Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The Late Bob Rodgers

Pete Carril is being honored by the Joe Lapchick Foundation with its Lapchick Character Award, one he'll share with former Virginia women's coach (and Hopewell Valley High School grad) Debbie Ryan and former Mt. St. Mary's men's basketball coach Jim Phelan.

Former winners include Lou Carnesecca, Dean Smith, Pat Summitt, John Thompson (the other one), Bob Hurley Sr., Jody Conradt, the late Kay Yow and Gene Keady.

Joe Lapchick, for those who don't know, was a legendary New York basketball figure who coached St. John's and the Knicks.

The current class for the award means that two of the honorees will be wearing bow ties to the ceremony, to be held at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 17.

Anyway, none of that is that TigerBlog's point today is about.

When people earn such awards, it's customary for their former school to purchase a congratulatory ad for the honoree, and such is the case with this event (and with the recently completed ad for Carril's induction into the Pennsylvania Sports Hall of Fame).

The Lapchick people sent over a few samples of other ads, and they were forwarded to TigerBlog, along with a picture of fireworks over Jadwin Gym, a picture TB had never seen before.

When he asked where the picture came from, he was told it was sent by "the late Bob Rodgers."

Late, TB immediately wondered. As in, passed away? How could this be possible.

It turned out, sadly, to be true.

Bob Rodgers, Princeton Class of 1956, passed away on Aug. 9, and TB didn't hear about it until seven weeks later. Rodgers was 76 years old at the time of his death.

The world of Princeton Athletics is filled with familiar faces, people who went to Princeton long before TB walked on the campus for the first time, people who have stayed loyal to the University and its teams for decades.

TigerBlog doesn't know all their names, or at least he can't always match the name to the face.

Bob Rodgers was different. He was tall with silver hair, and he was impossible to miss. He was one of those people who never had a bad word to say, who always introduced whoever was around to whoever else was around, as if all of the people in the room were his lifelong friends.

He was appreciative of everything that the OAC did to publicize Princeton sports, and he sent endless emails to express his thanks for one story or another.

TigerBlog, as it turns out, didn't really know much about him, at least until he read his obituary, which included this:
Husband, father, grandfather, brother, friend to all... Engineer, builder, analyst, perfectionist, compulsive organizer, debater, mediator, fixer... Nature lover, preserver, sailor, grill master, builder of beach fires... Reader, wordsmith, collector, poet, writer of limericks... Gentle giant... and Tiger.

TB has no idea if Bob was an athlete (TB doesn't think so). He didn't know he was a St. Louis native, that his career was spent as an engineer, that he was a sailor, that he had a lakehouse in Michigan where he ultimately died this past summer.

All TB really knew about him was that he was an extraordinarily nice man whom TB saw at any number of Princeton sporting events and that he was always in a good mood.

It's not something that is a common denominator in the world these days.

Maybe that's why it's so noticeable when you meet someone who is - and why it's so sad when you learn of their sudden passing.

There will be something missing from Princeton's venues without Bob Rodgers.

Condolences - a few weeks late - to his family and those who knew him way better than TigerBlog, who saw him around the campus regularly for many years and who liked him very much.

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