Today is St. Patrick’s Day, during which former Pittsburgh Steelers owner, the late Dan Rooney, will be honored in the city’s parade in celebration of the holiday. But yesterday, his alma mater, Duquesne, dedicated a full-day symposium featuring a litany of guest speakers and panelists discussing his life and the lessons that he taught throughout.
Featuring a diverse cast of characters that included figures in politics and religion to, of course, his beloved Steelers, the day was devoted to honoring his legacy as those to whom he gave so much sought to give back in his memory.
It was unsurprising that one of the more eloquent tributes paid to Rooney was from the Steelers’ head coach, Mike Tomlin, who coached his first 10 seasons as a head coach in the NFL under the great owner—albeit interrupted by his stint as the ambassador to Ireland.
As Teresa Varley transcribed for the team’s website, Tomlin attempted to express into words the profound himself that Dan Rooney had on his life, both in the personal and professional spheres. “He was a blueprint in terms of being a husband and a father. He was a blueprint in terms of leading in a professional way, in a professional setting. He was a blueprint in being a mentor and a friend”, he said.
While his Steelers took center stage in his life—behind faith and family, of course—Rooney’s interests and influence expanded beyond that, and he in fact played a crucial role in the advancement of the game itself at the NFL level.
His work as an ambassador was also lauded by those in Ireland with whom he worked, and his charitable endeavors are well-known, as are stories of his humility and kindness, my favorite—and many others I’m sure—being the first time that Ike Taylor got to take a nap in his office.
“If you ask me his impact, it depends on what context we are talking”, Tomlin said, summing up his broad influence. “There isn’t an area of my life that he didn’t touch in a very different way depending on the circumstances. He was that well-rounded and that complete of an individual”.
That’s why he felt the symposium was “an appropriate thing to do”, he told the gathered audience, “to study the things he was able to do across many areas of expertise and endeavors in his life”. He said that “the symposium encompasses all of that. You look at the many different walks of life of the people that are participating in it, it’s an indication of the scope of Mr. Rooney’s impact. I am honored to be a part of it. It’s something that should be studied, and studied in a very academic way”.
“His life should be a course at Duquesne”, he suggested, and perhaps that’s not such a bad idea.