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Dennis Gildea ('98 Ph.D. MassComm)

Sports journalist, author and teacher.

Headshot of Dennis Gildea

Dennis Patrick Gildea, "Dr. D." to students at Springfield College, died from brain cancer on May 3, 2020, in Amherst, Massachusetts. He was 77.

His wife, Constance, and sister, Mary, were by his side to surround him with love. Dennis and Constance were married Nov. 10, 1979, at the Friends Meeting in State College. He was born March 17, 1943, in Coaldale, Pennsylvania, to the late Vincent R. Gildea and Mary Rusinko Gildea.

An admired sports journalist, author and teacher, Gildea taught journalism at Springfield College for the past 25 years. Before that, he taught at Penn State, where he earned his Ph.D., and worked for newspapers in State College. His quick wit, talent and laughter invariably left a lasting impression on those who knew him or enjoyed his work.

He excelled as a teacher, connecting with students and encouraging them to tap their talents, and as a writer, where he seemed to have his own language for everything.

He was a sports writer for the Pennsylvania Mirror until 1977 and then was a sports writer and editor at the Centre Daily Times from 1978 to 1986.

Under the pseudonym T. Wes Brillik, Gildea would invariable predict the Penn State football team, the "Nits" as he called them, to lose. He angered then-coach Joe Paterno and the players who long sought to uncover the identity of Brillik, a character who was said to live on Mount Nittany, drink Utica Club beer and was married to Mimsy, a topless dancer.

As a graduate student at Penn State, Gildea earned the Roberta Park Graduate Student Essay Award (1992) from the North American Society for Sport History for the essay “Counterpunch: The Morrison-Heenan Fight of 1858 and Frank Queen’s Attack on the ‘Responsible Press.’”

Gildea played football and baseball in high school. Later in life he enjoyed cross-country skiing, mountain biking and running.

His stacked-to-the-roof office at Springfield College was a perfect cubbyhole for writing books. His best, “Hoop Crazy: The Lives of Clair Bee and Chip Hilton,” took years to write, and involved hundreds of first-hand stories about the basketball coach whose books taught a generation of boys how they should live and play.

Memorial contributions can be made to the Pioneer Valley Hospice and Palliative Care, 329 Conway St., Greenfield, MA 01301

Gildea’s ashes will be scattered at a favorite cross-country ski trail in the mountains near Salt Lake City, Utah. Memorial gatherings will be announced when allowed both in Massachusetts and State College.