Joliet Catholic Academy introduces first class for ‘Hall of Champions’


Gillespie. Gullickson. Quigley. Stefanich. Thayer.

Athletic Director Dan Sharp called Joliet Catholic Academy’s first class of inductees for its new Hall of Champions “the five pillars of JCA. Different sports, different backgrounds, but all incredible selections.”

Gordie Gillespie, the legendary football coach. Bill Gullickson, the ace baseball pitcher and first-round draft pick. Allie Quigley, an All-American in both volleyball and basketball. Jim Stefanich, the professional bowler and golfer. Tom Thayer, who played for Notre Dame and won a Super Bowl with the Bears.

The Hall of Champions honors boys and girls athletes, coaches and contributors from De La Salle (1920-33), Joliet Catholic High School (1933-89), St. Francis Academy (1869-1989) and JCA (1990-present). Along with Sharp, Principal/CEO Jeff Budz proudly made the announcement of this special group.

“The people on our first list have made such an impact on our school, our community,” Budz said. “I get chills when I hear about the accomplishments of our alumni, and we’re blessed to have them as a part of our history. They walked our hallways and now will be a permanent fixture in our Hall of Champions.”

The five inductees will have the chance to participate in JCA’s Alumni Golf Outing on Friday, Aug. 29, and will be introduced at halftime of the Hilltoppers’ football opener that night vs. Providence. A formal banquet will be held Saturday in the Student Activity Center, with a cocktail hour beginning at 5:30 p.m.

One name, however, trumps all.

Gillespie coached football at Joliet Catholic from 1959-1985, compiling a 222-54-6 record (.804 winning percentage) and guiding the Hillmen to their first five state championships (1975-78, 1981). He also coached college baseball at Ripon, Lewis and St. Francis for 59 years, finishing with a 1,893-952-1 record.

“Gordie set the standard,” Sharp said of Gillespie, who’s in the College Baseball Hall of Fame, among others. “Hundreds of his players are in education as teachers, as coaches — his coaching tree is phenomenal. Every person being honored here has been touched somehow by Gordie. It’s amazing.”

Gullickson, a 1977 graduate, pitched the Hilltoppers to their first Final Four appearance as a senior and was drafted second overall by Montreal. He also pitched in the major leagues for Cincinnati, Detroit, Houston and the New York Yankees, ending a 14-year career with a 162-136 record and a 3.93 ERA.

“Bill was taken second behind only Harold Baines,” Sharp said of the longtime White Sox outfielder. “That says a lot in itself. We’ve had a lot of major leaguers come out of our state championship baseball program, but Bill is probably the top one, period. He’s the one who started the run of greatness.”

Quigley, a 2004 graduate, was great in three sports, earning All-American status as an outside hitter in volleyball and as a guard in basketball. She was an All-Area shortstop in softball. She holds the school record with 515 kills as the Angels won the 2003 state title in volleyball. And her basketball numbers?

“I don’t know if anyone will touch her scoring records,” Sharp said of Quigley, who finished with 2,387 career points and scored a single-game best 49 against St. Viator. “She comes from a great Joliet family, she had a terrific college career at DePaul, and continues to shine with the Chicago Sky of the WNBA.”

Stefanich, a 1959 graduate, joined the PBA Tour in 1965 and bowled a 300 game in the 1974 Midas Open, which was televised live. He won the first of seven ABC titles at the age of 22, won 14 titles in a 24-year career, and was named to the PBA Hall of Fame in 1980. He went on to golf on the Senior Tour.

“He’s an icon in Joliet,” Sharp of Stefanich, who made the cut in 20 of 24 PGA events over a seven-year period from 1992-2001. “When I was growing up, I remember watching that 300 on national TV. It put the PBA on the map. And he had a second career, a second act, in golf. Not many people can say that.”

Thayer, a 1979 graduate, is a household name in Chicago because of his association with the Bears, winning the 1985 Super Bowl as an offensive lineman before becoming a color commentator for their games on WBBM-AM. He also played in the NFL for Miami and in the USFL with the Blitz and Arizona.

“Tom won a state championship for Gordie, played for the national championship (1981 Sugar Bowl) at Notre Dame and won a Super Bowl with the Bears,” Sharp said. “Few people can claim that. He always has been very positive in promoting JCA, through his role in the media or by attending football games.”

Sharp pointed out that JCA’s Hall of Champions Selection Committee already has started working on the next class of inductees. Budz confirmed he is excited about seeing the banners being hung in the Student Activity Center, along with the plaques that will be displayed in the adjacent hallway.

“We want our alumni, our community, to feel connected to JCA,” Budz said. “We feel this is a wonderful way to unite even more people from our storied past to the school that we are striving to be every day.”

Find us online