Friday, April 30, 2010

DePaul Alum Sets World Record Again

Harrry Brown (on the right) at the 2008 DePaul Relays

DePaul track alum Harry Brown ('52) set a new world record in the 200 meters at the Master's Indoor Championship in Boston, March 26-28 in the 80-84 age group in a time of 31.29. Brown's time eclipsed the previous record of 31.86 run by former Iowa State All-American Melvin Larsen.

Brown also captured titles in the 60m and 400m, clocking 9.51 and 1:15.81 times, respectively. The 400-meter time was .13 seconds off the U.S. record.

Holding a world record is nothing new to Brown, who currently holds the mark for 400m for the 75-79 age group with a time of 69:10.

Brown set his record at the 2010 USA Masters Indoor Track & Field Championships, held at the Reggie Lewis Track & Athletic Center on the campus of Roxbury Community College.More than 850 athletes from around the country, ranging from age 30 to 96, were on hand to compete in the Championships.

For press release from the Championship, Click HERE.

Monday, April 26, 2010

DePaul to Create Letterwinners Plaza and Champions Courtyard

DePaul Athletics is celebrating the legacy of Letterwinners with the creation of the Letterwinners Plaza and Champions Courtyard west of Cacciatore Stadium.

The plaza will be a monument to the success of Blue Demon athletics and the donors, friends and family that have sacrificed to make Blue Demon successes a reality.

The Letterwinners Plaza and Champions Courtyard will become a destination for letterwinners, fans and their families when they return to Lincoln Park to see DePaul University. Imagine the pride of your family members when they see your name listed among the all-time great Blue Demons.

You have the exclusive opportunity to purchase your brick, starting at $200. All gifts are tax-deductible with the proceeds benefiting the Cacciatore Stadium renovations.

Large Bricks (12x12 and 8x8) can have up to four lines of text with limited characters. Your message might be as simple as a name and date or as elaborate as a favorite quote. Please note DePaul reserves the right to approve all messages.

Letterwinners Bricks will feature the same layout to ensure continuity. All Letterwinners bricks will have the D Logo. Donor bricks will have primary logo.

The Champions Plaza is a part of the Cacciatore Stadium - Phase II renovations. When completed, the renovations will make a state-of-the-art fan-centered stadium for Blue Demon softball and soccer.

For more information, call Jennifer Thomas at 773-325-8604.


Wednesday, April 21, 2010

DePaul Basketball Adds 12 All-Americans

When talking with basketball alumni from the 40s, the names Bob Neu and Stan Szukala almost always come up. Inevitably the two stars' names would be linked with the phrase All-American. DePaul has long recognized their achievement with induction into the DePaul Athletic Hall of Fame and their names stand among Blue Demon giants, but they have never been recognized officially as All-Americans.

Bob Neu and Stan Szukala and six other Blue Demons can now officially be referred to as All-Americans after their verification in the NCAA's book, Men's Basketball's Finest. The book can be downloaded in its entirety  by clicking HERE. The book has a chapter that includes every All-America team from the top division of men's basketball that could be researched. The teams include teams picked by magazines that are out of print to today's sports websites.

With the additions, DePaul men's basketball student-athletes have now been recognized as All-Americans 38 times in the school's storied hoops history. 

Pictured to the above is 1957 All-American Richard Heise (#14). He was named to the third-team of the Helm's Foundation's All-American team. Heise averaged 24.3 points per game his senior year. His 1957 scoring effort ranks him second all-time at DePaul behind Mark Aguirre's 26.8 ppg in 1980.

New Additions to DePaul's All-America List
Ed Campion - 1937 - first team - MSG
Robert Neu - 1938 - second team - MSG
Robert Neu - 1939 - first team - MSG
Stan Szukala - 1939 - second team - MSG
Lou Prosser - 1940 - second - MSG
Stan Szukala - 1940 - first team - MSG
Elmer Gainer - 1941 - second team - MSG
George Mikan - 1943 - second team - Helms
Ed Mikan - 1948 - third team - Helms
Ron Sobie - 1956 - second team - Converse and Helms Foundation
Richard Heise - 1957 - third team - Helms Foundation 
Clyde Bradshaw - 1980 - second team - Converse

Monday, April 19, 2010

Uncovering a DePaul Treasures - Jack Dean - A True DePaul Hoops Hero

Hearing DePaul athletic alumni tell "their" DePaul story is clearly the favorite part of my job. I have had the great honor to meet many of DePaul's athletic alumni. One of my favorite alums has been Jack Phelan, and his most touching story helped me to appreciate the true meaning of the term "Hero." 

Phelan played men's basketball at DePaul from 1943-46 and 1947-49. He was part of the 1946 NIT National Championship. Our visits in Sarasota are always filled with great tales of DePaul legends since he played alongside hoops legend George Mikan at DePaul and against Mikan in the NBA. Phelan also played for Hall of Fame Coach Ray Meyer during the advent of his illustrious career. 

Phelan's stories are unfailingly humble in nature and rarely focused on him or his exploits. He can tell stories of games in Madison Square Garden, the early days of the NBA as a Sheboygan Redskin or a Waterloo Hawk or even tales of the early days travelling and playing against the great Harlem Globetrotters. There's the anecdote of Coach Ray having Jack's sister dance with George Mikan to improve the big fellow's clumsy footwork.

But I'll never forget the time Phelan led me down the path to the story of Jack Dean. During a visit two years ago, I had noticed a trophy that was tucked away above his refrigerator. When asked about it, Jack smiled and said: "That's the Jack Dean Award for Sportsmanship. I earned it my senior year. Of all the trophies I have earned, this is the one that I kept. It means a lot to me."

I may not have dug more deeply into the Jack Dean story, but one day last winter men's basketball alum and women's basketball coach Doug Bruno asked me what I knew of Dean. He had heard stories from some St. Ignatius guys and wanted to know more.

The search for Jack Dean began....
Jack Dean came to DePaul to play basketball at age 17 in 1943-44 because he wasn't old enough to enlist in the military. Instead of enlisting, he signed up for duty with the Blue Demons and Ray Meyer. The St. Ignatius prep came in well-prepared and made an immediate impact. He would finish the 1943-44 season as DePaul's third-leading scorer behind All-Americans Mikan and Dick Triptow.

"He was a good player and a great-looking guy," said teammate Dick Triptow. "He really added a lot to our team."

"I owe playing at DePaul to Jack," said Blue Demon Hall of Famer Eugene Stump. "I was sitting on the South Side waiting to get old enough to enlist when Jack told me I should go up with him for some basketball at DePaul one afternoon. We went, and a couple of weeks later, Coach Ray Meyer offered us both scholarships to play for the Blue Demons. For me, that really changed everything."

Dean was the leading scorer in DePaul's semifinal victory over Oklahoma A&M in Madison Square Garden. With Mikan on the bench in foul trouble, the freshman stood tall and knocked down several shots in the Blue Demons' come-from-behind victory.

The following game, the referees got the best of DePaul in the Garden. By most newspaper accounts, St. John's and storied coach Joe Lapchick benefited some home cooking. Both Mikan and Dean fouled out early in DePaul's 47-39 loss to the St. John's Indians (as they were known back then).

Teammate Bill McNabola mentioned in some notes a copy of the March 27, 1944 New York Times article: "Referees were brutal on Mikan and Dean. They were ticky-tack fouls."
The calls were apparently so bad that Meyer wanted to pull the team from the floor---but was advised by priests that would be wrong. DePaul finished as the NIT runner-up.

As the season closed, so did Dean's time as a Blue Demon. Now that he was 18, he enlisted in the Navy. On the advice of Meyer, and after some phone calls by the legendary coach, Dean was assigned to the Great Lakes Naval Training Station in Chicago. Instead of being shipped out, the Blue Demon forward was assigned to work at the Naval Station and play for the base's basketball team. 

Great Lakes had a fine athletics program for basketball and baseball. The 1942 baseball team was managed by Mickey Cochrane and featured Major Leaguers like Johnny Mize, Bob Feller and Billy Herman. The talent on the basketball and football teams was comparable. For more information, check out this link regarding Roger Gogan's book.

Gogan's book documents that Dean had some ultimately irreparable issues with the coach and was set to be shipped out to San Diego, and then overseas. Apparently Dean's reputation as a player preceded him, and before he was shipped abroad, he was assigned to play for the Naval Training Station in San Diego. Unfortunately, Dean got crossed up with the coach and ultimately was sent overseas.

Dean served aboard the U.S.S. Indianapolis as an S2. In July of 1945 the Indianapolis received orders to make a special delivery to Tinian Island. The Indianapolis was to transport a top-secret cargo, the uranium for the atomic bomb "Little Boy" which subsequently would be dropped on Hiroshima. Travelling alone, the Indianapolis would reach Tinian on July 26 and then onto Guam before continuing to Okinawa, Japan to rejoin other ships. On July 30, the Indianapolis was sunk by a Japanese submarine.

The tragedy is best described by the U.S.S. Indianapolis website (

At 12:14 a.m. on July 30, 1945, the USS Indianapolis was torpedoed by a Japanese submarine in the Philippine Sea and sank in 12 minutes. Of 1,196 men on board, approximately 300 went down with the ship. The remainders, about 900 men, were left floating in shark-infested waters with no lifeboats and most with no food or water. The ship was never missed, and by the time the survivors were spotted by accident four days later, only 316 men were still alive.

The sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis and the deaths that followed led to the greatest single loss of life at sea in the history of the U.S. Navy. A generation of movie fans best knows the sinking of the U.S.S. Indianapolis from the dramatic scene from JAWS. Click HERE for link.

"I met a guy who found out I played at DePaul," said Phelan. "He said he swam beside Jack for three days. He said he just couldn't hang on."

On my last trip to see Phelan, we talked more about Jack Dean and his story. As our visit closed, he again showed me the trophy, and this time pulled it down and handed it to me. He then asked me if I would bring it back home to DePaul. I told him I was touched, and that I would make sure it was prominently displayed so DePaul fans everywhere would know Jack Dean's story.

It is the story of a young man who made an immediate impact on DePaul. Though it would have been easy to bask in the glory of hoops fame, instead he remained steadfast in his desire to serve his country. He made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can all have the freedom we hold so dear.

Jack Dean never will be listed among DePaul's scoring or rebounding greats---his 268 career points have faded anonymously into the past.

But hopefully through Jack Phelan's storytelling and the Jack Dean Trophy placed in our Hall of Fame Foyer Trophy Case, DePaul athletics can always remember the true meaning of Hero.


- entry from the November 1945 DePaul University Alumni News 

Jack Dean, standout forward of the 1943 Demon quintet who served abroad the heavy cruiser U.S.S. Indianapolis, has been reported missing ever since that ship was sunk July 30 in the Philippine sea with heavy loss of life.

Enrolling in DePaul's School of Commerce after graduating from St. Ignatius High, where he captained the basketball squad in his senior year, young Jack developed as one of the finest freshmen cagers in the country. In his one season as a Demon, he totaled 268 points to trail only Dick Triptow and George Mikan who gained All-American recognition.
Before leaving for Great Lakes in April of 1944, Dean admitted his greatest hard-court thrill was scoring 21 points against Notre Dame to spearhead the victory over the Irish.

U.S.S. Indianapolis Links

Sunday, April 18, 2010

DePaul Remembers Law Alum Benjamin Hooks

DePaul Law School Remembers Alumnus And Former NAACP Head, Benjamin Hooks
Benjamin L. Hooks, who graduated from theDePaul University College of Law in 1948, grew up in an America marked by racism and injustice. Determined to change it, he spent his life fighting for equality.  A highly respected champion of civil rights and one of the College of Law’s outstanding alumni, Hooks died April 15 in Memphis, Tenn.Though his work would take him back to Tennessee and later to Washington, D.C.,  Hooks remained connected to the College of Law throughout his lifetime.  The law school honored his outstanding service to the field of public interest law in 2003, and he earned an honorary degree at the law school’s 1977 commencement ceremony.  Recognition for a career and achievements that defied the odds.

According to his official biography provided by the Benjamin L. Hooks Institute for Social Change at the University of  Memphis, Hooks first began his study of jurisprudence by enrolling in a pre-law course at LeMyone College in Memphis.  He joined the United States Army before completing his studies and was stationed overseas.  This experience made him determined to champion the cause of civil rights when he found himself charged with guarding Italian prisoners who were allowed to eat in restaurants that would deny him service. He rose to the rank of staff sergeant before his tour of duty ended and returned state side to complete his undergraduate studies at Howard University.

With a desire to become an attorney, Hooks returned to Tennessee. However, what he experienced upon moving back to Memphis was the true meaning of bigotry in the South. No law school in his native state of Tennessee would admit him. So Hooks moved north to attend law school at DePaul University.

“DePaul gave him an opportunity to go to law school when others would not admit him because of his race,” said College of Law Professor Bruce Ottley.  Ottley knew Hooks and had the opportunity to spend one-on-one time with him over dinner during one of Hooks’ visits to Chicago and the College of Law.  “He was qualified and his G.I. Bill would pay his tuition so his race really did not matter to DePaul.

After earning his law degree in 1948, Hooks went back to Memphis and embarked on a storied legal career that would earn him a place among of our nation’s most celebrated civil rights advocates. 

“Benjamin Hooks was a true role model who lived a life that illustrates for our students what they can accomplish no matter what obstacles try and stop them,” said Ottley.  “People can look at graduates like Hooks and know that no matter what your background, you can still achieve whatever you want if you get a good education.”

To read the entire article, Click HERE

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Purnell's Singular Mission:Restore the Greatness

The daunting challenge of resurrecting the DePaul men's basketball program at perhaps the most crucial point in its illustrious 87-year history has been embraced by a man who has battled adversity for much of his life.

From the time he was 12 years old taking a stand for school integration in mid-1960s Maryland to becoming the first African-American head basketball coach at four different universities, Oliver Purnell  has fought for social justice and enhanced both the athletic ability and social sensibility of his student-athletes.

Purnell, 56, was formally introduced as the Blue Demons' new basketball coach at a Tuesday afternoon press conference in Lincoln Park.

What the local media, the DePaul community and an entire city are going to discover is a unique individual who listened to his conscience at a defining moment in his coaching career. (For Full Article, Click HERE)