Alexandra Deluse ’15, is an English literature major, an accomplished writer and a sports fan. So it should come as no surprise that Deluse was selected as a 2013 recipient of a Jim Murray Scholarship, awarded by the foundation named for the now-deceased journalist who was a long-time columnist for The Los Angeles Times and is enshrined in the Baseball Hall of Fame.
A Farmington, CT resident, Deluse, who blogs for the admissions department, was one of five winners of a $5,000 scholarship and enjoyed the experience of traveling to southern California with her mother, Marcia Deluse, to accept the award. The other 2013 recipients were Dustin Askim of the University of Montana; Brooke Pryor of the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill; Emily Steves of St. Bonaventure University; and Mike Vernon of the University of Kansas.
Each year, a handful of students are selected to receive the scholarships in honor of Murray, who graduated from Trinity in 1943 and was named “America’s Best Sportswriter” 14 times by the National Association of Sportscasters & Sportswriters. Murray, who died in August 1998, won a Pulitzer Prize in 1990. To date, nearly 90 students across the country have collectively received more than $400,000 in financial aid as a result of the competition held in the sportswriter’s honor.
Born and raised in Hartford, Murray began his career in journalism at The New Haven Register after graduating from Trinity. In addition to winning a Pulitzer and being inducted into the Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, NY, he wrote for Time magazine, founded and wrote for Sports Illustrated, and authored four books.
Deluse, who began playing soccer at the age of 4, was required by the foundation to write a character piece. She settled on an essay about “an amazing gym teacher” at West District Elementary School in Farmington, Robert O’Connor, known to the students as Mr. O.
In her essay, Deluse wrote that O’Connor, who is now retired, in 1980 came up with an idea for an Olympics, a track and field event that started as a Greek Festival Day but over the years took on a life of its own. From a one-day event, it grew to be a year-round program, featuring athletic, artistic and educational showcases as well as competition.
“Mr. O orchestrated a nearly flawless ceremony including a ‘match of athletes, [a] torch run, flags, [a] sports demonstration, choral and musical selections, and a laser light show,’ with participants between the ages of 4 and 12. Given these circumstances, problems would seem likely, but Mr. O’s record demonstrates his extreme attention to detail…Nothing was left to chance.”
Ultimately, O’Connor broadened the event to include 18 nights of Olympic competition and demonstrations, concluding with a closing ceremony. Among the events were soccer, wrestling, swimming, gymnastics, and track and field.
Deluse noted that the program received many accolades, including recognition from the Farmington school board and the United Nations. O’Connor’s “effect on the West District community resulted in his ‘nominations as a community hero by a 4th grade student, the principal and a teacher’ and he was chosen to carry the actual Olympic torch when it came through Connecticut on its way to the 1996 Atlanta games. Students and their families lined the streets cheering him on and raised money to buy the torch, which then found its way into the school’s Olympic ceremonies.”
Deluse concluded her essay with this passage: “Unfortunately, with Mr. O’s retirement, the reign of the West District Olympics has sadly ended. However, his lasting impact on students and families is apparent. Mr. O recalls fondly that Tim Abromaitis, a former basketball player at Notre Dame and current professional player in France, ‘came to [his] retirement party and spoke of the Olympics’ wearing his West District medals, despite having a roomful of National Awards. This sign of respect and appreciation sums up the overall sentiment of students about the long lasting life lessons that Mr. O taught them.”
Having won the award, Deluse was invited, along with the other recipients, to the Los Angeles area to be feted by the Jim Murray Foundation. Among other activities, the scholars visited the Rose Bowl in Pasadena for a behind-the-scenes tour, including the broadcast booth and luxury boxes, and were treated to a tour of the Santa Anita racetrack. There was also a ceremony at which the recipients received their scholarships and certificates.
Deluse later blogged about her experience, saying, “The whole weekend was a whirlwind, but I am so happy that I was able to go. I met so many amazing people and learned so much about the world of journalism. It was a truly amazing experience.”