Sunday, February 15, 2009

Story about Rev Betowski, S.J, moderator to track program, 1951-68

My name is Don Betowski (Georgetown college class of 1966), aka Nevada Hoya on the popular Hoya Talk board. I try to keep the basketball crazy alumni and fans informed of the exploits of the Hoya track and field team (

I am not a track alumnus; the closest I came to being on the track and field team was the day Coach Steve Benedek was watching me try to go over the high jump bar. He had seen me playing basketball, and in those days I estimate I had a three foot vertical leap. Unfortunately, I could not translate that vertical leap into very successful high jump form to get over the bar. I later took up distance running in graduate school, so I have come to greatly appreciate the efforts of the Hoya middle and distance runners.

But this essay is not about me, but rather about my late uncle, Rev. E. Paul Betowski, S.J. My uncle was a 1936 graduate of Georgetown, and when he became a Jesuit, he was assigned to his alma mater, where he stayed from 1951 to 1968. Because he was a trackman, at least in high school (Waverly, NY), and had run the half mile in about 2:04 to 2:06 back in the early ‘30s, he was made the moderator of the track team. My uncle was probably the most spirited Jesuit at the university. He was an avid sports fan, especially when it came to his beloved Hoyas. I later met another Jesuit, who was in the seminary with my uncle, and on learning that I was his nephew, his face lighted up at his recollection of my uncle. Apparently, at the seminary silence was maintained at the community breakfast table. I guess that rule was followed except for my uncle, who would come down to breakfast with the sports section in hand, and he would read out the results for the previous day’s sports events for the rest of the community.

At Georgetown my uncle was occasionally called into the office of the president, Father Bunn at the time, to talk about his actions at the previous evening’s basketball game. He would regularly visit the referees in their locker rooms in McDonough gym to question the calls that they had missed during the game. At games he would cheer as loudly as any enthusiastic undergrad.

My father and I would meet my uncle (my dad’s brother) at Madison Square Garden each year on the occasion of the Millrose Games. It was a thrill for me, as a high school student, to go into the Garden and see all those famous track and field stars. And Georgetown would send a contingent, usually to run in the two-mile relay. One such relay was, I believe, in 1962, and Georgetown had the great Jack Reilly on the team that year. Among the teams in the two-mile relay that year were Holy Cross and Manhattan, which were highly ranked in the relay that year. Georgetown got off to a slow start, and when Jack received the baton, Georgetown was in third position, about 50 yards behind Manhattan and 40 yards behind Holy Cross. During the course of the race, Holy Cross passed Manhattan, but back on the track Jack was eating up the boards on his leg. In the last 50 yards, it was Holy Cross just in front of Manhattan with Jack rolling. During the final yards Jack went by the Manhattan anchor and was just outleaned by the Holy Cross runner. It was one of the most amazing anchors that I have ever seen.

Another episode at the Millrose games came again in 1962. It was on occasion of the first 16 foot pole vault. John Uelses came up with the historic vault. After the meet we saw some pole vaulters walking back to their hotels. They were easy to spot as they carried their poles the two or so blocks to their hotels. My uncle pointed to one of the vaulters, and he told us that that was John Uelses. My father and I were not so sure, but we left it to my uncle, and he went up to the vaulter and told him what a great meet he had, etc. The athlete said he didn’t have such a good meet, but my uncle convinced him otherwise and thought he was showing some false humility. The he had him autograph his program. When my uncle got back to us, he opened up his program, and low and behold, there on the cover was the autograph of John Rose. Apparently, it was not false humility, and my father and I kidded my uncle the rest of the evening.

After my uncle’s tenure at Georgetown, he followed his good friend, Father Joseph Sellinger to Loyola of Baltimore. But in the early ‘70s he left academia and became a chaplain at White Sands Missile Range in New Mexico. He enjoyed the desert climate and beauties of New Mexico, but never forgot that he was a Hoya. His license plate in New Mexico was HOYA. He died there, still working as the full time chaplain at the age of 86 in 2002.


Anonymous said...

The rest of the story: Jack Reilly informed me about that great anchor at the Millrose Games that his coach said you are so far behind you may as well run as fast as you
can for as long as you can because you have nothing to lose . The
split was 1:47.8. Unbelievable for a full 880 yards on the old Garden 11-lap to the mile track.

J.US said...

I've read a lot of great success stories about Jump USA's program. But any program really requires dedication and commitment, that's where jumping ability will start to develop. It will only work through consistent training.

Thrash said...

In a moment of feeling sentimental I made a google search for your uncle, known to me as "Father B." His signature often included a bee. I met him while my father was stationed at White Sands in the late 70's, and as a practicing Catholic at the time he left an everlasting impression on my heart and soul. We corresponded off and on over the years. His heartfelt notes remain with me as important letters from the most gentle and kind priest I was blessed to have known. Personal relationships with his congregation were important to him, he didn't just "talk the talk- he walked the walk," no matter if he was delivering mass, teaching catechism, golfing, or dining at the Officer's club, were I worked while I was in High School. He dispelled my fear of God, and taught me where God lives in my heart. To this day, I can hear his roar of a laugh, which always made me smile when I heard him from a distance, usually several moments before he'd appear. Today that memory warms my heart, and continues to comfort me on tough days. Thank you for sharing this... Denise Ilgenfritz-Thrasher

Don Betowski said...

Thank you Denise for your wonderful memory of my uncle...Don B.