Light in September

Before the Maroons' first-ever night football game Saturday, the University saluted Bernie DelGiorno, AB'54, AB'55, MBA'55, who donated funds for Stagg Field's new lights and FieldTurf. At a late-afternoon picnic on the crisp, sunny day—ideal football weather—former student-athletes and athletes' parents joined Chicago administrators and DelGiorno's family and friends for hot dogs, hamburgers, and veggie skewers.

Director of Athletics Tom Weingartner noted that DelGiorno, a former student gymnast who's long supported Chicago athletics, "likes to brag that he's missed only one varsity football game since 1939." Weingartner jokingly called DelGiorno's bluff: Chicago dropped football from 1940 to 1968. "Still," he said, "to miss only one game since 1969 is a pretty remarkable record."

President Robert J. Zimmer presented DelGiorno with a replica of a plaque that now stands just inside the Stagg Field gate. His $5 million gift not only renovated the field—a project that began last November—but also helps offset costs for a new dorm and a performing-arts center. DelGiorno "appreciates the importance of these activities to our students," Zimmer said, "and has a very special passion for University athletics."

DelGiorno explained why both artificial turf and lights "made a whole lot of sense": the buoyant turf helps prevent injuries, requires no watering or mowing, and, made with recycled sneakers, is environmentally friendly. The lights, meanwhile, "effectively add thousands of hours of additional playing time" for both University Athletic Association and intramural teams to practice and compete. DelGiorno exclaimed, "Let there be light!"

A few football players, dressed for their 6 p.m. game against Elmhurst College, gave DelGiorno an official jersey and another surprise: he'd be an honorary cocaptain for the game and attend the coin toss.

Though the Maroons won the coin toss, they didn't fare as well in the game. Under the well-lit field, they fell to Elmhurst 36-13. Next week they host Macalester—in an afternoon match.


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Photos (left to right): At the picnic DelGiorno chats with President Zimmer and Chicago Initiative chair Andy Alper, AB’80, MBA’81; DelGiorno views the new plaque thanking him for his gifts; Chicago's first night game.

Photos by Dan Dry.

September 17, 2007