For years, they’ve been sitting in filing cabinets or storage boxes in dark closets: programs, trophies, individual pieces of history that collectively patch together the athletic accomplishments of the University. This fall, that changes. The University’s athletic history is being dusted off and put on display with the creation of the O’Keefe Family Athletic Hall of Fame. The hall, which is expected to be completed by the beginning of basketball season, is being constructed on the Cintas Center concourse in an area that overlooks the student dining area of the Center. The hall includes open display cases with memorabilia that will be rotated regularly and interactive kiosks with information about every member of the hall—stats, biographies, videos, interviews.
Xavier has 90 members in its athletic hall of fame, including some for boxing, polo and marathon running. One member is inducted for being a supporter.
Eighteen are inducted for participation in multiple sports.
The hall’s development came about following a gift from 1959 graduate P. Douglas O’Keefe. “I had no idea there was no hall of fame,” says O’Keefe. “And involvement in something of this nature was the farthest thing from my mind. If it had not been mentioned that they were looking for funding, I doubt if I would have sought out some project to sponsor. I hope that we can make it a real great asset to the school.”
O’Keefe didn’t play sports during his Xavier days—“As a 5-foot-9, 137-pound freshman with no natural ability, I was not really inclined to play sports in college on any level,” he says. But he followed the teams closely.
“One of my greatest memories is sitting in my friend’s living room and watching the clock tick down to the 1958 NIT Championship and seeing Hank Stein get the MVP trophy.”
He’s also kept a close watch on the team during his 30-year career at UPS that shuttled him around the country and led him to be the shipping company’s regional coordinator for air operations in the Pacific Region. He now lives in Austin, Texas, and checks in on Xavier daily on the Internet.
“I try to get back to a game or two each year,” he says. “It is hard to tear away from the weather in the South and go to the frozen North. I was at the Temple game this past season. I got on the plane in Austin in 70-degree weather and got off in a snowstorm. So you can see the motivation has to be great.”
He’s also motivated to make sure the hall isn’t just a basketball shrine but is a place that pays tribute to those from all sports who were elected.
“My vision is that this is a place to honor the people who are members, to highlight their accomplishments,” he says. “If someone in your family is a member, you should be able to go and see more than a plaque with his name on it. There are a lot of people in the hall of fame who are not household names among Xavier faithful. This should make a concerted effort to give them as much recognition as the more well-known members.
“These are the folks who have given their effort in their years at Xavier without the thought of being famous. They worked as hard at their sport or job as any of our more known alumni. This is our opportunity to recognize them for all to see and learn about.”