Friday, August 16, 2013

IT WILL ALWAYS BE DYCHE STADIUM TO ME - William A. Dyche

From the minutes of the Northwestern University Board of Trustees, October 26, 1926:

"Be it resolved that the stadium now being erected for Northwestern University and any additions thereto and any other stadium which may be erected at any time or place to succeed it shall be named Dyche Stadium."

What the minutes didn't say was that "at any time or place to succeed it" just meant "until we get a better offer."  Before we look at the circumstances surrounding changing the name from Dyche Stadium to Ryan Field, let's look at why it was named Dyche Stadium in the first place.

William Andrew Dyche was born May 25, 1861 in Monroe, Ohio to David Raper Dyche, MD (1827-1893) and Mary S., nee Boyd (1838-1926).  William Dyche's only sibling, George A. Dyche, MD (1872-1942) was born March 19, 1872.  Dr. David Dyche moved his family to Chicago in 1865 to help his brother George who was ill.  George F. Dyche (1832-1866) had operated a drug store in Chicago for several years. Life for the Dyche family changed significantly on July 4, 1867 when Dr. David Dyche took his family on a Goodyear excursion steamer trip in Lake Michigan.  The story was, when Dr. Dyche got his first glimpse of Evanston and Northwestern University from the steamer, he determined that Evanston would be the Dyche family's permanent home.

William A. Dyche entered Northwestern in 1878 and graduated from the Classics Department with an A.B. degree in 1882.  He continued his education at the Chicago College of Pharmacy and Northwestern, earning a diploma from the Pharmacy College in 1886 and an A.M. degree from Northwestern in 1888. Immediately after graduation Dyche entered his father's drug business in Chicago.

William Dyche's father David died in 1893, and in 1894 William was asked to replace his father on the Board of Trustees of Northwestern. As a successful businessman and Trustee of Northwestern, William Dyche was asked to run as the Republican candidate for Mayor of Evanston in 1895.  On April 16, 1895 Dyche was easily elected Mayor, with a plurality of 736 out of 1,740 votes cast.  Due to his other pressing responsibilities, Dyche chose to serve only one term as mayor.  In later years he said that he felt his greatest accomplishment while he was mayor was to get the elevated train from Chicago extended through Evanston.

Mayor William A. Dyche

As busy as he was, it was not all work for William A. Dyche.  On February 11, 1897 he found time to marry May Louise Bennett at her home on Sheridan Road in Evanston:


William and May Dyche were blessed with three children:  David Bennett Dyche (1902-1990), Ruth Caroline Dyche (1907-2003) and George Frederick Dyche (1910-1984).

In 1903 William Dyche decided to serve as Business Manager of Northwestern, a position he held until 1934, at which time he became Counselor to Northwestern.


In 1908 Dyche was elected President of the State National Bank and Trust Company of Evanston.  He was President from 1908-1919, Vice President and Chairman of the Board 1919-1935 and President again in 1935.

A sad event happened to the Dyche family on April 28, 1923 when May Bennett Dyche died at her home in Evanston of complications from nephritis.  She was fifty-two years old:


As the obituary stated, Mrs. Dyche was buried in the Dyche family plot at Oakwoods Cemetery in Chicago.


Why then, was the Northwestern University football stadium named for William A. Dyche?  University president Walter Dill Scott said that during Dyche's tenure as business manager of NU, that Dyche was single-handedly responsible for bringing in over $20 million dollars in endowment funds.  "But," said Scott, "he scorned the "high pressure" methods of modern salesmanship.  His thought was to "educate" men of wealth to his own faith in the cause of education.  James A. Patten, the late wheat-king, came under the spell of the business manager and contributed $310,000.00 for the building of Patten gymnasium, and made total gifts of $1,500,000.00."

At the Board of Trustees meeting of October 27, 1926, as Northwestern's new stadium was being completed, Scott suggested to the board that the stadium be named for Dyche.  Scott waited until Dyche had left the room, and then the resolution was introduced, discussed, and unanimously passed by the Board of Trustees, all without Dyche knowing anything about it.  Further, the Board declared that the Dyche name was to be used in perpetuity, no matter where or when Northwestern had a stadium.


The new "Dyche Stadium" was officially dedicated by William A. Dyche at ceremonies before the NU-University of Chicago football game on November 13, 1926:




No doubt the day was made even sweeter for Dyche by NU's trouncing Chicago, 38 to 7.

William A. Dyche retired from Northwestern in 1934.  The ceremony to honor his retirement was held in the stadium named after him:

William A. Dyche Retirement Ceremony 1934

William A. Dyche died February 18, 1936 from heart disease.


Here's his obituary from the New York Times:


He was buried next to his wife in the Dyche Family plot at Oakwoods Cemetery in Chicago:


So why was the decision made to rename Dyche Stadium?  The root cause for the change was what it usually is:  MONEY.

In the mid-1990s it was determined that Dyche stadium needed renovation.  The seventy-year-old stadium was looking tired and need to be upgraded and modernized.  Estimates were between $8 and $10 million to bring the stadium up to the nineties.  But where would the money come from?  Northwestern, with one of the highest college tuition rates in the country, cried that they didn't have the money.  What to do?  Enter insurance executive Patrick Ryan.  He would gladly donate the millions necessary to upgrade the stadium with one string attached:  the stadium would have to be renamed for him and his family. Lawyers were consulted.

From the Chicago Tribune of September 18, 1997: "Northwestern's attorneys were aware of the 1926 declaration but said board members of a private institution have the right to override rulings of previous boards. School officials say the document was more a show of appreciation than anything else, but that doesn't explain why trustees went so far as to include a clause stating the stadium always be named Dyche.

Dyche family spokesman David Dyche doesn't argue the legality of the name change, but he does question how 71 years of history can disappear with the opening of a checkbook.

Dyche spoke with Northwestern President Henry Bienen on Wednesday, and Bienen said the school would be willing install a historical plaque at Ryan Field informing fans that the venue was called Dyche Stadium from 1926-1997.

That's not enough for Dyche and his wife, Mary. They would like both names on the stadium, just as Northwestern's basketball arena, McGaw Hall, kept its name after the Ryan family made a sizable donation in 1982 for renovation of the facility. It is also called Welsh-Ryan Arena. Northwestern officials said the renovation of Dyche Stadium was so expensive, the Ryan family's name deserved to be on it alone.

"I'm sorry to see that buildings cannot be named for people who have given a lifetime of service to the university," said David Dyche, 65, a financial analyst in Boca Grande, Fla. ". . . Now it has to go to people with money."

"Dave's not as outspoken as I am," Mary Dyche said. "I would have said to the president, `Why don't you just rename the school Ryan University and be done with it?' They've got the basketball arena. Now they've got the football stadium. God knows what else. I find it just appalling. Why bother to make a rule if you can break them that easily?

"I think they just decided they were going to do it and what the hell. Damn the republic. Things don't have to go that way. We have every right to protest."

When Northwestern announced the name change in May, officials said they had only been able to locate one member of the Dyche family. Their search was limited to Dyches who were Northwestern graduates or gave money to the school. (emphasis mine) That's why they didn't find Schubert Dyche, who lives in Chicago and is listed in the telephone book. He is a grandnephew of William Dyche."

That is just so typical of Northwestern.  If a person did not graduate from Northwestern or donate money to the school, as far as Northwestern was concerned, they didn't exist!

Money won out, as it usually does, and Ryan Field was dedicated Saturday, September 13, 1997 at halftime of the Northwestern-Duke game.

So now you know the story of William A. Dyche's lifelong dedication to the university he loved, and the university's gratitude by naming the football stadium after him - in perpetuity.  And you also know about a man who made all that disappear by the opening of a checkbook.  I think I prefer the old days when deeds were recognized instead of money.

As I said in the title, Northwestern can call their football stadium anything they want to, but it will always be Dyche Stadium to me.


William A. Dyche, lifelong booster of Northwestern University - may he rest in peace. 

3 comments:

  1. Very well written sir. My father was head track and field head coach at NU from '69 to '83 and I basically grew up with Dyche Stadium and McGaw Hall as my childhood playgrounds when my dad would take me to work during summer breaks, etc. I later worked at NU on the building & grounds crew for two wonderful summers and one of my favorite memories (believe it or not!) was shoveling pigeon poop at the very tops of the ramps in the two towers at either end of the stadium on rainy days when we could not work outdoors. Before the renovations in '96, there were so many little nooks and crannies in there and tunnels that went no-where - what a place for a kid to explore for endless hours. I too lament the fact that when I go to a football game now, there is not a single mention (where did they say that plaque is...?) of the grand old name of this venerable football facility. I am with you and will always call it Dyche Stadium when someone asks. Thanks for capturing my feelings on the matter as well as your own. Steve Amidei - NU '89

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  2. It is and always will be Dyche Stadium. Ryans go somewhere else.
    J Conwell

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