GE College Bowl win boosted Bradley image


Five consecutive wins on national television made celebrities of Bradley’s GE College Bowl team in 1969. Team captain ED WEHRLI ’71 accepted the trophy (actually a silver bowl) from show host Robert Earle. Team members included PAUL REMACK ’71, Dr. GENE SIDLER ’71, and GARY ROBERTS ’70. NBC broadcast the General Electric-sponsored program at 4:30 p.m. on Sundays. A Bradley team also competed in the College Bowl in 1960 against Rutgers.

Bradley’s speech department sent out an urgent memo in May 1969. “Time is our problem,” wrote Dr. L.E. (Larry) Norton. “We must select 16–20 of our best students immediately.”

Norton had just learned Bradley would appear on the nationally televised GE College Bowl in the fall. After taking qualifying tests at the Student Center, the scholars who were selected became a dream team. Week after week, they flew to New York and won the competition sponsored by General Electric. First, a win over George Washington University; second, it was University of Minnesota, Morris. Finally on November 15, Bradley upset Johns Hopkins University to become five-time undefeated champs.

A jubilant crowd of students, parents, and the Bradley band greeted the team at the Greater Peoria Airport late that Sunday night. Fanfare continued the next day in a ceremony at Robertson Memorial Field House. Congratulatory telegrams were read, Peoria’s mayor spoke, and a new scholarship was announced, thanks to the team’s winnings of $19,500. Dr. Talman Van Arsdale, Bradley president, noted that the high-profile bowl win had “changed the image of the University nationally.”

The executive director of GE College Bowl wrote to Van Arsdale that day, praising the students as “intelligent, alert, and very personable.”

GARY ROBERTS ’70, dean of Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis, met with pre-law students and spoke to sports communication majors at Bradley on March 30. A specialist in sports law, Roberts is the new on-air legal analyst for the NFL Network.

Practice paid off

GARY ROBERTS ’70, now dean of Indiana University School of Law, Indianapolis, was on campus recently to address sports communication students. He took time out to reminisce about the fall of ’69, when the team spent five weekends at NBC Radio City Studio, taping GE College Bowl.

“We spent the summer into the fall practicing,” said Roberts, the on-air legal analyst for the NFL Network. “FRANK BUSSONE ’64 MA ’66 worked with us as a coach. He set up a mock studio at Bradley with bright lights and buzzers.”

Roberts’ specialties were history and geography. He refers to team captain ED WEHRLI ’71 as “a human encyclopedia.” Wehrli memorized the names of hundreds of paintings, just by focusing on the midsection of the piece. The team’s math and science expert, GENE SIDLER ’71, exhibited his knowledge of beetles (not Beatles) by identifying coleoptera. History major PAUL REMACK ’71 concentrated on world history. The team’s six alternates included RICK CLOYD ’70, LINDA BRADY FISH ’70, LAURA JOHNSON ’71, TOM MURPHY ’71, MIKE KIENZLER ’70, and ERIC ARNOLD ’70 MA ’71 (deceased).

Practicing in a realistic studio setting paid off for Bradley, according to Roberts. When Bradley faced off against Johns Hopkins, the school’s sharpest team member seemed to “freeze” in the studio, which helped pave the way for BU to become a five-time undefeated champion. (Colleges could appear no more than five times.)

A silver bowl engraved with the names of the winning team was presented to Bradley’s College Bowl team. Besides the silver bowl, students and coaches received an unexpected perk. Each was asked to choose two GE products as gifts. There was a hair dryer and electric rollers, a coffeemaker, can opener, iron, and more. “We were given these items in January at the halftime of a basketball game,” recalls Roberts. More than four decades may have passed, but the law school dean remembers his choices: the Toast-R-Oven and the vacuum cleaner.

– By Gayle Erwin McDowell '77

Going bald for a cause

BRITTANY WEBER ’14, (shown both pre- and post-razor), was one of more than 60 students who had their heads shaved in April to support St. Baldrick’s, an organization that raises money for childhood cancer research. Weber’s 14-year-old brother Brett, who has leukemia, served as her barber. Weber’s family came to the event to support her, including her young cousin Olivia. Weber, a nursing major, raised more than $11,600 for St. Baldrick’s. Pi Kappa Alpha has raised more than $31,000 for St. Baldrick’s since it began holding the annual event in 2008. Weber’s wasn’t the only female head that was shaved — JENNI PHILLIPS ’14 and BRIANNA BRIDGMAN ’13 also showed solidarity to children with cancer by losing their locks. 

The nation’s best orator

JACOBY COCHRAN ’13 left the National Forensic Association (NFA) Tournament with the title of national champion and two trophies. Cochran was named individual sweepstakes champion at the April competition, the highest honor in collegiate forensics. He also won the persuasive championship title.

“Speech is a mixture of talent, hard work, and luck,” said Cochran. “I caught four days where I had all three of them at the same time.”

ELLE PRATT ’14 grabbed the individual championship in dramatic interpretation, and BLAKE LONGFELLOW ’12 was the NFA champion in the informative event. The tournament was held at Illinois State University.

– By Abby Wilson '10