Irvin C. Wisniewski              Inducted 1985 - Class of 1943

They call him "Whiz," a nickname that derives from his surname, but the remarkable record achieved by Irv Wisniewski in athletics, both as a player and a coach attests to the aptness of the sobriquet.

At Woodward High School he starred on the varsity football, basketball, baseball and track teams, and - would you believe it? - was a member of the varsity bowling team. By the time of his graduation in 1943, he had won 12 letters in the 5 sports.

But it wasn't only in sports the he made his mark at Woodward. At the end of his senior year, he was presented the Michigan Trophy by the University of Michigan Club of Toledo for outstanding achievement in scholarship, leadership, and athletics.

There followed three years of military service with the U.S. Army Air Corps which included

meteorology studies at the University of Minnesota and assignment as a B-29 radar instructor. Commissioned as 2nd lieutenant, he saw duty as a radar observer-bombardier. His active service ended in February,1946, although he remained in the Air Force Reserve as a 1st lieutenant until 1958.

At the University of Michigan, where he resumed his education in 1946 and from where he was graduated in 1950 with a Bachelor of Science degree in physical education, Mr. Wisniewski was a member of the varsity football and basketball teams. Those were some of the glory years of Michigan football; the 1947, 1948, and 1949 teams, on which he played end, were the Western Conference champions; the 1947 team, which beat Southern California 49-0 in the 1948 Rose Bowl, was voted the national champions. Mr. Wisniewski caught the winning pass in the 1949 game against Michigan State; that same year he won honorable mention to the All America team and was named to the All Polish All America team. In basketball, his 1947-48 Michigan team won the conference championship and played in the NCAA tournament.

In addition, in 1948 he was elected to Sphinx, the University of Michigan honorary society for juniors, and in 1949 to Druids, the honorary for seniors. After graduation, Mr. Wisniewski was appointed to the faculty of Hillsdale (Mich.) College as assistant professor of physical education, and in the years he spent there (1950-52), he was head football coach, head basketball coach, and varsity golf coach.

From Hillsdale, he moved on in 1952 to the University of Delaware, and there he remains to this day. Joining the faculty as an instructor, he was promoted to assistant professor in 1954 and to associate professor in 1973. His coaching career at Delaware saw him serving as assistant varsity football coach in 1952-76, freshman basketball coach in 1952-1954, varsity basketball coach in 1954-66, freshman baseball coach in 1954, and varsity golf coach in 1955-63. His 1961-62 basketball team won 18 games and lost only 5, the best record ever achieved at Delaware.

It seemed only natural that the U.S. State Department should tap Mr. Wisniewski for foreign service. As an educational and cultural affairs specialist for the State Department he conducted basketball clinics for the Polish Basketball Federation in a number of Polish cities, including Warsaw and Krakow, in July and August of 1966, and in the summer of 1967 he continued the same program in eight more Polish cities. He also helped in coaching the Polish National basketball team.

On a sabbatical leave for Delaware in the fall of 1980, he conducted clinics in 16 cities throughout Poland and in Vienna, Austria, and Tuzla, Yugoslavia, as well. And since 1966 he has served as a consultant basketball coach to many of the Polish coaches.

As if all that weren't enough, Mr. Wisniewski has been owner-director of the Varsity Day Camp for boys and girls of the Ann Arbor, Mich., area since 1950. This year will mark the 36th consecutive season for the camp.

©2020 Woodward Alumni Hall of Fame

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