Batting Clean-Up


I first met Dick Ungar when I was a sophomore at Saint John's, and I was playing J.V. baseball.  Dick, who had graduated from Saint John's in 1985, was the coach, and at the same time he was working on his Masters in education.  On the field Dick was known as a great communicator, someone who knew baseball very well, and someone with a great sense of humor.  Lord knows he needed that around our bunch.  And Dick also exhibited that trait held by so many tremendous leaders:  he would go above and beyond for others.

Dick exhibited the type of balance that a liberal arts college like Saint John's seeks to produce.  On the one side he majored in art, one of those subjects that some people tend to pigeon-hole at the far edge of the liberal arts spectrum.  And he balanced his passion for art by playing two demanding sports -- football and baseball.

After I graduated, Dick and I ran into each other occasionally, but only when I returned to Saint John's as a senior development officer did we really begin to reconnect.  I recall one lunch in particular when we caught up, had some great laughs, and shared updates on our lives.  At that meeting I also shared with Dick our plans to build a new baseball stadium at Saint John's.

By that time Dick had become the athletic director at Chanhassen High School, so that didn't necessarily put him high on my list of major donors to that project.  On the other hand, I knew he was an ideal connection because he had kept his network of Johnnie friends alive and thriving.  And when my phone rang a week later it didn't surprise me at all to hear Dick's voice at the other end of the line.  He had an idea, and he suggested that we start a Johnnie Baseball alumni golf outing.  It would be a way to reconnect guys who might not have seen each other in many years, and it would give us the chance to bring them up to speed on our stadium plans.

Even better, Dick said he would help lead the effort.  That was the consummate Dick Ungar -- always going above and beyond.  And now we are in our eighth year of an event that has brought together several hundred Johnnie alumni.

But Dick wasn't done yet.  Not long afterward he called again, this time to say that he wanted to make a commitment to the stadium project.  He said that in his role as an athletic director he had learned clearly the need for great facilities, and he wanted to help make that happen.

In my work as a development officer I'm fortunate to meet many generous benefactors, and their support helps some outstanding young men at Saint John's.  But our goal is more than funding their education.  Essentially what we strive to achieve is to produce young men who in time will be like the benefactors with whom we work.  That may sound like a line you'd expect from a development officer, but it's the truth.  I can't think of better people to replicate than Johnnies.  The world needs more of them, just like the world needs more Dick Ungars.