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Jack Horenberger, Longtime IWU Coach, Dies
BLOOMINGTON, Ill. -- Jack Horenberger, 87, longtime Illinois Wesleyan University coach and athletic director, died today (Dec. 1) at 4:45 a.m. at his home in Bloomington. He had been ill.
Horenberger, a 1936 Illinois Wesleyan graduate, was the school's basketball coach from 1945-65 and coached baseball from 1942-81. He was athletic director from 1947 until his retirement in 1981.
Horenberger was mentor and friend to thousands of Illinois Wesleyan students, fans and friends throughout the country. In April 1999, the new baseball field at IWU was christened the Jack Horenberger Baseball Field and a crowd of more than 1,000 were on hand for the first-ever game at the field.
Private family funeral and interment services are planned. The Jack Horenberger Memorial Celebration, open to the public, will be held at 1 p.m. Sunday (Dec. 3) at IWU's Shirk Center performance arena. Family will greet friends following the service.
In lieu of flowers, memorials are suggested to the Jack Horenberger Scholarship Fund at Illinois Wesleyan University or to a charity of the donor's choice.
Horenberger is survived by his wife, Mary Ann (Costello), a 1938 Illinois Wesleyan graduate. They were married May 31, 1941. He is survived by two daughters, Jane Ann Ehretsman of Cleveland Heights, Ohio, and Jill Horenberger of Mays Landing, N.J., who are 1965 and 1969 IWU graduates, respectively. He is also survived by two grandsons and three granddaughters, one sister-in-law, two nephews, and five nieces.
Born on May 16, 1913, in Chicago, Horenberger at Illinois Wesleyan was a star shortstop in baseball and a standout guard in basketball, serving as captain of the 1935-36 basketball team that won all 20 of its games, the only undefeated basketball team in school history.
After graduating with a degree in business and economics, Horenberger briefly worked in a Caterpillar factory in Peoria, tried out for the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team, and coached at Wilmington (Ill.) High School from 1938 through 1942.
He returned to Illinois Wesleyan as basketball and baseball coach for the 1942-43 school year. Except for two-and-a-half years in the Navy during World War II, he was at IWU ever since, even serving four years as the school's Dean of Men. He became athletic director in 1947 and gave up the basketball coaching duties following the 1964-65 season, after his Titans had won their fifth College Conference of Illinois and Wisconsin championship in six seasons.
Horenberger's IWU basketball teams also won conference titles in 1948 and 1953, and they participated in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) tournament at Kansas City in 1943 and 1961, reaching the second round in 1961. His career record for 21 seasons was 264 victories and 212 losses (.555 winning percentage) and he was elected "Coach of the Year" for NAIA District 20 three times.
Horenberger's baseball teams had even more success — his 37-year record was 509 wins against 401 losses with five ties, a .559 winning percentage against a schedule that always included several major universities. Virtually every non-conference opponent IWU faced had a larger enrollment than IWU, and often was an athletic scholarship-awarding school.
In CCIW play, Horenberger's teams had a brilliant 319-98-1 record for a winning mark of .764. His conference record never dipped below .500 and his teams won 16 championships, finished second 10 times, third four times and fourth three times.
Many of his players have succeeded in professional baseball. Bobby Winkles, a long-time college coach at Arizona State, managed the Oakland A's and California Angels and was a coach for the Chicago White Sox, A's, and San Francisco Giants.
Doug Rader, who managed the Texas Rangers and California Angels, was a Gold Glove third baseman for many years with the Houston Astros, San Diego Padres, and Toronto Blue Jays. Catcher Cal Neeman, shortstop Lyle Luttrell, and pitcher Jack Pregenzer are other Horenberger products who played in the major leagues.
Horenberger also coached the Bloomington entry in the prestigious Central Illinois Collegiate Baseball League from 1963-71, when he became the league's commissioner, serving until 1979.
Horenberger is a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame as a basketball coach and is a member of the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame. In 1981, he received the IBCA's "Buzzy O'Connor Award", the association's most prestigious honor. In January 1980 he was presented the first Meritorious Service Award of the American Association of Baseball Coaches. He was named one of Illinois' 150 outstanding living sports figures in the state's sesquicentennial celebration year of 1968.
At Illinois Wesleyan, Horenberger was grand marshal of the 1970 Homecoming parade, directed the 1972-73 alumni campaign, and, in 1962, became the second faculty member to receive the "Distinguished Alumnus Award."
Upon his retirement in 1981, more than 700 people attended "Jack Horenberger Night" dinner, where he was presented with a new automobile and two blocks of McLean Street in Bloomington were re-named Horenberger Drive.
He won the Distinguished Fiji award from the Phi Gamma Delta fraternity, was a member of Bloomington's Lakeside Country Club and was a past president of the Bloomington Kiwanis Club.
Born: May 16, 1913, in Chicago, Ill.
Died: December 1, 2000 in Bloomington, Ill.
Graduated, Illinois Wesleyan University 1936, business and economics
Graduated, University of Illinois, Master's degree
Basketball coach, Illinois Wesleyan, 1945-65; career record of 264-212, seven conference championships
Baseball coach, Illinois Wesleyan, 1942-81; career record of 509-401, 16 conference championships
Athletic director, Illinois Wesleyan, 1947-81
Member, National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics Hall of Fame
Member, Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame