Beyond their status as all-time St. Ambrose University athletic greats who lived starkly different lives, Louis Kaiser '67 and Mitchell Ware '55 both died in April within days of each other.
Ware very briefly played for the Chicago Bears following a two-year stint in the U.S. Army and his record-setting Hall of Fame career as St. Ambrose running back and linebacker.
Beyond a pre-season spent with the Bears, Ware worked in his native Chicago as a TV reporter and a narcotics officer; led the launch of an Illinois-wide narcotics enforcement agency; served by appointment for President Richard Nixon on a national commission studying drug abuse; and became deputy superintendent of the Chicago Police Department.
He opened a law practice in 1978 and was appointed a justice of the Cook County Circuit Court 20 years later, serving with distinction until his retirement in 2009.
Kaiser might have had his pick of big-time college basketball programs after a high-scoring career with the Rock Island (Ill.) High School Rocks, but he chose to stay close to home and his family by starring at then-St. Ambrose College. Kaiser enjoyed an all-American career, and like Ware on the gridiron, graduated as the college's career-scoring leader.
Also like Ware, Kaiser served in the U.S. Army after earning his Bachelor of Arts degree in Sociology in 1967. According to fellow Rock Island-born St. Ambrose Athletics Hall of Famer Jim Collins '69, '16 (Hon.), Kaiser returned to his hometown and settled into a quiet life of service to his family, church and community. He worked at Deere & Company and WalMart, and attended to his beloved hobby, antiquing.
"He was a great role model to family and friends, as he always worked hard and tried to do right and support church and community," Collins said.
Their deaths in April were coincidental timing that serve to remind the SAU community of the two men's pioneering roles in bringing diversity to campus.
Celebrating Pioneers for Ambrosian Diversity
Beyond their status as all-time SAU athletic greats who lived starkly different lives, Louis Kaiser '67 and Mitchell Ware '55 died in April 2020 within days of each other.
In a 2014 interview for Scene magazine, Ware remembered being only one of two black students when he came to St. Ambrose from a working class Chicago neighborhood in Fall 1951. Still, he said he felt far more comfortable here than in many Chicago Catholic League stadiums he and his St. Elizabeth's High School teammates had visited.
"[In] one high school, they started playing the song 'Old Black Joe' when we came out," he recalled. "Things like that have some kind of effect on you. And then I get to St. Ambrose, and here is a school where everybody treats you like they want to be treated.
"St. Ambrose played a big role in my life," said Ware, who earned his Bachelor of Arts degree in Political Science. "It gave me a perspective on a lot of things I had not really been able to envision before going there."
SAU's Associate Vice President for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Ryan Saddler '95, '06 MEdT said Ware and Kaiser each should be celebrated for their foundational roles in changing the character of St. Ambrose University.
"It is so important to remember and honor these early pioneers for the cause of diversity at St. Ambrose," he said. "Mitch came to a campus with very few people who looked like him, and he both found and created acceptance through the strength of his intellect, talent and character.
"Lou was possibly the first black athlete to captain a team here, and in choosing St. Ambrose over bigger schools, he sent a message to other black athletes across the region that this was a school where you could play, grow, lead, and succeed."