National honor for 'The Chief'
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On Sept. 6, 1964, when Art Rooney Sr. was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, his oldest grandchild could not watch the ceremony from back in Pittsburgh.
Art Rooney II was just days away from turning 12. He loved his grandfather, who founded the Steelers in 1933, and looked forward to Thanksgiving Day each year when he would visit Art Sr.'s home and try to outmaneuver his cousins for a seat next to "The Chief."
Rooney II would have liked to have seen the unveiling of his grandfather's bust in Canton.
But Art Sr. was part of the fledgling hall's second induction class, and the national interest simply wasn't there.
"It's fair to say it probably wasn't as big of a deal," Rooney II said. "It was not on TV. It was a different time, and a different era.
"Most people probably don't remember much about that day."
Today, on the campus of Duquesne University, there will be an opportunity for the Rooneys and Pittsburgh to turn back the clock.
The Pro Football Hall of Fame and Allstate Insurance Company will recognize Rooney Sr., who died in 1988, as part of "Hometown Hall of Famers," a national program honoring the hometown roots of the sport's greatest players with special ceremonies and plaque dedication events in local communities.
Rooney Sr. will be permanently honored with a plaque at the Duquesne University Power Center Ballroom in a 3:30 p.m. ceremony with Rooney II and other family members in attendance.
"Obviously, the Hall of Fame in Canton is a great place for football fans to be able to go there and see the busts of the enshrined," said Rooney II, the Steelers co-owner and president.
"But it's great to have something in their hometowns that also marks the fact that they went into the Hall of Fame. It's nice they're bringing this to Pittsburgh for my grandfather."
The Rooneys have a deep family history with Duquesne.
Art Sr. graduated from the Palumbo-Donahue School of Business in 1924 and received an honorary doctor of humanitarian service from Duquesne in '75.
Dan Rooney, Art Sr.'s oldest son, graduated from Duquesne as an undergraduate, and Rooney II completed his law education there.
Rooney II says he is still shocked by the number of people his grandfather influenced around the city of Pittsburgh.
"The thing that continues to amaze me to this day is the number of people that come up to me and tell me a story about where and when they met my grandfather or that he helped them in some way," Rooney II said.
"He obviously touched a lot of people in his life. Particularly in his hometown, he really was somebody that I think people in Pittsburgh felt proud of and felt was a special person."
First Published October 24, 2012 12:00 am