Bob Tully ’61 fell in love with Catholic education while a student at Providence. He may have spent his career here had another opportunity not taken him to Indianapolis. There, he became football coach and religion teacher, then athletic director, then campus minister, and now vice president of mission and ministry for what is now known as Roncalli High School. His dedication to the football program earned him public recognition in recent years. Last year, he was named to the Indiana Football Hall of Fame along with retired Roncalli head coach Bruce Scifres. This year, Roncalli named the football field after Tully.
“I don’t have the words to describe what it meant to me,” Tully said, though he joked that he had to check the obituaries to make sure his name wasn’t listed there too. “To have such a beautiful stadium as that, named after me and created by Dr. [Joseph] Hollowell,” the school’s president. “The feeling was awesome. I was so happy.”
Tully followed his Providence football coach, Jim MacGregor, to what was then Bishop Chartrand High School, a new Catholic high school opening on the southside of Indianapolis a year after graduating. MacGregor was recruited to start the football program, and he needed an assistant. MacGregor was recruited by Fr. Robert Kitchin, then the Providence spiritual director, who was moving to Chartrand to serve as principal.
Tully became the school’s and the football program’s biggest cheerleader. When Chartrand merged with another south Indianapolis school in 1969 to become Roncalli, the football coach resigned and Tully was asked to step in. He took the head coaching job for four years and then became athletic director, a role he used to make financing the football program a priority. Scifres became head coach in 1990 and amassed a 248-88 record and eight trips and seven wins at state before retiring in 2016.
That level of success was “something we were striving for (when he helped MacGregor start the program and as he insisted on the program’s financial support) but we never expected to achieve heights it as,” Tully said.
When invited to the Indiana Hall of Fame, Scifres said the honor should go to Tully instead. The Hall of Fame board was so impressed, they inducted the two of them together.
That moment was a great honor and one Tully celebrated from a hospital bed. But in September, he stood proud under the scoreboard and the sign that bears his name.
“It’s been a blessing to be part of the Roncalli program and meet so many great people,” Tully said. “God continues to smile on us by sending us blessing after blessing after blessing.”
When Roncalli happens to compete against Providence in sports, Tully said he is a little torn.
“My heart is still in the halls at Providence, but I have to cheer for Roncalli though,” he said.
He credits the Sisters of Providence who taught him at PHS with instilling in him his love for Catholic education, PHS, and Roncalli. He parlayed that love into creating the campus ministry program at Roncalli more than two decades ago. His love for the school – and its love for him – led to the creation of his current position several years ago.
He is happy to be working in the same building since he moved to Indianapolis in 1962, even as the name changed – and his job description. One thing hasn’t changed is his commitment to his faith, his family (which includes wife Mary Pat (Dallmann ’63) and their children, Leigh (Tully) Wilham and Michael, and five granddaughters), and Roncalli.
“I hope I am allowed by God and the administration to continue,” he said.
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