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Loyal Son of the Mount John Rooney, C’60, Passes Away

Donna Klinger

John Rooney with family and President Trainor and Donna Brazil

John Rooney, C'60, surrounded by, from left, his wife JoAnn, daughter Alice, C'86. son-in-law Sean, C'86, Donna Brazil and President Tim Trainor in 2019.

John Joseph Rooney, a 1960 graduate and trustee emeritus of Mount St. Mary’s as well as one of the university’s greatest benefactors, passed away December 26. He was 83.

john-rooney-graduation.pngEven in his student days, Rooney knew how to get things done at the Mount, helping track and field coach Jim Deegan to build a runway and landing pit for field events, including the pole vault. Rooney competed for the Mount as a pole vaulter, high jumper and hurdler.

During a 2018 visit to the university, Rooney watched a track and field meet and marveled at the athleticism of the pole vaulters and the superiority of their fiberglass poles over the Swedish steel ones that he used in the late 1950s. “I could have been a contender,” he quipped. John Rooney and his twin brother Patrick J., who also graduated from the Mount in 1960, have made it possible for today’s and tomorrow’s students to compete at the highest level.

The first phase of the Rooney Athletic Performance Center project, six new state-of-the-art tennis courts, is complete. The multi-phase project is made possible by a $6 million transformational gift that John and Pat, and their spouses JoAnn and Sandy, respectively, to promote growth and enhanced performances for rooney-pole-vault-in-text.jpgthe Mount’s NCAA Division I athletic program, intramural sport and recreational opportunities for students.

“John loved the Mount, and the Mount community loved John. He was a kind and giving man who cared deeply about the university and its students,” said President Timothy E. Trainor, Ph.D. “ John will be greatly missed by many and leaves a wonderful legacy at Mount St. Mary’s and among all he touched in his 83 years.”

Rooney grew up in Pittsburgh, attending North Catholic High School with his brothers. A devout lifelong Catholic he majored in English at the Mount and subsequently taught middle school English, a job that he loved, and served as a manager at the Pittsburgh Steelers training camp. He moved to Philadelphia to help run the William Penn Racetrack and the Spartan Soccer team. With his brothers, he owned the Pittsburgh Steelers and helped manage Green Mountain Racetrack in Vermont, the Palm Beach Kennel Club in Florida and Yonkers Raceway in New York. He also owned a successful gas and oil company for more than 30 years. He was an avid fisherman, lifetime golfer and antique train collector. He loved to sketch and draw and collect Western sculptures. His greatest joy was spending time with his family of whom he was proud.

Rooney, the husband of JoAnn (Wallace) Rooney, was the son of the late Arthur Sr. and Kathleen (McNulty) Rooney. rooney-dedication21-041.jpgHe was the father of Sean Rooney and his wife Colleen of Palm Beach, Florida; Mary Jo Gormley and her husband Richard of Malvern, Pennsylvania; Alice Rooney Mahoney, C’86, and her husband Sean Mahoney Sr., C’86 of Worcester, Pennsylvania; Peter Rooney and his spouse John Curran of Dublin, Ireland; and Matthew Rooney of Brooklyn, New York; his siblings Art Rooney, Jr., Timothy Rooney and his twin Patrick Rooney; 15 grandchildren, including Sean Mahoney, Jr., C’12; and 6 great-grandchildren. His beloved son James Patrick and his brother Daniel Rooney preceded him in death.

Relatives and friends are invited to attend his funeral Mass at 12:30 p.m. on Friday, December 30 at St. Helena’s Church, located at 1489 Dekalb Pike in Blue Bell, Pennsylvania. The Rev. Martin O. Moran, university chaplain, will be a concelebrant at the Mass. A viewing will be held from 2 to 4 p.m. and 6 to 8 p.m. on Thursday, December 29 at R.L. Williams Jr. Funeral Home, located at 3440 W. Skippack Pike in Cedars, Pennsylvania.

May John Joseph Rooney be at peace.

Donna Klinger