Brother Rice Remembers Joe Bergmann

Brother Rice icon, Joe Bergmann, passed away on Sunday, January 7, 2018, three years after suffering from a debilitating stroke.

Joe epitomized the essence of the Brother Rice High School experience for 47 years. Ever since he joined the staff in 1962 after graduating from Loyola University, Joe is remembered for his inspiring story-telling in the classroom and for his helpful notes in evaluating student essays.

From 1962 to 2009, Joe had been a member of the English, social studies, business, and counseling departments. He also served as the freshman football coach from 1962-1968, as assistant track coach in 1963, and head track coach from 1964-1969.

Joe, in addition to being recognized as a teacher, counselor, and coach, was honored as one of the first Alumni Men of the Year in 1987 out of appreciation for his work in the early 1980s, when he created, organized and established the Brother Rice High School Alumni Association.

“Who knows where the Alumni Association would be today if Joe did not get it going 34 years ago,” said Jim Casey ’70, Alumni Director. “People from other schools still call me about how to get started, and I cannot imagine how Joe built a mailing list from scratch using index cards. We are probably the most active alumni association of any high school in the area, because Joe gave us a running start,” Casey added.

As a result of his dedication, compassion, and hard work throughout the years, Joe remained a favorite teacher to generations of Brother Rice alumni. Casey had Joe for two different classes as a freshman and then again as a senior, and remembers him as his favorite teacher. Since then, many Alumni Men of the Year have named him as one of the reasons they remain supportive of Brother Rice. When varsity basketball coach Bobby Frasor ’05 was a senior, he pointed to Joe when a reporter asked him to name his favorite teacher.

Principal Jim Antos described Joe Bergmann as a “consummate gentleman, who always exuded class, professionalism, and friendship. He was such a talented man who was so well-respected and so well-liked that whatever he said, you knew his words were important and true. The kids loved him, learned from him, and, in turn, Joe reciprocated…the crux of any successful educator.”

Dennis Duffy ’64, former chairman of the social studies department, described Joe’s approach to education as that of a “traditionalist” in that Joe believes successful education revolves around the “three R’s: Reading, Writing, and Arithmetic.” Mr. Duffy called Joe the “Counselor”—not just because of the time that Mr. Bergmann dedicated to being a counselor to so many students, but also because Joe went to law school and was only 6 hours short of earning his law degree. Dennis also brought up a little known fact—Joe Bergmann had only missed 10 days of school in 47 years, due to the passing of his wife, Mary, and the
passing of his mother.

When Joe Bergmann retired, Brian Berkley ’90, recalled 16 years later why Mr. Bergman was his favorite teacher: “Mr. Bergmann made the subject matter (U.S. history) interesting. He was always very well-organized and well-prepared, and it had an impact on his ability to teach and our ability to learn. Mr. Bergmann combined great teaching methods with an equally great sense of humor.”

Jim Casey added, “Joe is one of two teachers who inspired me to become a teacher, even though early on I had to completely abandon any thoughts of emulating his style. I doubt that anyone can do what he did as well, or for as long.”

Much is written about the accomplishments of Brother Rice athletes and scholars, but it is for the classroom teacher that most alumni have the most enduring memories, and none more so than Joe Bergmann. For many reasons, Joe Bergmann is among only five men in Brother Rice history to be installed in the Alumni Hall of Fame as an honorary alumnus.

Wake on Thursday, 1-11-18, 2-8P.M. Ivins funeral home, 80 E. Burlington, Riverside, IL (708-447-2261)
Funeral on Friday, 1-12-18, 8:45-9:45A.M. at Ivins. Mass at !0:00A.M., St Mary’s church, 126 Herrick Rd. Riverside, IL Procession for burial in Holy Sepulchre cemetery, 111th street, Alsip, IL.

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