10 fun, historical facts about La Salle

November 11, 2022
Former President John F. Kennedy received an honorary degree from La Salle in 1958 during his term as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts. Courtesy of La Salle Archives

Think you know everything about La Salle? Test your knowledge with these unique tidbits.

An installment in a monthly series celebrating La Salle University’s rich history and the forthcoming 160th anniversary of its charter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Throughout La Salle University’s 160-year history, there have been plenty of memorable moments. Here are some lesser-known details from La Salle’s past.

Test your knowledge with these 10 unique facts about La Salle, developed with help from University Archives:

Moving day

La Salle’s current location, in the Belfield neighborhood of Northwest Philadelphia, is its fourth campus. February 5, 1930, was a rainy day and La Salle planned to move its campus from 1240 N. Broad Street to its home at 20th Street and Olney Avenue.

La Salle moved to Philadelphia’s Belfield neighborhood in 1930. Courtesy of University Archives

The move was a group effort with students with cars asked to use them to move items from the old campus to the new. Those without cars brought equipment, books, furniture, and supplies on the Broad Street subway, getting on at Girard Avenue and getting off at Olney. It’s said, according to Conceived in Crisis: A History of La Salle College by Thomas Donaghy, that the biology students gave a skeleton a prime spot—in the back seat of an open car.

Basketball legends

Joe “Jellybean” Bryant,
was a student at La Salle
and a top basketball player
from 1973-1975.
Courtesy of La Salle Archives

The late Los Angeles Lakers star Kobe Bryant has a connection to La Salle. Kobe once attended basketball camps at La Salle during his youth. And his father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, was a student at La Salle and a top basketball player from 1973-1975. Joe left campus after his junior year to enter the NBA draft and was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers. He returned to La Salle in 1993 as a men’s basketball assistant coach, a position he held for three seasons. Joe left in 1996 when Kobe decided to go directly from high school to the NBA.

Dress code

During the mid-20th century, La Salle’s newest students needed to follow several regulations from the start of their first semester through Christmas while within campus boundaries. One rule was the adherence to a dress code. Students were required to wear a button on their left lapel, a tie with a La Salle “L,” black socks and garters, pressed trousers, shined shoes, a coat, and a dink hat.

The mid-20th century required a dress code on campus including a button on the student’s left lapel, a tie with a La Salle “L,” black socks and garters, pressed trousers, shined shoes, a coat, and a dink hat. Courtesy of La Salle Archives

School spirit

La Salle Athletics adopted a 17th century-style French explorer as its mascot. However, from 1962 until the mid 1970s, the Explorer was actually an astronaut. It took some time to catch on, but the Explorernaut was embraced by fans over time. After reverting to its standard Explorer for the 1980s and most of the 1990s, La Salle introduced a blue superhero named The Tick, featuring arms with big biceps. The Tick never gained popularity and, after four years, was replaced again with today’s Explorer.

Good hair day

Pete Paranzino, or Pete the Barber, cut the hair of faculty, staff, students, and Christian Brothers for nearly 70 years on La Salle’s campus. He worked in the now-razed Leonard Hall and, later, in the Union’s lower level. Paranzino started giving haircuts on campus in 1939 for 20 cents for Christian Brothers, and 50 cents for all others. By the time he retired in 2007, a haircut was $7.

Pete Paranzino, or Pete the Barber, cut hair on campus for 70 years. Courtesy of La Salle Archives

Going for a swim

TruMark Financial Center is uniquely designed. It holds more than Tom Gola Arena. Beneath the basketball court is Kirk Pool, where La Salle’s swimming and diving and water polo teams practice and compete, along with other aquatic activities.

Celebrating equality

While La Salle College began as an all-men’s institution, the University fully transitioned to a co-educational institution in 1970.

Prior to 1970, women were not accepted into the Day Division and only began attending the Evening Division and summer programs in the 1960s. In 1963, nuns attended La Salle’s Science Workshop, a summer enrichment series for Archdiocesan Sisters who taught science. In 1967, women began to be accepted into the Evening Division.

In 2020, La Salle celebrated 50 years of being coeducational.

Celebrity sightings

Muhammad Ali
Courtesy of La Salle Archives

Famous people, from politicians to rock stars, have visited La Salle’s campus. John F. Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, received an honorary degree in 1958—during his term as a U.S. Senator from Massachusetts.

One example was in 1969, when Muhammad Ali and Sammy Davis, Jr., visited campus for the Afro-American Arts Festival. Organized by the University’s Black Student Union, the weeklong event took place in the Union and Wister Hall gym, now known as Wister Hall.

Connections to the capital

In 1941, La Salle students visited the White House for an Oval Office ceremony. They were invited guests of then-President Franklin Delano Roosevelt, the inaugural recipient of the De La Salle Medal. A former campus group known as the La Salle College Civic and Social Congress created the award to recognize “business and labor leaders who supported greater labor-management cooperation,” according to an entry in American Catholic Studies.

That’s not all. Many years later, in 2015, the White House named La Salle’s Bilingual Undergraduate Studies for Collegiate Advancement (BUSCA) program one of the country’s Bright Spots in Hispanic Education.

Honoring the past

La Salle’s first President, Brother Teliow Fackeldey, FSC, did not have a building or room named after him until the 2010s when a College Hall conference room near the Office of the President was dedicated to him and his legacy.

—Meg Ryan