If there was ever a legend in Wheaton athletics, it was LeRoy Pfund ‘49. Known to many as “Coach” or simply “Lee,” Pfund joined his Savior on Thursday, June 2 at the age of 96.
Ripe is a fitting description of his life: ripe with experience, with opportunity and with adventure. Pfund spent eight seasons in professional baseball. After being traded from the St. Louis Cardinals, he made his debut as a 26-year-old pitcher for the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945, playing alongside Hall of Fame teammates Jackie Robinson and Pee Wee Reese. A knee injury cut his season—as well as his professional playing career—short, so Pfund made his way to Wheaton College as an undergraduate.
Though his window of professional baseball had shut, the door to Pfund’s legendary days at Wheaton was opening. The same year that Pfund graduated with his bachelor’s degree, he commenced his unprecedented coaching career at Wheaton.
According to Wheaton’s athletic website, Pfund is the “winningest coach in Wheaton history for both men’s basketball and baseball,” finishing his career with 362 and 249 victories, respectively.
During his tenure as men’s basketball coach from 1951 to 1975, Pfund led the Crusaders to 58 consecutive wins in the College Conference of Illinois, a conference record. As the head baseball coach from 1948-59 and 1961-74, he delivered Wheaton’s only CCI or CCIW championship.
Pfund continued to serve his alma mater even after ending his coaching career. He became a professor of physical education and went on to be the executive director of the Wheaton College Alumni Association for 12 years before retiring in 1987.
Prior to retiring, he received the Distinguished Service to Alma Mater award in 1977 from the Alumni Association. In 1985, he was inducted into the Hall of Fame from the Wheaton Athletics Department.
Pfund’s impact resounds on campus even today. Every year, the men’s basketball team hosts the Lee Pfund Classic Basketball Tournament and the baseball team plays in the stadium that bears his name. In April of this year, Pfund’s jersey number, 17, was retired. He had worn it as skipper of the baseball team.
Through his dynamic careers as a baseball player, a passionate college coach and a professor, Pfund left his greatest legacy as man of faith in all seasons of life. A former student, Rick Havens ‘69, paid tribute on the athletic website’s obituary: Pfund “showed everyone the love of Christ. … Coach walked the talk.”
The memorial service for Pfund was held July 11 at College Church. He is survived by three sons, John, Kerry and Randy, and two sisters, Ruth Muzzy and Phyllis Hiley.