Throughout La Salle’s 160-year history, the University has received some notable visits.
Whether it was for a campus talk, a sporting event, or a movie production, Explorers have had their fair share of celebrity sightings.
This is the next in a monthly series celebrating La Salle University’s rich history and the forthcoming 160th anniversary of its charter from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.
Here, with assistance from University Archives, are some of the notable figures who have visited La Salle through the years.
Actor Adam Sandler came to campus in 2021 for the filming of his Netflix movie Hustle. The film was released on the streaming service in June 2022. Tom Gola Arena at TruMark Financial Center is featured in the film. Students spotted Sandler outside the arena and serenaded him with a rendition of “Happy Birthday,” on his birthday.
Writer Joyce Carol Oates visited campus in September 1987 as part of the former Concert and Lecture Series. Oates read selections from her work and responded to audience questions about her writing.
Novelist Toni Morrison visited campus during the Concert and Lecture Series in March 1979.
Journalist Neil Sheehan is most known for his investigative reporting at the New York Times, where he obtained the Pentagon Papers. Sheehan visited campus in March 1972 during the Concert and Lecture Series. His talk, “The Pentagon Papers and the Centralized State,” discussed the larger implications of the historical event.
Baroness Maria Augusta von Trapp, the subject of Broadway’s Sound of Music, attended the Concert and Lecture Series in December 1964 to share her personal story as the matriarch of the Trapp Family Choir.
Entertainer Sammy Davis Jr. visited campus in March 1969. He was featured on a panel during the Afro-American Arts Festival, sponsored by the Black Student Union.
Musical acts visited campus through the former Spring Concert program. This series was “made possible by the students of La Salle University and the Student Activities Fee,” according to University Archives. Concerts held at McCarthy Stadium and open to La Salle community and guests welcomed performers like the Indigo Girls in 1997, Violent Femmes in 1998, The Roots in 2001, and Sugar Ray in 2002.
Professional boxer Muhammad Ali visited campus, along with Davis Jr., for the panel discussion during the Afro-American Arts Festival, sponsored by the Black Student Union in March 1969.
The Danny Rumph Classic Basketball Tournament has brought NBA players to La Salle’s Tom Gola Arena at TruMark Financial Center for years. Just last summer, the 76ers’ Tyrese Maxey played in the championship game. In past years, NBA stars like the Sixers’ James Harden and the Boston Celtics’ Jayson Tatum have suited up at Gola Arena, as well as Philadelphia native and Los Angeles Clippers player Marcus Morris.
Former President John F. Kennedy visited during his time as a U.S. senator from Massachusetts to receive an honorary degree from La Salle on Feb. 11, 1958. The politician also delivered remarks on campus. Kennedy’s speech discussed what an honor it was to receive a degree from La Salle College. He encouraged students to apply their education toward making a change in the world. “The question now is whether you are to be a hammer—whether you are to give to the world in which you were reared and educated the broadest possible benefits of that education,” he said in his remarks, according to the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library.
A variety of senators have visited La Salle for speeches. This includes Senator Eugene McCarthy of Minnesota in 1962, 1965, and 1971, Senator Edmund Muskie of Maine in 1969 (he later became the U.S. Secretary of State under President Jimmy Carter), Senator Frank Church of Idaho in 1971, and Senator and former presidential nominee George McGovern of South Dakota in 1981.
Zelma George, Ph.D., was a well-known Black sociologist and former U.S. delegate to the United Nations. She visited La Salle in February 1964 for the Concert and Lecture Series to discuss the “freedom explosion” which was described as “an examination of race relations in America.”
Developed with editorial support and consultation from La Salle University Archives.