Grandpa Bronco

Bronco values go far! Joe Biden’s grandfather helped mold him into the man he is. And Ambrose Finnegan? He was shaped by Santa Clara.

Grandpa Bronco
A Santa Clara football team from the early 1900s, the era during which they stole Ambrose Finnegan's heart—and Biden family lore. / Image courtesy SCU archives

The 46th president of the United States of America has familial roots at Santa Clara.

Joseph R. Biden Jr. has spoken affectionately of his maternal grandfather, Ambrose Finnegan, who played football at the turn of the 20th Century at Santa Clara College.

Delivering the 2016 commencement speech at the University of Notre Dame, Biden joked that “Grandpop” Ambrose didn’t care for Santa Clara being referred to as the “Notre Dame of the West,” choosing instead to call the Fighting Irish the “Santa Clara of the Midwest.”

Ambrose’s request for a subscription renewal is printed in an archived edition of the Santa Clara from 1930, when he was working at The Scrantonian newspaper.

“It is a pleasure indeed to renew my subscription, which, like a letter home, can’t come too soon,” he wrote. Ambrose had moved back to his hometown of Scranton, Pennsylvania, after surviving the great San Francisco earthquake of 1906.

In his early years, Biden lived for a time with his grandparents. Those years may have been formative for the future president. In his book recounting the 1988 presidential race (Biden’s first of three presidential campaigns), What It Takes: The Way to the White House, journalist Richard Ben Cramer writes, “The Finnegans were all opinionated. A guest for dinner would get a fine feed, but at the same time, he’d better watch what he said. All his ideas were fair game: they’d take him apart.”

A sneak peek into Ambrose Finnegan’s grades from 1901. / Image courtesy SCU Archives
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