Longtime St. Olaf College men’s basketball coach and athletic director Bob Gelle, who was the winningest men’s basketball coach in school history at the time of his retirement, died August 3 at the age of 87.
Visitation will be on Tuesday, August 7, from 5-7 p.m. in Buntrock Commons. A Celebration of Life service will be held on Wednesday, August 8, at 3 p.m. at St. John’s Lutheran Church in Northfield.
Gelle began his 35-year career at St. Olaf in 1957. He served as head men’s basketball coach from 1957 to 1981. His teams won four Midwest Conference championships and earned three berths in the NCAA College Division National Tournament. In 2007 the competition floor at St. Olaf was named “Bob Gelle Court.”
Gelle also served as an assistant coach in football and track and field, and retired as a professor in the Physical Education Department. He was named athletic director in 1972 and served in that capacity until 1989. Under his leadership, St. Olaf added 15 sports, including 12 women’s programs. The culmination of his career was as lead fundraiser for the $3.5 million “Athletes for Vision” campaign for the construction of Tom Porter Hall and the track and field facility. In 2001 Gelle was the first non-St. Olaf graduate inducted into the St. Olaf Athletics Hall of Fame.
As an undergraduate at the University of Minnesota, Gelle was a four-sport athlete and captain and MVP of the 1953 Gopher basketball team. He received the Big Ten Conference Medal, an award reflecting his selection as the top senior scholar/athlete at the University of Minnesota in 1953. He completed his master’s degree in physical education at the University of Minnesota in 1959, and later completed coursework toward a Ph.D. in athletic administration at the University of Oregon.
Read Gelle’s full obituary here.