Bob Jeangerard Lived Life As A Leader By Example
That was the motto from 1952-55 when Bob Jeangerard was a star on the University of Colorado basketball team during one of the program's early runs of success.
Jeangerard passed away at the age of 81, on July 5, 2014, in San Carlos, Calif. He suffered from complications associated with Alzheimer's disease in his last decades but none the less put up a good fight all the way to the end. His son, Robert Jeangerard Jr. represented him at the Hall of Fame Induction in October.
"Basketball wise he was a very, very humble man," Jeangerard Jr. said. "You know, he never talked about individual statistics or anything. I still look up some of his statistics and he didn't even talk about those because that was just the way he was. He was all about the team. But I just know that we (his children) learned a lot about Colorado because of how proud he was of it."
Jeangerard was a three-year letterman under H.B. Lee. He was a two-time All-Big 7 Conference selection, averaging 12.4 points and 6.1 rebounds per game his junior year, ranking second on the team in both, and 16 points and 6.8 rebounds per game his senior year.
During his three years playing basketball Jeangerard was a member of CU's last Final Four team in 1955; part of "CU's 1-2 punch," with Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Famer Burdie Haldorson.
Considered as a silent team leader, Jeangerard was named the Most Outstanding Player at the 1955 NCAA Regional Tournament leading the Buffaloes to the Final Four where they lost in the semifinals to eventual national champion San Francisco.
Jeangerard was one of the most under-publicized players on the 'Colorado cage squad,' which didn't seem to or bother him from delivering when they needed it most. In a 1954 game against Nebraska, Jeangerard connected on a 45-foot hook shot from the center of the floor in the closing seconds of the first half. When asked by a Nebraska reserve how he made shots like that he replied, "Its simple. We have a drill for that play and I work on it 15 minutes every night." The absolute perfect example of practice makes perfect.
"What he would do is instead of talking about it, he would do it," explains Jeangerard Jr. "Basically he was the ultimate live by example. He was the guy that was, the first one in the gym but that's how he lived his life as well. He didn't expect anybody to do something he wouldn't do, so he was the example. From everything that he did; basketball to family business, it was pretty much a team effort and he passed that on to us. Individually you need to drive yourself and have a goal but you got to always have a team behind you if you're going to be successful. That's basically how he did everything that wasn't completely individual."
After playing at the collegiate level, Jeangerard was granted the opportunity to play on the 1956 U.S. national basketball team that competed in the Melbourne Olympics. This opportunity gave him another chance to play side-by-side with Haldorson, his former Colorado teammate, and future NBA Hall of Famers, Bill Russell and K.C. Jones. Jeangerard received a gold medal in the USA's 8-0 sweep through the games.
Jeangerard was able to take his 'team first' mentality off the basketball court and apply it to his professional career without a problem. On his return from the Olympics he joined the Air Force, where, "He was determined to be the best pilot he could be," says Jeangerard Jr. "And the only way he was going to be successful was with his entire team behind him."
His selflessness didn't stop there either. When he moved his family in 1960 to California he joined his brothers, Ralph and Jack, along with a friend, Jay Wright, to open a tire shop in the San Francisco Bay Area, Gerard Tire. Their family business thrived throughout the next two decades with the unending commitment from him.
"His work ethic never went unnoticed. He just wanted the best for the business along with us, his family, and he worked at that all the way to the end."
Jeangerard Jr expressed how influential his father was to everyone who entered his life. "He was one to just go with flow. Took what life gave him by the reins and always delivered no matter the circumstances."
Growing up in Evanston, Ill., he excelled in both school and sports. Interestingly enough, baseball was his main sport throughout high school until he hit a growth spurt, which gave him incentive to work hard and pursue basketball. His grandson, Jeangerard Jr.'s son, Justin, has picked up where his grandfather left off and is now a senior in college at Nova Southeastern in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. "He has many of the same qualities as my dad and is playing on a basketball scholarship just like he did."
Bob Jeangerard may not be here physically but the impact he has left on the men's basketball program will stay with the program and school forever. A quote the Jeangerard family used at Bob's funeral was, "God's gift to us is life, and what we do with that life, is our gift to God," which fits perfectly to the way he lived his life prior, during, and post his basketball career at CU.