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Four SJU graduates earn Hall of Fame honors

It’s been a Hall of Fame month for several Saint John’s University graduates.

Four SJU alums have been or will be inducted into various Minnesota hall of fames in April – honoring achievements ranging from fine arts to athletics.

Current SJU head football coach Gary Fasching ’81 and Bubba Sullivan ’89 were inducted into the Minnesota Football Coaches Association’s Hall of Fame on April 2 while former SJU basketball standout Frank Wachlarowicz was inducted into the Minnesota High School Basketball Hall of Fame on April 7.

Next up is John Fogarty ’69, whose long and distinguished career as a speech and debate coach at Cannon Falls High School has earned him a spot in this year’s Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame class.  That ceremony is scheduled for April 24.

Here is more on all the recent inductees:

Fogarty shares love of public performance

John Fogarty still remembers perhaps his own most awkward moment on a public stage.

It came as a student at Saint John’s University in the late 1960s when he played Holden Caulfield, the lead in a stage rendition of author J.D. Salinger’s classic novel “The Catcher in the Rye” in a black box theater production at the College of Saint Benedict.

“One of the theater majors I knew had adapted the book as a play and it was sketchy in a lot of spots,” Fogarty recalled with a chuckle. “I had to learn how to smoke because Holden Caulfield smoked and I didn’t. So I bought a pack of cigarettes and I don’t think I ever inhaled, but I puffed the whole time.

“He also swore a blue streak in the book and they didn’t cut much of that out for the play. So there I am on opening night doing theater in the round and spewing out four-letter words from the stage. And who was sitting across the entire first two rows, but the nuns. I think they were quietly chuckling to themselves.

“I was embarrassed, but it was a lot of fun.”

Fogarty continued to share his love of public performance after his graduation from SJU with a degree in speech communication in 1969. He took a teaching job at Cannon Falls High School where became the school’s longtime speech and debate coach.

He remained the head speech coach through 2009 and is still an assistant coach today. During his tenure, he built Cannon Falls into a state power, turning out 123 medal winners and 14 state champions. He was twice named Minnesota’s Coach of the Year by the Minnesota Speech Coaches Association and was one of 12 coaches around the U.S. honored by the National Federation of State High School Associations in 2010.

In debate, he was selected as the Lincoln-Douglas Coach of the Year in his region during the 1996-97 season. Along the way, he also found the time to guide the school’s student newspaper, The Lantern, to national acclaim. He also directed plays and musicals during his first few years at the school.

It is for all those accomplishments and more that Fogarty will be one of 13 new inductees into the Minnesota State High School League Hall of Fame when the MSHSL holds its annual induction banquet on April 24. The ceremony is scheduled to begin at 1 p.m. at the Minneapolis Marriott Northwest in Brooklyn Park. Former Cretin-Derham Hall and Minnesota Twins great Joe Mauer is also part of this year’s induction class. 

Surprising honor

“I was surprised when they informed me,” Fogarty said. “I’ve often been surprised when I get acknowledged with an award like this because I’ve just seen it as doing my job. But it’s a wonderful honor. I’m happier for the city of Cannon Falls and for all the people I’ve worked with at our school over the years. This award is really as much about their accomplishments as it is mine.”

Fogarty, a Duluth native who graduated from Saint John’s Prep in 1965, said he did not intend to stay in Cannon Falls his entire career. But once he got there, he never wanted to leave.

“I was a finalist for a job at a larger high school in the Twin Cities after I graduated from SJU,” he recalls. “I didn’t get that job, but I got the one in Cannon Falls. I thought it would be a great stepping stone. But after a while, I realized this was exactly the size of school I wanted to be at. I’m able to get to know everyone here. It’s a great community. It’s been a perfect fit.

“We’re a smaller school. We don’t even have 100 people per class. But it’s always been fun for us to compete against bigger speech teams. I had sort of a David and Goliath chip on my shoulder for many years and our kids started to pick up on it. Over the years, they loved it when we were able to compete and succeed against teams like Eagan or Apple Valley.”

Of course, there were times when Fogarty had to take on duties beyond coaching.

“In the early years, I decided that I wanted to start taking our kids to tournaments a little further away,” he said. “I really wanted to go to some tournaments in the northern part of the state. Because speech in Minnesota is really different in the north and the south. There are different judging styles and things like that, and when we got to the state tournament, our kids were going to have to be used to that. So I ended up getting my bus driver’s license because I knew the school couldn’t afford to hire a driver to take us up north on overnight trips.

“One of the tournaments we went to was being run by a friend of mine in Grand Rapids. We got out of school early and I drove this bus with 25 or 30 kids on it straight into one of the worst blizzards you could ever imagine. The windshield wiper broke about halfway and I could barely see. It took us forever to get up there, but we finally pulled into the hotel. I called my friend and told him we made it. He said ‘That’s great, but we cancelled the tournament five hours ago.’ So I had to shepherd all those kids at a hotel for two days, then bring them back home without ever getting even a sniff of competing.”

Credits Saint John’s Prep and SJU

Fogarty credits his time at both the Prep School and SJU with helping prepare him for future success.

“I was a private school state champion in speech at the Prep School, and two Johnnies came over to help as assistant coaches on our team,” he said. “Those guys were just fantastic. I learned so much from working with them. And when I got to the university, I was able to be part of plays and I joined the debate program. It was really a lot of fun and it set me up for what I’d end up going on to do afterward.”

All-time SJU hoops star honored

Fogarty is not the only SJU graduate being inducted into a hall of fame this spring.

Former Little Falls and SJU basketball great Frank Wachlarowicz ’79 was part of the 2022 class of inductees into the Minnesota High School Basketball Hall of Fame. He and his fellow inductees were honored at a banquet held April 7 at the Lumber Exchange Building in downtown Minneapolis.

The inductees were interviewed by retired WCCO radio personality Dave Lee, then honored at a Minnesota Timberwolves game later that night. The induction was actually originally scheduled for 2020, but was delayed due to COVID-19.

“It’s been a couple of years now waiting in the wings, but it was an amazing experience,” Wachlarowicz said. “It’s actually surreal when you look at all the great basketball players Minnesota has produced over the years. To have your name mentioned in that same conversation is a tremendous honor.”

Wachlarowicz led Little Falls to a state title in 1975 and finished his career as the leading scorer in school history. He then arrived at SJU where he became a four-time All-MIAC pick and the conference MVP as a junior and senior. He is also the only player in program history to be named an All-American twice.

He still holds career school and conference records with 2,357 points scored and 1,093 rebounds recorded. The former remained a record at any level of college basketball in Minnesota until 2018 when it was finally surpassed by St. Cloud State’s Gage Davis.

A contingent from SJU – including former longtime head coach Jim Smith, current head coach Pat McKenzie and athletic director Bob Alpers – were on hand for the ceremony.

“That meant a lot to me,” Wachlarowicz said. “It made me really proud to be a Johnnie.”

Two successful football coaches

Wachlarowicz’s induction came on the heels of the Minnesota Football Coaches Association’s annual Hall of Fame banquet held at the Doubletree Hotel in Minneapolis on April 2. Current Johnnies head coach Gary Fasching ’81 and longtime Northfield High School head coach Bubba Sullivan ’89 were each part of this year’s class.

Fasching played for legendary head coach John Gagliardi at SJU, then coached at St. Cloud Cathedral where he led the Crusaders to state titles in the old Class B in 1992 and ’93. He then joined the Johnnies coaching staff in 1995, and took over the head coaching job when Gagliardi retired after the 2012 season.

He has gone on to record 81 wins over eight seasons – SJU did not play games in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic – which stands as the second-most in program history. Under his watch, the Johnnies have won four MIAC titles and have now advanced to the Division III playoffs an MIAC-record seven-straight seasons – including a berth in the national semifinals in 2019.

He has also been named MIAC coach of the year five times – 2014, 2017, 2018, 2019 and 2021.

“When they called me, I was speechless,” Fasching said. “I truly didn’t know what to say. It’s just an amazing and humbling honor to be included with so many of the other great names – including John Gagliardi – who have been inducted over the years.

“It was surprising because I have no plans to retire anytime soon. We still have a lot of unfinished business here. A lot of times when people are inducted into hall of fames, it comes after they’ve retired or are no longer here. But I’m really grateful to be receiving this honor now.”

Sullivan, meanwhile, became the head coach at his old high school after graduating from SJU in 1989. He remained at Northfield the next 32 seasons – winning 208 games and leading the Raiders to the Class 4A state title in 1997. He announced his retirement in the spring of 2021.

“It’s a great and humbling honor,” Sullivan said. “I certainly wasn’t expecting it at all. When you look at the names of the other coaches who have been inducted over the years, it’s a pretty amazing list. 

“It feels really good to be considered worthy of being a part of that group.”

Gary

Gary Fasching ’81

Bubba

Bubba Sullivan ’89

Frank

Frank Wachlarowicz ’79

John

John Fogarty ’69