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Don Bormann Named Irish Alumni of the Year

By Staff | Jun 30, 2009

BORMANN HONORED – Clutching a replica of his high school football jersey, Don Bormann accepts a caricature from Jack Nolan. Bormann was the first to be honored as Alumni of the Year at Emmetsburg Catholic School. The recognition ceremony followed the second annual Irish Open Golf Tournament Sunday. –Jane Whitmore photo

Surrounded by family and friends, Don Bormann was the man of the hour Sunday night. A 1960 graduate of Emmetsburg Catholic High School, Bormann was named the first ever Alumni of the Year.

Bormann was honored at a banquet following the second annual Irish Open Golf Tournament, sponsored by Emmetsburg Catholic School’s AuctionFest Committee.

Don Bormann graduated from Emmetsburg Catholic High School in 1960. He continued his education at the University of South Dakota and the USD School of Law, graduating Magna Cum Laude in 1966. He was editor of the South Dakota Law Review his senior year. The Bormanns returned to Emmetsburg in 1968 and Don practiced law in the private sector. In July 2000, Don Bormann was appointed District Associate Judge, Iowa District Court, Third Judicial District.

At Emmetsburg Catholic High School, Don played football and basketball. He is well remembered as quarterback of the 1959 undefeated Irish football team. Dennis Goeders, ECHS Class of 1966, remembered watching that team play every day and learning what it took to be a winner.

“It took a team effort; sacrifice, sweat and discipline,” said Goeders, “and at its nucleus was a great quarterback, Don Bormann.”

Five years later, Emmetsburg Catholic High School again had an undefeated football team with Goeders on the squad. “We were comparing ourselves with the great team of 1959. We used Don Bormann and that team as a barometer.”

Goeders pointed out that Don’s competitive spirit took him through the next 50 years as a defense attorney and an Associate District Judge.

“Now, confined to a wheelchair, Don still has that fighting spirit and competitive nature, with a never-say-die attitude,” said Goeders.

ECHS teammate Tom Foy, class of 1961, was the fullback on that 1959 undefeated football team. Foy shared memories of football days.

“We were a talented group,” said Foy. “Why were we so good? We weren’t bigger and we weren’t faster. It all came down to decision making and that was the quarterback. We were blessed with a good one.”

Foy added, “As time goes on, the real character you learn from athletics comes through. Even with MS, Don carries on. His character is shown through his law career and his judicial career.”

Classmate John Hand, ECHS 1960, was captain and center of that much-touted 1959 football team.

“The last game we played was at Graettinger, in a snowstorm,” said Hand. “We were really proud of what we did. But we also wondered, what’s next?”

Hand noted that Bormann’s success began on the playing fields of Emmetsburg, pick-up games on the vacant lots. That group of young men didn’t have a lot of coaching.

“Thanks to Catholic education, look what he (Bormann) is today,” said Hand.

Hand reminisced about learning to play football, leadership and the will to win. He noted that the year before the undefeated season, 1958, “made us a team and Don as a leader.”

Beaming with pride, Don Bormann motored his wheelchair to the microphone to address the crowd. He was diagnosed with MS in 1998 and has been in his chair since 2002. He has also battled cancer and is hopeful that is behind him, too.

“Emmetsburg Catholic education is a long standing thing in my family,” said Bormann, noting that his mother graduated from St. Mary’s Academy in 1923. Don and his sisters, his wife, Ann, and her siblings, also graduated from Emmetsburg Catholic High School.

Don saw his first football game in 1948 and then watched a game at the public field in the early 1950s. Football was discontinued at St. Mary’s Academy in 1948, then resumed at Emmetsburg Catholic High School in 1956. Don expressed pride in being quarterback of the 1959 Irish football squad and their undefeated season.

Don Bormann and his wife, Ann, are parents of three children, Mark and Debbie from Newton, Michael in California, and Mollie and Greg Schlosser of Colfax. They have four grandchildren, Calvin, Camilla, Katie and Kenny, and two step-grandsons, Joshua and Justin Kaplan.