By Zack Lundquist
Nestled away in a cozy ranch on the north side of Davenport lies a man titled “Mr. St. Ambrose.” Many of the current students couldn’t pick him out of a crowd or tell you who he is, yet he epitomizes what it means to be an Ambrosian, and Saturday, Nov. 15 he will be honored with the naming of the Lee Lohman court in his name.
“Leo really exemplifies what it means to be an Ambrosian,” said men’s basketball coach and Athletic Director Raymond Shovlian.
Leo Kilfoy started at St. Ambrose as a freshman in the class of 1951. He attended St. George High School where he was a standout offensive lineman on the football field which earned him looks from seven different colleges. Ultimately he elected to come to St. Ambrose and play for head coach Moon Mullin. Mullin played for the late Knute Rockne at Notre Dame and compiled some of the best teams to ever play football at St. Ambrose. But it wasn’t the wining that stood out to Kilfoy.
“I was recruited out of high school by a lot of colleges,” Kilfoy said. “Alumni from colleges as well as assistant coaches were always coming in and out and talking to me or my family, but St. Ambrose was different. St. Ambrose’s head coach Moon Mullin came and visited me at my house and sat in my living room. I figured if he drove all the way here and came himself then he was pretty interested, so I ought to go there.”
From there Kilfoy enjoyed a long stay at St. Ambrose that included stints as the head men’s basketball coach twice, the Director of Intramurals and Recreation, six years as the Athletic Director, 23 years as Chairmen of the Physical Education department, as well as teaching a full course load and helping coach football, tennis and track. When asked what was his favorite part of it all, Kilfoy responded it was the lives he touched.
“I met an awful lot of great people: the faculty, staff and students,” Kilfoy said. “I loved seeing the growth of the individuals I came in contact with and seeing them with their families and in their lives now is amazing. The letters student athletes write back to me now touch my heart and make me feel successful.”
Off the court and out of the classroom Kilfoy enjoys racquetball where he was a national qualifier for the Senior Olympic Championship. He is the twelve time Iowa Senior Olympic Champion as well as once in Illinois. As far as his legacy at St. Ambrose goes: he never missed a day of school in 43 years, he helped raise $500 for the SGA food drive by swimming a mile, he is responsible for setting the rules for faculty staff tuition programs as well as the PTS committee, and the 12 hour teaching load. Two awards at St. Ambrose are still given out in Kilfoy’s name; the first being the Kilfoy Cup which is given to the best male and female intramural athlete, and the other is the Leo T. Kilfoy award for the Physical Education major of the year.
For a man with so many accomplishments and a wall dotted with awards, there’s two main ones that stand out to Kilfoy. One is the Bishop McMullin award he received in 2006. He was one of four to be honored with the award in its first year. The other award is one that Kilfoy gave out to his wife Shirley Mae Kilfoy who served as the first ever director of elementary education at Ambrose.
“None of what I accomplished would be possible without the love and support of my wife, so that’s why I had this award made for her in 2007,” said Kilfoy. “She’s the greatest wife in the world.”
Kilfoy will be honored for his many accomplishments Saturday, Nov. 15 at the men’s home basketball game at 3 p.m. against St. Francis. There will also be a reception held after the game. Kilfoy is a member of the St. Ambrose Hall of Fame, the Quad City Times Hall of Fame and the Chicago Catholic League Hall of Fame.