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 than 50 men to baseball's major leagues. One, Harry
Hooper '07, is in the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, New York. Also playing
for the Gaels were former pitcher Tom Candiotti '79, Los Angels Dodgers, and
James Mouton '91, outfielder for the Houston Astros, who 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
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
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 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.
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. Since 1929 it has also been the name
of the yearbook.
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 appear 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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