A conversation with two Notre Dame groundskeepers

The University of Notre Dame is home to 9,000 students and boasts 1,250 acres with incredible foliage, rippling lakes, and the iconic golden dome with Our Lady atop. Notre Dame’s beautiful sprawling quads, Gothic architecture, and robust traditions have made it the top tourist destination in Indiana. Travel and Leisure Magazine rated it as the third most beautiful college campus in America. 

None of this grandeur would be possible, however, without the groundskeeping crew that oversees campus and works constantly to keep Notre Dame pristine for its students and visitors. Two members of the crew, Anne Tharp and Alec DeCocker, spoke with the Rover about their time working here at Notre Dame. 

Anne Tharp is a native of South Bend and an integral part of the Notre Dame groundskeeping community. 

Immediately after high school, Anne chose to start working on campus, following in the footsteps of her brother, mother, and grandmother who all worked in various roles at the University. 36 years later, she says, “It’s the best job in the whole world if you ask me.” 

The daughter of an avid Notre Dame football fan, she grew up near campus and fell in love with the school at a very young age. She now works on the flower crew and makes sure that campus is blooming year round. At least four times a year, she works with her crew to plant and maintain the beds, making sure to switch out and plant the flowers that will bloom later on. Recently, she planted the tulip bulbs which will make an appearance in the spring. 

“I design and plant all of the planters,” Anne said. “I think we have 36 of them around campus that we do. Other than in the wintertime, we’re doing flowerbeds.”

“It’s very fulfilling to me,” she continued when asked about her work, “It’s very fulfilling to see all our hard work pay off.” 

Her hard work certainly shows. Not only is campus itself a vision, with its perfectly kept beds and flowers at every corner in the springtime, but people will often stop and talk with the groundskeeping crew, telling them just how beautiful campus is and thanking them for their work. 

Alec DeCocker also works in groundskeeping on campus, and he spoke at great length about his love for all things Notre Dame: “I started working at Notre Dame when I was 18,” he said. “I always enjoyed Notre Dame, the culture, the tradition, and just the atmosphere, so I wanted to do my part and try to pitch in at ND and do anything I can.” 

Alec’s love for Notre Dame is what motivated him to work here, he explained. He began working on campus in 2017 at St. Michael’s Laundry and then switched to landscaping in 2020, where he has worked since. Currently, Alec works all around campus, trimming the bushes, blowing leaves, moving snow, and more.

“It’s hard work,” Alec says, “But it’s well paid off.” 

When asked if students ever interact with the landscaping crew, Alec says students and visitors constantly compliment him on his work when they see him around campus. 

“I get so many thank yous and compliments while I’m out there; they make sure my work is appreciated, and that’s what I enjoy most about my job, just to see the smile on people’s faces when they walk through campus.” 

Alec says he doesn’t see himself ever leaving Notre Dame because of his love for the University and the incredibly welcoming environment amongst his managers and coworkers. 

“I can’t imagine a better place to work for.”

And Notre Dame certainly would not be the same without these groundskeepers caring for its magnificent campus. The Architectural Digest confirmed this, stating that at Notre Dame, “everything on the grounds works in harmony to create a place as beautiful as it is educational.” 

Alec agreed, saying, “We work at this beautiful campus, and I think sometimes we take that for granted.”  

Janey Olohan is a junior studying political science from Warrenton, VA. If you can’t find her in McGlinn Hall, you can contact her at jolohan2@nd.edu.