HISTORY NEW HAVEN COUNTY CHAPTER
The National Football Foundation was started in 1947 by General Douglas MacArthur, legendary Army coach Earl “Red” Blake and renowned journalist Grantland Rice. Its mission was established to promote and develop amateur American football on all levels throughout the United States and to cultivate leadership, sportsmanship, enthusiasm for competition, and the drive for academic excellence among America’s youth.
In the fall of 1960 a group of well known area sportsmen met to discuss the formation of a local chapter. Information was gathered on the formation of a chapter to recognize youth from New Haven County who participated in football, excelled in the classroom and gave of their time through community service and school activities. On March 6, 1961 a meeting was held at Mory’s on York Street. In attendance were Frank Birmingham, Richard “Pop” Lovell, Sidney Glickenhouse, John “Swede” Lindquist, Joel Alderman, Bill Ahearn, Albert Montesano, Charles Kellogg, Paul Wingate, Donald Scharf and James Coogan. Also present was Harvey Harmon the Executive Director of The National Football Foundation.
Mr. Harmon indicated the national organization was making efforts to organize chapters throughout the country and was pleased that the group was anxious to establish one in Greater New Haven. A motion was made, “to organize a chapter known as the New Haven County Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame”. The original officers were Frank Birmingham, President, Joel Alderman, Vice President, Paul Wingate, Treasurer and Jim Coogan, Secretary.
The first scholar athlete dinner was held the following May 21 at the Hotel Taft in New Haven and five young men were honored, including John Bowman of Choate School, David Crosby of Milford High School, George Nowak of Hopkins Grammar School, E. Donald Lewis of Sacred Heart High School of Waterbury and Paul Titus of North Haven High School. The scholar athlete dinner has continued every year since. A second dinner was added each fall from 1963 to 1971 honoring outstanding citizens until it was made part of the scholar athlete dinner each spring.
Since that first dinner was held almost 1200 scholar athletes have been recognized for their academic achievement and their community and school activities. Since then over $125,000 in scholarships has been awarded to applicants at the annual banquet.
The New Haven Chapter has also honored some of the county’s most outstanding high school coaches with our Coach of the Year Award, has recognized hard working members with the Chapter Award of Merit and a member of the New Haven Football Officials Association with the Official Recognition Award. Chapter high school state championship teams are also honored yearly.
In addition, an impressive list of Distinguished American recipients have been honored including several mayors and congressmen, head coaches from both college and professional football, educators and college presidents. The list also includes an orthopedic surgeon, the Director of the International Special Olympics, a Super Bowl winning player, an outstanding author, a former State Attorney General, two members of the College Football Hall of Fame, a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame, a long time dedicated football official, a Connecticut Supreme Court Justice and a decorated war hero, just to name a few.
Activities for the New Haven chapter include fall dinner meetings for members and guests that include a variety of speakers, the Hall of Fame Classic All Star game and our annual scholar athlete banquet. The chapter was also one of the first in the country to participate in the NFF Play it Smart program.
In April 1993 the chapter voted to change our name to The Gene Casey- New Haven County Chapter, after former President and Executive Director Gene Casey for his thirty-one years of leadership and commitment to the organization. During the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s no one was more dedicated, or gave more to the chapter, then Gene. Sadly he passed away in 1997.
Overall the chapter remains very active and is always looking for new members who want to be part of such an outstanding organization as the National Football Foundation. At present there are over 100 members from the private sector, education and coaching ranks. Applications are available on the chapter web site www.newhavenfootballfoundation.com for those interested.
7 Brookwood Dr.
Branford, CT 06405