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Saint Mary's College Facts

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What do Olde Gaels talk about when they get together? Here are some of the favorite "people, places and facts" of our alums.

The Slip Madigan Era:
From 1921 to 1939, Saint Mary's football was coached by the legendary Edward "Slip" Madigan, who came from Knute Rockne's staff at Notre Dame and turned Saint Mary's College into a collegiate football powerhouse. By 1930, Madigan had engineered a 20-12 triumph over Fordham at the Polo Grounds. The Gaels met Texas Tech in the Cotton Bowl in 1939 and won 20-13. Slip registered 117 wins with an overall winning percentage of 72.2%, the best in Saint Mary's College history. Madigan Gym is named after Slip. His son Ed often attends Saint Mary's sporting events. In the fall of 1992, a Sports Illustrated special edition devoted eight pages to Slip's Saint Mary's years.

Brother Cornelius' Bricks:
Brother Cornelius Braeg, FSC, wanted an art gallery in the worst way. He lobbied and urged, but times were tough. Therefore, he and some students started making adobe bricks with an eye to building the gallery themselves. Finally the administration bowed to Brother's wishes and built the gallery in 1953. It was damaged by fire in 1975 and was replaced by the present Hearst Art Gallery, funded by the Hearst Foundation. It is the only accredited art museum in Contra Costa County.

A few of Brother's bricks survived in a little ivy-covered pillar outside the gallery. Brother Cornelius is honored with the Art Center that bears his name, and includes the gallery, art studios, offices, and the Brother Kyran Aviani Art Audio-Visual Room.

Our Baseball Greats:
Saint Mary's has sent more then 50 men to baseball's major leagues. One, Harry Hooper '07, is in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Former pitcher Tom Candiotti '79, Los Angels Dodgers, and James Mouton '91, outfielder for the Houston Astros, has been selected as one of the West Coast Conferences all-time great out-fielders.

The Poet Laureate:
Robert Hass '63 was named Poet Laureate in 1995, the first Westerner to hold that position. He was a popular full-time professor of English for 18 years and during that time won a MacArthur "Genius Grant" and a Yale Younger Poets award. He frequently comes to campus to read from his work to appreciative audiences, and to teach master classes in the MFA program for creative writers.

The Navy Pre-Flight School:
During World War II, the Navy virtually took over the campus for a Pre-Flight School. Former President Gerald Ford taught at the school. Astronaut Scott Carpenter and actor Dennis Weaver were among the 16,000 students. In 1995, a reunion drew men and their wives from throughout the U.S. For more information call Gerald Kirsten at 209-334-6742.

The Brickpile:
The Oakland campus, which stood on Broadway from 1889 to 1928, was affectionately known as the Brickpile. Two bricks from the Oakland structure are embedded in the outside plaster of the current campus.

The Railroad:
The Sacramento Northern Railway brought students from San Francisco and Oakland, and proceeded on to Sacramento and Chico. Conductor Lynn Hull was sidelined from 9 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. every day and took classes to kill time. He graduated maxima cum laude in 1938 and later became an executive with Southern Pacific! Passenger service ended in 1941 and freight in 1957. Railroad ties were used for years in bonfires at rallies. Wisdom is that the tracks just disappeared into the mud one wet winter.

The Soda Center:
This structure is named for the late Y. Charles Soda and his wife Helen. Soda was a prominent East Bay developer who generously funded the Center. The Soda Center is a site for meetings, banquets, poetry readings, club meetings, symposia, wedding receptions and civic events.

The Gael:
In 1926, sportswriter Pat Frayne of the now defunct San Francisco Call christened the football team "The Gaels." The Irish warrior quickly became the mascot and moniker for all the athletic teams.

The Historic Bell:
An 1,800-pound bell remained behind in San Francisco when the College moved to Oakland in 1888. It rang at St. John the Evangelist Catholic Church but fell silent in 1979, when it was removed from the belfry as an earthquake hazard. In September 1987, the East Bay Scholarship Fund financed the complicated and expensive move to the Moraga campus. It was installed in front of the College Chapel and was formally presented and rung at Homecoming in October 1987 to the accompaniment of bagpipes. The Bell's the only artifact except drawings that remains from the San Francisco days, it now hangs in the Arcade, adjacent to the Chapel.

The Famous Phone Booth Stuffing:
In 1959, 22 or 23 small students (no one can agree on just how many) were stuffed into a phone booth, resulting in a coverage in Life, Time, Newsweek and other publications. A photo of that exploit continues to appears on postcards, books and ads. Of course no women were involved as it was an all-male school until 1970.

In 1984, during Homecoming Weekend, groups of male and female students did it again, recreating the stuffing in front of the College Chapel. They ended up again in national magazines and television. One of those stuffed was a son of one of the original participants, Paul Desrochers '61.

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