Prep Teacher, Coach, Athletic Director & Dean of Students (1967-2007)
In a word, he was a legend.
Born in 1941, Bruce Bott started attending Fordham Prep football games when he was still a student at St. Philip Neri Grammar School on the Grand Concourse in the Bronx. One of his earliest memories of Prep football was a Prep-Xavier game of 1950. In those days, Xavier had one of the best teams in the country and came away with a 60-6 victory. Fortunately for the Prep — and the football team — the son of Walter Bott and Susan Brandt Bott decided to become a Ram. Though his accomplishments on the playing field are still celebrated at Rose Hill, the playing field was by no means the only place Bruce Bott would leave his enduring mark on Prep history.
Bruce loved every aspect of his Hughes Hall years — the academic rigor in the classrooms, the camaraderie in the hallways, and even the atmosphere of the Rose Hill Campus itself. But perhaps there was nowhere that young Bruce Bott felt more at home than out the Prep playing fields. In addition to playing basketball and running track, he had an outstanding football career at the Prep — one of the most memorable in school history — coached by fellow Hall of Honor member Joe “Sammy” Ososki. Bruce had another "coach" as well: his dad. Although disabled by Parkinson’s disease, Bruce’s father was a daily presence at his son’s practices, an inexhaustible wellspring of encouragement and support, and a role model of what it truly meant to face adversity with courage, strength, and dignity.
When he was just a sophomore, Bott led the 1956 Prep squad to an undefeated season that was capped by a 1-point victory over Xavier in the Thanksgiving game. He was an All-City quarterback and won the New York Journal American's Lou Gehrig Award and the New York City Mayor’s Citation as an outstanding scholar-athlete. He also won the Prep’s McLaughlin Award, named for yet another fellow Hall of Honor inductee, Jackie McLaughlin.
Bruce Bott graduated from the Prep in 1959 and attended Fordham University as a member of the College Class of 1963.
Bott started his teaching and coaching career at the Prep in 1967, completing his fortieth year in June 2007. During his many years at the Prep, Bruce served as a member of the Faculty and Coaching Staff, eleven years as the Prep's athletic director and thirteen years as the director of the Higher Achievement Program (HAP). Moreover, Bruce Bott's 18-year tenure as dean of students is second only to the 38-year tenure of the legendary Prep prefect and dean of students, Rev. Arthur Shea, SJ.
During his years as a basketball coach, Bott's teams won more than 100 games, 76 of them during his last four seasons, as well as two Bronx-Manhattan A-Division Championships. Bruce was selected All-Star Coach in 1980 and 1982.
Bott's teams on the gridiron compiled a 78-50-6 record, including a league championship. He was named All-Star Coach in 1984. His other awards are numerous and include the Earl “Zev” Graham Lifetime Achievement Award for scholastic and athletic accomplishment. He was inducted into the Catholic High School Athletic Association Hall of Fame in 2002.
In the words of a Prep graduate: “He gave me life lessons during my free periods in his office when I stopped by to say hello. My grades were poor, especially at the beginning. But he worked with me and gave me the help I needed to get through the Prep successfully. I wouldn’t [have made it into] college without his help.”
As recounted by a second alum, stationed overseas: “Some of the lessons he taught me during my four years at the Prep helped me make it through basic training as the top graduate and are now helping me make it through my deployment in Iraq with an airborne unit. He taught me that no matter what, each day is a good day.”
And yet another Prep graduate, who had once served as manager of one of Bruce’s basketball teams, affirmed that on the court, Bruce “was always even-tempered and fair while setting high standards of performance. And he did this in his typically quiet and unassuming way…He effortlessly captured the respect of his students and athletes.”
As a history teacher, Bruce ingeniously managed to incorporate quite a bit of football into his classes. As a former student once recalled: “He was lecturing on the Battle of Thermopylae, in which 300 Spartans held off tens of thousands of Persians. Mr. Bott drew the battle on the blackboard using Xs and Os, like in a football play, and described the Spartan tactics as a ‘squeeze play.’ He got the point across.”
Echoing the sentiments of many a member of the Fordham Prep faculty, administration, and coaching staff, one collegue would nominate Bott to the Hall of Honor noting that "Bruce consistently displays the kindness, humility, compassion, and commitment that are indicative of a true gentleman. His resume attests to his dedication to the school.”
Whether their memories of Bruce are from the football field, basketball court, the Dean’s Office, the classroom, or the Faculty Lounge, those fortunate enough to have crossed paths with Bruce during his forty years of service were left with memories that reflect the utmost respect for a man who embodies the values of Fordham Prep.
Bruce passed away on April 24, 2017, leaving behind his wife Maureen and his four children Steven, Christopher, Ellen and Caroline.