ALLEGANY, N.Y. — His compassion and concern for decades of students, as well as his trademark pipe and sandals, were among the many memories of Gerald McCaffrey, OFM, shared recently at St. Bonaventure University, where he was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame.
Gerald, who lives in Butler, N.J., was inducted into SBU’s 40-year-old Hall of Fame on Feb. 14 at a ceremony in the Hall of Fame Room in the Reilly Center (RC) before SBU’s basketball game against the University of Massachusetts. The crowd of 5,000 gave Gerald a standing ovation when he was introduced in the RC, said Mary Jane Telford, SBU’s director of volunteer relations, adding, “It was a wonderful day for him.”
“A long line of people came to the Hall of Fame room to congratulate Fr. Gerald,” she said.
Gerald, a member of the class of 1954, is one of four people who were inducted this year into SBU’s Hall of Fame. The others are former basketball co-captain and coach Jim Baron, SBU ’77, swimmer Anna Belliveau, ’99, and Jean Pascal Gingras, ’98, a tennis player. Baron is now head basketball coach at University of Rhode Island.
“What makes this class so special is its wide range of accomplishments,” said SBU Director of Athletics Steve Watson in an Olean Times Herald story. “Induction into the Hall of Fame recognizes and honors those individuals who have made exceptional contributions to the intercollegiate program at St. Bonaventure, and who have continued to demonstrate in their lives, the values imparted by intercollegiate athletics,” according to the ceremony program.
Gerald joined five other friars in the SBU Athletic Hall of Fame:
• Gervase McMillen, OFM, class of 1926, who was inducted in 1972
• Silas Rooney, OFM, class of 1929, inducted in 1974
• Canisius Connors, OFM, class of 1930, and Anselm Krieger, OFM, both inducted in 1987
• James Dolan, OFM, class of 1881, inducted in 1989
Decades of Service to SBU
Gerald, who in 2008 commemorated 50 years of priesthood, was based at St. Bonaventure from 1968 to 1995. During that time, he served as the university’s vice president of student affairs, athletic department chaplain, moderator of athletics, and math professor.
“A mentor, a calming voice, and a friend,” is how the event program described Gerald. “He was dedicated to helping student-athletes and coaches enjoy the athletic experience. Fr. Gerald’s impact can’t be measured by statistics but by the number of people whose experience at St. Bonaventure was made that much better,” the text said.
“Gerald was such a fixture at so many athletic events and, for many student-athletes, the Franciscan heart and face of St. Bonaventure University,” said Lawrence Ford, OFM, who grew up near the campus and whose father, Lawrence D. Ford, SBU ’62, served for many years as director of SBU’s Reilly Center and later as director of personnel.
Telford, a 1975 SBU graduate and a former coach of SBU’s women’s basketball team, introduced Gerald before his award was presented. “I was honored when Fr. Gerald called me last month to ask me to be his presenter,” said Telford, who said she and Gerald have kept in touch since he left Bonaventure. They have known each other since 1971 when she was a student and basketball player, strengthening the bond during her 17-year coaching career, Telford said.
Telford described, in her speech, how Gerald took a statement made by former SBU president Reginald Redlon, OFM, to heart. She said that Gerald made the phrase “We dare not take the student for granted; he must be treated as sacred” his mission. “That focus of treating the student as sacred — through his commitment to, concern for, and love of the students — is mentioned repeatedly when student-athletes, alumni, coaches, parents, staff and administrators reflect about Fr. Gerald.”
She said: “St. Bonaventure University is proud of this wonderful friar who, in his daily life, has always exemplified our Franciscan values of joy, hope, compassion and a commitment to serve others.”
In his acceptance speech, Gerald included humor, as well as an emotional moment. Telford said he got emotional “when he spoke about coming to SBU as a student and watching the esteemed and beloved friars Thomas Plassmann, OFM, and Brian Lhota, OFM.” They inspired Gerald to become a friar. “I thought, ‘How can I be like those men’ is how Fr. Gerald said it,” according to Telford.
The Saturday afternoon induction event began with an invocation by Allen Weber, OFM, and a welcome by Sr. Margaret Carney, OSF, St. Bonaventure’s president.
“Gerald seemed very pleased by the whole event,” said Bernard Creighton, OFM, who drove Gerald from New Jersey to Western New York and who is also a St. Bonaventure graduate. Bernard worked for 22 years on the SBU campus, as a staff member of the Franciscan Institute.
The day after the induction, Gerald celebrated Mass for his family in SBU’s friary chapel. Nearly 20 of his family members came for the weekend activities; they were from Stamford, Conn., Charlotte, N.C., and Rochester and Utica, N.Y. Several of Gerald’s nieces and nephews are SBU graduates, Bernard said.
On Feb. 18, Gerald, who was born in Brooklyn, was recognized at a celebration by his brothers at St. Anthony Friary in Butler, where he has lived since 2004. It was held during a retreat at the Butler friary for Province friars.
The Hall of Fame plaque that Gerald had received was displayed by guardian John Mahon, OFM, for all to see.
“Gerald seemed to have a great sense of appreciation,” said Bernard, who is vicar at the Butler friary.
— Jocelyn Thomas is director of communications for Holy Name Province.