When Prof. Bob Brandt, who heads the School's Furniture Design Concentration, saw that the University had to borrow a podium from Indiana University South Bend for the 2010 commencement ceremony, he knew he had to put his skills to work. As he sat through the ceremony, Prof. Brandt planned to approach Dean Michael Lykoudis with a proposal to construct an official University of Notre Dame podium. After the ceremony, former University Registrar Dr. Harold Pace and Assistant Registrar Liz Rosencrantz came to Brandt with the same idea. They agreed that Notre Dame needed its own podium, one built to the University's specifications and standards.
Prof. Brandt enlisted Prof. Kevin Buccellato, Director of the Building Arts Concentration. Brandt wanted to collaborate with Buccellato because of their different approaches to design—Brandt bringing a sculptor's sensibility and Buccellato an architectural approach. University President Rev. John Jenkins made only one request: that the podium be appropriate, functional, and beautiful. The podium is to be used by President Jenkins for any academic purpose or public speaking.
It took the duo over 1,000 hours to complete their original, collaborative design. They began by walking around campus and observing the important buildings—the Basilica of the Sacred Heart, the Administration Building, and Washington Hall. All three were built in the Victorian Gothic style and included elements that Brandt and Buccellato admired. The result of their thoughtful collaboration is a beautifully crafted mahogany podium with influences from across campus: capitols from the Basilica, columns and brackets from the Administration Building, and carvings matching details found on Basilica furnishings. Another essential facet is the Holy Cross emblem of the Cross and Anchors flanking the University of Notre Dame nameplate at the top of the podium. Brandt included this detail to remind whoever sees the podium that Notre Dame is an institution of the Order of the Holy Cross. Each element had to be redesigned and proportioned; Brandt and Buccellato said they “played with the architecture of the sculpture.”
One of the biggest challenges they faced was making the podium stand out as purely academic, without the characteristics of an ecclesiastical pulpit, and to have a large enough presence in the Notre Dame Stadium while also appearing proportionate in an auditorium as well. The podium made its debut at the 2011 commencement ceremony. Embossed with the Notre Dame seal on front, the podium stands 47 inches tall as a true symbol of the Notre Dame spirit, Brandt says.
Brandt and Buccellato’s second collaboration was a podium for the School of Architecture. The final product was first used at the School's 2012 Commencement ceremony.