Jack Sherry, two-sport Penn State star, dies at 81

Jack Sherry captained the 1954 Penn State team that reached the Final Four. He also starred in football. Inquirer file
Jack Sherry captained the 1954 Penn State team that reached the Final Four. He also starred in football. Inquirer file
Posted: April 03, 2014

Jack Sherry, 81, of Drexel Hill, a two-sport star at Penn State and the captain of the Nittany Lions' only basketball team to reach the NCAA Final Four, died Monday night in Lankenau Hospital.

Born in West Philadelphia, the oldest of six children, Mr. Sherry, a 1950 graduate of West Catholic, attended Penn State on a football scholarship. Playing offensive end and defensive back, he set a team record in 1952 with eight interceptions, a mark that stood until 1969.

As a senior in 1954, he led the Nittany Lions in receiving yards and tied for the lead in receptions. At the end of the season, he participated in the Blue-Gray All-Star Game.

Mr. Sherry, who was 6-foot-2, walked on and made the freshman basketball team. In a 2001 interview with The Inquirer, he described himself as "a hatchet man, a good free-throw shooter. Hey, I was a football player."

He captained the team as a senior when, led by all-American Jesse Arnelle, the Nittany Lions reached the 1954 Final Four when the NCAA tournament consisted of just 16 teams.

The Lions defeated Toledo, Louisiana State, and Notre Dame to reach the national semifinals in Kansas City, Mo., where they ran into La Salle and all-American Tom Gola. Mr. Sherry had played against Gola in the Catholic League.

Behind Gola, the Explorers defeated Penn State, 69-54, on their way to the national championship.

Mr. Sherry graduated from Penn State with a degree in labor studies and served two years in the Navy. He worked for the American Seating Co., in Grand Rapids, Mich., before returning to the Philadelphia area in the early 1980s to start REM Systems Inc., his own manufacturing sales representative group.

Mr. Sherry is survived by five siblings: Joan Hunt of Drexel Hill; Maryann Snow of Havertown; Patrick Sherry of Oceanview, Del.; Rosemarie Maguire of Avondale; and Joseph Sherry of Medford.

He also is survived by five children: Jack P. Sherry of Iowa City, Iowa; Susan Sherry Fox of LaGrange, Ill.; Michael Sherry of Rapid City, S.D.; Christine Murray of Chatham, N.J.; and Stephen Sherry of Elko, Minn. He also is survived by 14 grandchildren.

A Mass will be offered at 10 a.m. Monday at St. Andrew the Apostle Church in Drexel Hill, with burial to follow at Holy Sepulchre Cemetery in Philadelphia. Friends may call at the Donohue Funeral Home, 8401 West Chester Pike in Upper Darby, from 6 to 9 p.m. Sunday.

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