PHOTOS COURTESY OF LVC
ANNVILLE – It is unclear whether Lebanon Valley was looking for a way to honor the memory of Lou Sorrentino, or if the college needed a name for its indoor sports facility. But not only did the Flying Dutchmen pick off two birds with one stone, this sound of ‘Lou Sorrentino Gymnasium’ has a certain ring to it.
Lebanon Valley College recently announced that it is changing the name of its former generic ‘LVC Gymnasium’ to bear that of one of the most influential sports figures in the century-long history of its athletic program. The new ‘Lou Sorrentino Gymnasium’ will officially be christened during a special ceremony on Saturday, October 10, during LVC’s Homecoming Weekend festivities.
Sorrentino, who passed away in 2010 at the age of 78, was involved with LVC athletics, in one form or another, for 60 years. Sorrentino graduated from Lebanon Valley in 1954 and then returned to the Annville college in 1971, which he served as a coach and an administrator until his retirement in 2000.
The final decision was made at the spring board (of trustees) meeting,” said Sorrentino’s predecessor and current LVC director of athletics Rick Beard. “Whenever you have legends, we look to recognize people like that. The discussions have been going on for a while. We felt Lou was the perfect fit.
“Lou was the one who came to mind,” continued Beard. “There were several options to consider. But ultimately the board makes those decisions.”
“Lou Sorrentino was one of the very best student-athletes to ever wear the blue and white,” said Dr. Lewis Evitts Thayne, president of Lebanon Valley College, in a release announcing the naming. “In addition to his accomplishments in competition as a student-athlete, he served as a revered coach, administrator, and mentor to generations of our student-athletes. This dedication celebrates his life and contributions to the College. We honor his legacy to inspire future generations.”
The former LVC Gymnasium opened in 2003, replacing the 53-year-old Lynch Gymnasium. At that time, the state-of-the-art facility was recognized as one of the top Division Three basketball and volleyball venues in the country.
“The number of individuals that Lou touched during his life, me included, was truly impressive,” said Beard, via the same press release. “He was an inspiration to student-athletes and his fellow coaches, both in athletics and in life. I can think of a no more appropriate person to dedicate our gymnasium to than Lou Sorrentino.”
Also highly regarded for its architectural integrity, the soon-to-be Lou Sorrentino Gymnasium, a 36,000-square foot arena, seats 1,650 spectators. It’s also home to Lebanon Valley’s Hall of Champions, the luxurious Flying Dutchman Lounge and numerous coaches’ offices.
“Absolutely,” said Beard to the notion that ‘Lou Sorrentino Gymnasium’ has a much better sound to it than ‘LVC Gymnasium’. “We’ve been throwing around a lot of things. We considered ‘The Lou’. But from a personal standpoint, it’s going to mean a lot to our community. We have nothing but great things to say about Lou. In athletics, you’re always looking to honor men like Lou. It didn’t have a name, so it was a logical choice.
“Ever since Lou has gone, we’ve been having discussions with the family,” Beard added. “It was more a matter of what, where, when and how. It’s a nice tribute to Lou and his career and everything he’s done for this college. Honoring Lou came first. That was the key.”
Before becoming the Flying Dutchmen’s athletic director, Sorrentino coached four sports at LVC – football, basketball, baseball and golf. During his playing days in the early 1950s, the Delaware County native earned an amazing 12 varsity letters from starring in football, basketball and baseball.
On the gridiron, ‘Sweet Lou’ earned Little All-America honors and became one of six LVC players to have his jersey number retired. On the basketball floor, Sorrentino was a starter on Lebanon Valley’s famous ‘Seven Dwarfs’ team which upset Fordham and advanced to the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16.
“There’s no question that he was one of the most influential people in the history of LVC athletics,” said Beard. “He touched the department, in one way or another, for 60 years – as a player, as a coach, as an athletic director. At one point, Lou coached three sports here. Just the number of people he has touched, it’s astronomical. Certainly, someone may never do that again. We all have stories about Lou and what he’s meant to this place.
“With Lou, he was always a mentor,” added Beard. “There was always the professional side, but he added a personal touch to it. He would always sacrifice himself. He was always looking out for others. He was really about the student-athletes. He’s touched people.”
Sorrentino was also a Flying Dutchman fan, and an advocate for Lebanon Valley College.
Currently, LVC recognizes its top male student-athlete as the ‘Lou Sorrentino Outstanding Athlete’ and the Middle Atlantic Conference honors two worthy recipients with awards bearing his name. Sorrentino is a member of the Lebanon Valley College, MAC, central Pennsylvania and Pennsylvania athletic halls of fame.
“He was a man of integrity,” said Beard. “He bled Blue and White. When Lou Sorrentino spoke, he got everyone’s attention and you knew it came from the heart. That’s one thing I always admired about Lou, that when he spoke, it came from the heart.
“The celebration during Homecoming will be an exciting time on our campus,” concluded Beard. “It will make for a great weekend I’m really excited about it”