Purdue Northwest Athletics mourns the passing of John Friend

by | Jun 10, 2024 | Featured, Uncategorized | 0 comments

With great sadness, Purdue University Northwest (PNW) Athletics shares news of the death of John Friend, our Director of Athletics Emeritus and longtime champion of PNW student-athletes and youth athletics in Northwest Indiana. John passed away on June 7, 2024, at the age of 89.

Friend served as the Director of Athletics at the former Purdue University Calumet for 20 years prior to his retirement in 2001, and held interim AD titles in both 2007 and 2011. He continued to serve as a fundraiser and pivotal figure in the growth of Purdue Northwest’s athletics program long after his retirement. He was named Director of Athletics Emeritus at PNW in 2017. The basketball court in PNW’s Fitness and Recreation Center on the Hammond campus has been named the “John Friend Court” in his honor since November 2017.

Prior to joining the university, Friend served as a football coach, basketball coach, athletic director at Hammond High School and at Munster High School. For decades he was a leader in youth athletics as well as the local community.

“John was a championship coach, a graceful leader, and a wonderful ambassador. Most importantly, he was a mentor to countless student-athletes and coaches,” PNW Director of Athletics Rick Costello said. “I will deeply miss him and the cherished conversations we shared about our love of sports. My thoughts and prayers are with the Friend family during this difficult time. John will forever be a source of inspiration for the Purdue Northwest Pride!”

Friend led the annual Powers-Purdue Northwest Golf Outing to raise funds for the PNW athletic scholarship fund, an event he began with area business leader Don Powers in 1980 and that continues in 2024. He played an important role in the groundbreaking agreement with the City of Hammond to develop a comprehensive outdoor athletic facility at Dowling Park, while helping with key fundraising and planning efforts for the facility. In recent years three of his former student-athletes, Bob Grand, Larry Johnson and Glenn Scolnik, generously created the John & Betty Friend Scholarship Fund at Purdue Northwest to extend Coach Friend’s impact for generations to come and provide annual scholarships for PNW student-athletes. In lieu of flowers, contributions can be made to Parkinson’s Research or the John and Betty Friend Endowed Athletics Scholarship.

“John Friend’s incredible work as a coach, administrator, and fundraiser transformed the lives of many and will leave a lasting impact on Pride Athletics,” PNW Chancellor Kenneth C. Holford said. “We are deeply appreciative of his longtime connection to the university and support that helped us to become an NCAA Division II home of championship teams.”

Among Friend’s extensive list of accomplishments and awards, he was inducted into the Purdue Northwest Athletics Hall of Fame and received numerous Administrator of the Year awards as selected by colleagues at the former Purdue Calumet. During his tenure as Purdue Calumet AD, he served as district chair of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA)District 21 for multiple years, the top administrative position in the 22-member association of small colleges in Indiana.

Friend also was inducted into the Indiana Football Hall of Fame and the halls of fame of the NAIA, Chicagoland Collegiate Athletic Conference (CCAC), Hammond, Munster, and David Lipscomb College. He was known nationwide as one of the top youth football minds, serving as a keynote speaker at dozens of clinics from coast to coast and in Canada. Several of his articles have been featured in football publications and his textbook entitled “Coaching Youth Football” was adopted as the National Pop Warner coaches’ manual in 1977.

Friend was married to the late Betty Friend for more than 62 years. Their three children, Tracy,Jerri and Doug, all have served in leadership roles at various high schools in Northwest Indiana.Friend was a longtime member of the Munster School Board, the Lake Heritage Parks Foundation, and served on several hall of fame and sportsmanship boards.

More information about Friend as well as planned services to celebrate his life can be found in his online obituary.

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