that were sold generated over $100,000 for Wang and his family.