In tribute to our much loved and dearly missed president, Dr. Steve Phelps, we are excited to announce that the new court at the O’Dowd Center will be named in his honor – The Steve Phelps Memorial Court. We know that Steve would be tremendously touched by the community generosity that brought this Center to life, and in naming the court for him, we will forever memorialize both his amazing vision, and his profound commitment to O’Dowd’s bright future.
“Steve’s roots were in basketball,” remembers Kerwin Allen, a close family friend of Dr. Phelps, and the current Vice Chair of the O’Dowd Board of Regents. “He was an outstanding coach, because he knew that he was teaching young people about leadership and life. Through basketball, he showed kids how to care for each other, to be responsible citizens. And everyone who played under him, loved him.”
<img class="wp-image-39040 lazyload" src="https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Phelps-Sacred-Heart-Basketball-Team-1973-300x236.jpg" alt="Sacred Heart Basketball Team 1973" width="346" height="272" srcset="https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Phelps-Sacred-Heart-Basketball-Team-1973-300x236.jpg 300w, https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Phelps-Sacred-Heart-Basketball-Team-1973-768x605.jpg 768w, https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Phelps-Sacred-Heart-Basketball-Team-1973-1024x806.jpg 1024w, https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Phelps-Sacred-Heart-Basketball-Team-1973.jpg 2030w" sizes="(max-width: 346px) 100vw, 346px" /> Sacred Heart, circa 1973
“Steve’s roots were in basketball. He was an outstanding coach, because he knew that he was teaching young people about leadership and life.” — Kerwin Allen, close family friend of Dr. Phelps, current Vice Chair of the O’Dowd Board of Regents, and parent to Tyler McAdory ’12.
Steve Phelps began his career as an educator and coach for Joseph Lee playground in Hunters Point, San Francisco. He went on to serve as a teacher and coach at Sacred Heart Grammar School in the Fillmore, and then a teacher, coach, and director of professional development at St. Ignatius High School, before coming to serve as President of Bishop O’Dowd High School in 2005. Everywhere he worked, he left a legacy.
“Steve’s interest in students went way beyond basketball,” says Kerwin. Dr. Phelps was Kerwin’s coach for Sacred Heart’s basketball team, and teacher at St. Ignatius. The two became so close that Kerwin served as an attendant in Dr. Phelps’ wedding. “It’s rare to find a person who gives of their own time in the way Steve did,” Kerwin recalls.
“Steve was committed to leveling the playing field so that everyone had equal access to opportunity. He knew that education gives people a fighting chance in the world, and O’Dowd provided a welcoming environment for all students.” — Ellie Knauss, parent to two O’Dowd graduates and former Board member.
<img class="wp-image-39039 lazyload" src="https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Kerwin-Son-Tyler-300x205.jpg" alt="Dr. Phelps with Kerwin Allen’s son, Tyler, who graduated from O’Dowd in 2012" width="379" height="259" srcset="https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Kerwin-Son-Tyler-300x205.jpg 300w, https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Kerwin-Son-Tyler.jpg 723w" sizes="(max-width: 379px) 100vw, 379px" /> Tyler McAdory ’12
Before his passing, Steve gave tirelessly to the students at O’Dowd. He spearheaded multiple fundraising projects to renovate the campus, including building the Center for Environmental Studies. And he imagined a new Center where everyone could gather. “His vision was to create a multifaceted place,” Kerwin says. “A place for the entire community, for Mass, for rallies and events, for band and drama, for education, and of course, sports. I’m so grateful we’re fulfilling that mission. It’s been a labor of love. His vision became our vision, and we’re demonstrating what we can accomplish as a community with a shared goal.”
Dr. Phelps’ final achievement at O’Dowd was securing an ambitious grant from the Wayne and Gladys Valley Foundation, offering a dollar-for dollar match, up to $20M, to build the O’Dowd Center. The match expires March 31, at which point O’Dowd will be poised to meet our community fundraising goal, fulfill Dr. Phelps’ legacy, and break ground on the 38,000-square-foot Center, which will feature a full-size court for athletic competition, modern strength and conditioning facilities, sophisticated drama and music studios, two new classrooms, and will open in August 2022.
“Naming the new court after Steve is poetic justice,” declares Ellie Knauss, parent to two O’Dowd graduates and former Board member. “He rarely missed a basketball game. He always wanted to be there, interacting with students.”
Ellie and Dr. Phelps connected over their shared commitment to Catholic education. “Steve was committed to leveling the playing field so that everyone had equal access to opportunity,” she shares. “He knew that education gives people a fighting chance in the world, and O’Dowd provided a welcoming environment for all students.”
Dr. Phelps was committed that O’Dowd students had what they needed to excel. “For Steve, the new Center was an upgrade to ensure that O’Dowd was a world class institution, a shining example of Catholic education, providing the best possible opportunities for all kids,” Ellie asserts. “He cared about every student. He never sat in his office, he was in the hallways and the quad, talking to kids. You didn’t have to be the star of the basketball team or the president of the student council for Steve to know your name.”
“His vision was to create a multifaceted place, for the entire community. We’re fulfilling that mission. It’s been a labor of love. We’re demonstrating what we can accomplish as a community with a shared goal.” — Kerwin Allen
In the final days of the Cor Unum Campaign, as we near the fundraising match deadline, Ellie sees a chance for those who were touched by Dr. Phelps to give back. “For all those times he reached out to you,” she proclaims, “now is a time to reach back to him, to help provide the foundation for the last part of his vision. Let’s bring it home. Let’s bring him home.”
<img class="alignright wp-image-39053 lazyload" src="https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Court-Names-magnified-dots1500px-300x250.jpg" alt="Illustration of names on court" width="384" height="320" srcset="https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Court-Names-magnified-dots1500px-300x250.jpg 300w, https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Court-Names-magnified-dots1500px-768x639.jpg 768w, https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Court-Names-magnified-dots1500px-1024x852.jpg 1024w, https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Court-Names-magnified-dots1500px.jpg 1500w" sizes="(max-width: 384px) 100vw, 384px" />
Individuals and families who feel a special connection to the Steve Phelps Memorial Court may want to consider having their name featured ‘On The Court.’ With gifts or pledges of $10,000 and above ($2,500 for graduates of the last 15 years), individuals or families will have their names commemorated on the gymnasium floor, including the center circle, three-point line, and sidelines.
“I can only imagine the joy that’s going to happen on that basketball floor,” anticipates Richard Longrus ’12. “As a coach, Dr. Phelps loved helping people, so it’s going to be beautiful to gather in the Steve Phelps Memorial Court and feel that he’s there. That will be special.”
Richard came to O’Dowd for a visit with Dr. Phelps when he was in 8th grade. “I was really good at basketball and being recruited by all the top schools,” Richard recalls. “I sat in Dr. Phelps office for almost two hours, and he didn’t ask me anything about basketball. He wanted to know about my family and my academic interests. It made an impression on me. I chose O’Dowd because I saw that Dr. Phelps believed I could have any future I wanted.”
<img class="wp-image-39042 lazyload" src="https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Richard-Longrus-225x300.jpg" alt="Franklin Longrus ’15, Dr. Steve Phelps, Richard Longrus ’12" width="263" height="351" srcset="https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Richard-Longrus-225x300.jpg 225w, https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Richard-Longrus-768x1024.jpg 768w, https://www.bishopodowd.org/wp-content/uploads/2021/02/Richard-Longrus.jpg 1536w" sizes="(max-width: 263px) 100vw, 263px" /> Franklin Longrus ’15, Dr. Phelps, Richard Longrus ’12
At his very first meeting with Dr. Phelps, Richard remembers him sharing his hopes for the O’Dowd Center. “We talked about it hundreds of times over the years,” Richard says. “It was his chief goal.”
Over his long and dedicated career, Dr. Phelps connected deeply with thousands of students and their families. “I can confidently say that he changed my family’s trajectory,” Richard declares. “The best thing Dr. Phelps did was build a community to help young people succeed. Everyone he brought to O’Dowd, from the teachers to the security guards to the chefs, they were all committed to giving students a good start in life. Dr. Phelps was my mentor and my North Star, and I will be a Dragon for life!”
Join us in the memory of Dr. Steve Phelps, and partner with us in establishing the Steve Phelps Memorial Court with a gift to the Cor Unum Campaign. Together, we will build his vision and create an outstanding educational experience that will change the lives of generations of students.