May 31, 2007
By MIKE ANTHONY, Courant Staff Writer
Doc Hurley was in posh surroundings Wednesday night at the Connecticut Convention Center where 450 people gathered to celebrate his 85th birthday and honor his legacy.
Guests who paid up to $250 to attend stabbed cheese and scallops with toothpicks, sipped wine and approached Hurley for handshakes, well wishes and laughs on this night, which Hurley called among the greatest in his life.
But Hurley might have been anywhere - the Weaver High sideline in the 1950s, perhaps a Hartford sidewalk in the '60s - when a handful of teenage boys, each wearing white dress shirts and ties, approached him shortly after he took a seat in the ballroom.
"Hit the books, all of you," Hurley said loudly, pointing his finger and looking each in the eye. "All right? Any problems? Good, good. OK, OK, all right, good. We're looking for scholar athletes. Jocks are a dime a dozen."
Hurley has been delivering this message for more than 50 years, stimulating the minds and futures of Connecticut's youth. Hurley actually turned 85 on March 2, but the gala was also about celebrating Hurley's achievements.
Hurley, who knew most in attendance, was a four-sport star at Weaver in the 1930s. A longtime supporter of and presence among Weaver's athletic teams, he eventually became vice principal, retiring in 1984. In 1975, he founded the Doc Hurley Scholarship Foundation, which has awarded more than $490,000 in scholarships to 478 students.
UConn coach Jim Calhoun was the featured speaker, calling Hurley "a symbol of the vibrancy of Hartford," and saying, "Doc touches more kids' lives in a day than I've touched in my entire life."
Attorney General Richard Blumenthal awarded Hurley a citation for "tremendous and enduring contributions to our state and nation."
Mayor Eddie Perez was in the crowd as was basketball Hall of Famer K.C. Jones. A statue of Hurley that will be placed in the Weaver fieldhouse was unveiled.
"In my wildest dreams, I could have never expected to have a night like this," Hurley said.
Later, Hurley thanked God for his 85 years and said, "It's so nice to have a lot of friends. It's been said that friendship is essential to the soul."
Proceeds from the gala benefited Hurley's foundation. Beyond that, the gathering boosted awareness and support for Hurley's message, and boosted spirits.
"This means so much to him," said Muriel Hurley-Carter, Doc's daughter and the foundation's executive director. "It's so special for him to have all the people he loves in one room."
April Jackson, who attended Conard High in West Hartford and became the foundation's first legacy scholarship winner in 2001, spoke eloquently, telling Hurley, "Thank you for loving others more than you love yourself."
Hurley smiled through it all. John Lobon, a Weaver graduate and foundation board member, provided some opening fodder for Calhoun by pinning a Syracuse pin to Hurley's suit. Lobon graduated from Syracuse.
Calhoun's address was not all chuckles, although he did draw more laughs when describing the strength of Hurley's handshake.
Calhoun, who met Hurley shortly after coming to UConn in 1986, said he has introduced every player he has coached to Hurley.
"I want them to meet the person they hope to be half of," Calhoun said. "I've never been more impressed with a single individual."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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