Dr. Jack Ramsay ’49 Scholarship Honors Legacy of Revered SJU Coach
One of the largest gifts to date toward President’s Magis Scholarship Initiative
As Jack Ramsay ’49 mentored five would-be NBA head coaches from Saint Joseph’s, his influence as an educator became apparent in statistics. “Dr. Jack,” as he is known in basketball circles, made headlines with a 234-72 record, 10 postseason berths and a spot in the 1961 Final Four. Sports Illustrated named his 1965-66 Hawks the national preseason No. 1. Away from the court, though, he was a teacher.
Jack’s legacy as a coach and teacher is now honored and celebrated in an endowed scholarship recently established by his daughter Sharon Ramsay O’Brien ’76 and her husband Jim O’Brien ’74. The Dr. Jack Ramsay ’49 Scholarship will support students majoring in education who are involved in service.
The scholarship is among the largest gifts thus far to the President’s Magis Scholarship Initiative. Since the campaign launch less than two years ago, Saint Joseph’s has raised $7.1 million dollars, including $3.4 million toward 24 new scholarships.
A Coach of Basketball and of Life
With the naming of the Ramsay Basketball Center in 2009, the sports legacy of the Hall of Fame coach, which began with 11 years at Saint Joseph’s from 1955-1966, was celebrated with great fanfare. With the announcement of the Dr. Jack Ramsay ’49 Scholarship, the University acknowledges Jack’s example of living Ignatian ideals fully and continuously throughout his life. A coach of basketball and of life, Jack remained dedicated to teaching others to strive toward excellence through his innate ability to inspire and lead by example.
One of Jack’s mentees was his son-in-law Jim O’Brien, who explained the thought that went into the scholarship. “Sharon and I want to honor Jack and all he’s meant to Saint Joseph’s and our families, beyond a name on a building and in a way that will directly impact students’ lives, year-to-year,” he said. “Jack Ramsay embodies the magis. Through this scholarship, his name remains connected to what it means to live greater, to the best of a Jesuit education.”
In establishing the scholarship, benefactors Jim and Sharon O’Brien hope to further the field of education through tuition support for deserving students, provide the opportunity for students to “do for others” as they put the scholarship into action and ensure that the Dr. Jack Ramsay name continues to be associated with the Ignatian ideals fostered at Saint Joseph’s University.
The Family Connection
Sharon has fond memories as the SJU coach’s daughter: going to games at the Palestra, hanging around at the Fieldhouse and attending faculty family Christmas parties. This was before Jack’s first position in the professional ranks with the 1966-67 Philadelphia 76ers and his coaching the Portland Trail Blazers to the 1977 NBA Title. “To this day, some of those student-athletes from our earlier years remain close friends of our family,” she said. “Saint Joseph’s had a tremendous impact on Dad’s life; it helped launch his career. He holds Saint Joseph’s very close to his heart.”
Dr. Jack and his wife Jean met at a Halloween dance at Saint Joseph’s. Sharon and Jim met at the University. A direct family connection at SJU continues to this day with their niece Chloe Ramsay ’16, an economics major.
Jim and Sharon’s grown children and their spouses – Shannon O’Brien and Joshua Hammann, Jack and Sarah O’Brien, and Caitlyn O’Brien – were also enthusiastic about honoring their “Pop” in this way. All have made donations to the scholarship fund.
A Teacher, First and Foremost
“Dr. Jack” taught in the SJU Education Department and received his master’s and doctorate degrees from the University of Pennsylvania, the latter in education.
“As a basketball coach, he was a teacher,” Jim said. “His approach to education and our family’s belief in giving back are well realized by the Saint Joseph’s mission of ‘educating men and women for others.’”
Sharon said that her dad was very touched when he learned about the scholarship. “In his typical humble way, he just shook his head,” she said. “And he agrees that this is a very tangible way of helping the University while looking to the future.”