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never the same. "Skehan became a
mentor to me. The structure I got from Skehan, Fr. Eugene
Malek and Fr. Gervase (White) I credit for the success I have
today," said Horton, who became co-captain by his senior year. "My
father was right: I was immature and needed the discipline."
Skehan offered plenty.
Margaret Bryner, who worked under Skehan for 10 years in the
physical education department, said his "goal was to develop lead-
ers, and however he did it, they were going to come out better for
it. ... If he felt they could do something, he was going to ask it of
them and push them to do it."
Laughing, Horton said, "Practice
was like going to Parris Island. He was
just tough. There was no gray matter
with him, only black and white. He
created a very respected team in the
East -- with no scholarship swimmers
-- because of the way he ran the
"But he was also a great inspira-
tion, a great family man with all those
kids (eight), and he'd go to bat for his
guys. Even when the swim season
was over, I'd walk through Butler to
his office just to talk to him."
In 1963, Skehan founded Camp
Skwim, the nation's first residential
summer swim program, on a hilltop
in rural Cattaraugus County. High-
profile college coaching colleagues
would often visit camp to bounce
ideas off each other.
"My dad used his resources well,"
said Patricia Skehan, '79, a college
swim coach for more than 30 years.
"He read voraciously all the time, and
never feared meeting people with bet-
ter ideas and stealing what they did.
So many coaches in that era just did (as coaches) what they were
told to do when they were athletes. He was always looking for more
and better."
Both Kevin and Sean admit Skehan helped fill the void left by their
"He became almost a surrogate father to us," Sean said. "I re-
member him being very guiding, keeping us on the straight and nar-
row. He was the link to our dad."
Skehan picked up where the Tempestas left off.
"My sister and brother-in-law Joe stepped in to help raise us
(Kevin, Brian and Sean) when my dad died and were a huge influ-
ence on me," Kevin said. "They were academics at Ithaca and
helped me understand the importance of education."
The young couple would bring Kevin and Brian to Ithaca in the
summer to stay in "The Pit" -- the family's affectionate name for the
Tempesta basement.
"All the (younger) boys, even Sean, at one time or another
stayed down there," Pat Tempesta said. "We were really just act-
ing as an escape valve to give my mom a break. You can imagine
the pressure on a widow with two young teens and a small boy."
Joe Tempesta, an emeritus professor of history at Ithaca, bonded
with the boys immediately when he and Pat started dating.
"When I brought him to Olean, Joe spent most of his time play-
ing with Kevin and Brian and Sean," Pat said. "He was and still is
very close to the boys because he's always been there for them.
They were great kids. We were just there to help guide them along,
to keep them focused on a direction in their lives."
Like Horton, Kevin had no desire to swim at Bonaventure.
"Zero," he said. "But Skehan pulled me into his office and said,
`You will be at practice next week. You have no other choice.' He
knew I needed some discipline. I showed up the first day of practice
and four years later I was the captain. I was totally sucked into
coaching. A light bulb went on and I just really started to identify
with what my dad had done, what he was
all about."
A theology class with Fr. Brian Lhota,
O.F.M., crystallized Kevin's sense of self.
"He was talking about one of (Thomas)
Merton's great lines: `All we need to be is
who we are.' That really resonated with
me," Kevin said. "The family legacy, my fa-
ther's name ... everywhere at St. Bonaven-
ture everyone told me how great my dad
was, what a principled individual he was,
what a straight shooter and wonderful fa-
ther. It all just kind of came together when
I heard that from Fr. Brian."
Kevin went to Indiana University for his
master's in human performance, working
with the men's swim program and leg-
endary coach "Doc" Counsilman, who had
just coached the 1976 U.S. Olympic swim
The head of Indiana's phys ed depart-
ment called Kevin into his office one day.
Kevin thought he was in trouble. Instead,
Dr. Clinton Strong handed him a reference
letter written by Skehan, the likes of
which Strong had never seen.
"It was really moving," Kevin said. "It
was just an expression in writing that I had never heard from John
before. It wasn't his way. He was always about challenging you,
being tough and in your face. ... The gist was that I'd never let Indi-
ana down, and I'd never let St. Bonaventure down, that I came from
a solid-stock family, that I saw my limits and blew through them."
Kevin never imagined that, just two years later, he'd be back at his
alma mater. Skehan met Kevin for dinner when the Bonnies visited
Notre Dame in the winter of 1977. Skehan told Kevin he was retir-
ing as swim coach.
Not long after, Fr. Cornelius Welch, O.F.M., a longtime family
friend, called Kevin to see if he was interested in the job.
"I had kind of caught the bug to see the world and coach else-
where, but Fr. Cornelius called, pulled on some heartstrings and
played the family card," Kevin said. "Next thing I knew, I was at the
airport in Indianapolis talking to (athletic director) Larry Weise."
Kevin wanted only one assurance from Weise: The program had
to be elevated to scholarship status.
"I wanted the program to be more reflective of where Division I
athletics was heading," he said. The late 1970s represented a seis-
mic shift in college sports, especially in the East as traditional inde-
pendent powers began to align in conferences like the Big East and
Eastern 8 (renamed the Atlantic 10 in 1982).
Al Horton, '66, (left) fondly recalls John Skeehan's
practices were "like going to Parris Island."