The Indianapolis Athletic Club Foundation (IACF) President Robert V. Welch, Jr., is pleased to announce that the Foundation is honoring late Indiana Governor Joe Kernan during the 2023 Indianapolis St. Patrick’s Day celebration with the presentation of the inaugural Taioseach Award. The Irish Gaelic word “Taioseach” means “Chief” or “Leader” in English. The Taoiseach Award will be bestowed periodically by the IACF to honor the memory of past Irish American leaders of our community. Governor Kernan’s family will be presented the award during the 41st Annual St. Patrick’s Day Parade. The IACF is also presenting a memorial bust of Governor Kernan to the State of Indiana for placement within the Indiana Statehouse on St. Patrick’s Day.
“Governor Joe Kernan was a proud Hoosier and proud Irish American. Joe was hopelessly devoted to both public service and sports,” said Kevin Murray, Secretary Emeritus, Indianapolis Athletic Club Foundation. “Like the Indianapolis Athletic Club Foundation, Kernan deeply believed athletics and kids were a great mix for their successful futures. We are delighted to honor Joe Kernan with the first Taoiseach Award and honored to present a bust of Joe’s likeness to the people of Indiana.”
Governor Kernan was a University of Notre Dame graduate. After college, Joe served as a Naval Aviator in the Vietnam War. Lieutenant Kernan’s aircraft was shot down over North Vietnam where he was captured and held as a prisoner of war. Joe Kernan received numerous honors for his selfless military service. After the war, Joe returned to his hometown, South Bend, where he continued his public service. Kernan was elected as Mayor of South Bend three times, picked with ever increasing margins of approval. In 1996, Joe Kernan was elected Lt. Governor of Indiana, in partnership with Governor Frank O’Bannon. Hoosiers re-elected the O’Bannon-Kernan team in 2000. With the passing of Governor O’Bannon in 2003, Joe Kernan became Governor of Indiana. Governor Kernan served the State of Indiana with great honor and distinction. In 2005, Joe returned to his beloved South Bend, and continued his public service as a private citizen. Sadly, in 2020, Joe Kernan passed away while battling Alzheimer’s disease.
The Indianapolis Athletic Club Foundation was formed in 1983 as a charitable endeavor to support youth and sports in central Indiana. Similarly, Joe Kernan was dedicated to helping kids and promoting sports, particularly youth baseball. The IACF raises money primarily through its St. Patrick’s Day activities and the Old Oaken Bucket luncheon. With strong County Monaghan roots, Joe Kernan was proud of his Irish heritage, and thoroughly enjoyed St. Patrick’s Day celebrations. Joe found Ireland to be an incredibly special place and visited frequently for many years. He captained the South Bend “Ryderless Cup” team that played golf against an Irish team in Ireland and South Bend, every other year. Thus, the IACF looks forward to St. Patrick’s Day 2023 and the presentation of the Taoiseach Award and the Governor Joe Kernan bust. The bronze memorial bust is the work of noted Indianapolis sculptor and firefighter Ryan Feeney.