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Published on 07/31/05 in the Fostoria Focus
How Dick Scharf built college sports


By LEONARD SKONECKI Focus Correspondent
A few weeks ago, Fostoria native Richard F. Scharf passed away. Mr. Scharf is in a photograph hanging on my wall even though I never met the man. The picture is of the St. Wendelin graduating class of 1934, my father’s class. Dick was also the athletic director at St. Joseph’s College in Renssalear, Ind., where my sister Leonore (SWHS 1970) attended college. But Dick Scharf was far more than just an athletic director. Few people ever leave their mark on an organization or institution the way he put his on St. Joe’s. Dick went to St. Joe’s after graduating from SWHS. During his undergraduate years, he was a stellar college athlete, taking four letters in football, three in basketball and another three in baseball. He’d prepared well. At St. Wendelin, he was a four-year letterman in football and basketball. As a SWHS senior, he captained the Black and Gold roundballers. The team was coached by Dick’s older brother, Cy. Dick was named to the League of Six Nations all-star team. Nicknamed “Gus,” Dick was the quarterback on the football team. The 1934 Froslin said, “Scharf has been an able leader, a loyal worker and an honorable student. He is the last in the line of Scharf athletes and a real loss to the team.” On top of that, there was hardly a school activity he wasn’t involved in. In his senior year, he and Lucille Vilbrandt had the lead roles in the Bonhi (Boost Our New High School) Club play “The Cat Came Back.” Dick and Mary Barrett and a fellow named Joe Skonecki (my uncle) organized the senior dance. Dick, Joe and Joe Dell were the year’s junior Kiwanians. Dick participated in the Wendelette staff, Froslin staff, Mission Society, Holy Name Society, Quill and Scroll Club, Glee Club and the Student Spiritual Council. What’s more, he was an altar boy and took first place in the Literature Notebook Contest. Dick graduated from St. Joe’s in 1938. He left SJC for one year, but in 1940 he came back and hired on as an assistant Puma football coach. St. Joe discontinued all inter-collegiate sports during World War II. Dick organized intra-mural sports during the war. He was the Puma head coach for both football and baseball from 1946-1950. In 1950, he also took over the head reins of the basketball team and did St. Joe proud. His first season was so-so, but the 1951-52 Pumas jumped from fourth place to a first place tie with Butler. Dick was named the Indiana Collegiate Conference coach of the year. Dick was named chairman of the physical education department in 1956 and became St. Joe athletic director in 1961. He was AD until 1982. At that time, Dick was instrumental in reorganizing the Indiana Collegiate Conference when three of its members moved up from Division II to Division I. In 1982, he became the first full-time commissioner of the Great Lakes Valley Conference, a post he held until 1991. If that wasn’t a hefty enough schedule, Dick coached the golf team from 1970-82. So it comes as no surprise that Dick has a special place in St. Joe’s sports history. In 1969, he was named to the college’s Sports Hall of Fame. In 1994, the Pumas’ basketball and volleyball arena was renamed the Richard F. Scharf Alumni Fieldhouse. The fieldhouse was originally dedicated Dec. 8, 1941, the day after the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. That day the Pumas defeated Illinois Wesleyan, 40-32. On Feb. 19, 1994, it was rededicated in Dick’s name. That night the St. Joe women beat Northern Kentucky, 72-67. The men downed Northern Kentucky, 83-74. In addition, he won the St. Joseph’s College Alumni Merit Award (1965), Alumni Service Award (1981) and the Varsity Club Merit Award (1982). He was president of the Indiana College Health Association and a fellow of the American School Health Association. In 2002, the Great Lakes Valley Conference established its hall of fame and Dick was inducted as a charter member. At that time, the GLVC established the Richard F. Scharf Paragon Award. Each year the conference presents the award to its top male and female student athletes. Dick also held several posts with the National Collegiate Athletic Association. He was Division II Great Lakes Regional Basketball Chairman (1972-77), Division II National Basketball Chairman (1976-77), Division II Baseball Selection Committee (1974-79) and Division II Baseball Midwest Chairman (1975-79). Dick passed away on June 17. He was 89. His wife Kay preceded him. They had three children (Richard, Steven and Maureen), 11 grandchildren and one great-grandchild. St. Joseph’s College said, “Scharf became synonymous with Puma athletics over nearly fifty years of involvement with the college.” Next to Dick’s picture in the 1934 Froslin it says, “On the field he won his fame. Need I even tell his name?” Not at St. Joe’s, you don’t. They know him there.

 

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