2020 Honorary Alumni – Paul J. and Alice A. LaRocca
Alice A. LaRocca recently passed away. She will be missed.
Paul LaRocca, the only child of Salvatore and Rose LaRocca, of Chicago, Illinois, always felt the love and caring of a Catholic family. “Never,” says Paul, “shall I forget my mother’s words. ‘You need some discipline’ she told me as she sent me to start my third-grade year at Our Lady Help of Christian.”
Paul attended and enjoyed Catholic grade school before matriculating to an all-boys Catholic high school. During high school, Paul played a variety of sports, including football and basketball, and graduated in 1955. While Paul was growing up, he learned from his parents the importance of hard work, and the moral or educational lessons that were taught by the nuns and priests at Paul’s schools were reinforced at home by his parents. Thus, Paul’s respect for effort, honesty, “paying your own way”, and fair treatment soon became well ingrained in his spirit and values.
After high school, Paul was determined to obtain a college education and decided to attend Purdue University. He found his true calling with a career in coaching, teaching, and administration. He earned his teaching degree and accepted the post of assistant coach at the then-new high school, Central Catholic.
Alice LaRocca, née Corbett, grew up in Lafayette. As the fifth of seven daughters born to Paul and Gladys Corbett, Alice treasured her life as a member of a Catholic family. Central to Alice’s heart has been her following, practicing and reveling in Catholic values, procedures, and education, which heritage and faith has always provided and served as a focus for her life.
After attending St. Ann’s grade school on Wabash Avenue, Alice pursued her high school education at the all-girls St. Francis High School. Alice, who graduated in 1956, was in the penultimate graduating class of St. Francis, as the school closed just as Central Catholic opened in the fall of 1957. During high school, Alice worked at St. Elizabeth Hospital as a medical secretary in the surgical department. She held that position for two years during high school before working for five years in hospital administration.
During this time in the early 1960s, Paul and Alice met, and they married in 1963. And in 1960, Paul took over the reins as the Central Catholic head football coach.
“Good coaching means so much more than just winning on the court or on the field. Proper coaching always meant the teaching and application of proper techniques and procedures,” said Paul. “There’s no better way to instill these values and skills in players than to organize and oversee youth programs. I’ve treasured my contributions and efforts in CYO and those youth programs that emphasize the fundamentals of life, of religion, and of football.”
One of Paul’s greatest memories as a coach was the 1969 football season. During the 1960s, state football tournaments did not take place in Indiana. Rather, various ranking polls decided the teams’ placements against each other. Coach LaRocca led the Knights to its first-ever undefeated season at 10-0, putting the Knights high in the polls.
Several years later, in 1976, Paul guided the football team to the school’s first-ever state win in any sport. After the 1976 season, Paul, who had been steadily dedicating himself to additional church and Central Catholic functions, stepped away from coaching. He started working as the CC Assistant Principal and Athletic Director (AD), and eventually the Regional Superintendent of all Lafayette Catholic Schools. As AD, Paul had a unique way of developing and maintaining relationships with all schools in the area. His focus was not just CC but what needed to be done for all kids in the area.
This broad viewpoint of focusing on all students could also be seen in 1972, when Title IX, a federal civil rights law, paved the way for high school girls sports throughout the country. Before Title IX, opportunities for girls’ sports were limited to clubs and intramural games. In the 1970s at Central Catholic, with Paul as AD and Alice as a strong leader and advocate, girls sports started to grow and flourish.
Throughout Paul’s career as a football coach and AD, Alice provided unwavering support to him. As a rock for Paul to lean on, Alice worked behind the scenes. She worked well with the assistant coaches and supported the team in numerous ways, including picking up and delivering boxes of fresh fruit. Alice also encouraged Paul to stay as head coach one more year, when he would have retired from that position after the 1975 season. This encouragement allowed Paul to lead the team to the first state victory.
Paul left LCSS in 1986 to work for Lafayette Bank and Trust (LBT) as Vice President in charge of Business Development and Marketing.
Alice continued to help and contribute to Central Catholic and to a variety of school interests. In particular, in 1990 when CC almost closed, Alice assumed a leadership position and was instrumental in soliciting large donations to help save the school. Likewise, in his position at LBT, Paul helped lead committees to establish a stronger foundation for the school.
The LaRoccas are members of St. Boniface parish, and they supported the construction of the St. Joseph Chapel at Central Catholic in 2009 by donating a relic of St. Jude to the school. One way in which Alice lives her faith is by adopting the mission of the Prayer Candle. This ministry provides a candle to persons in spiritual need and instructs each person to say prayers not only for themselves but for others in need as well as for all people to who have been given a prayer candle.
Paul and Alice have three boys, all three of whom graduated from Central Catholic – Anthony in 1985, Andrew in 1989, and Adam in 1992. The LaRoccas also have seven grandchildren.
Paul and Alice’s legacy at Central Catholic can also be seen in the name of the football field (LaRocca Field) as well as the athletic plaza (LaRocca Plaza).
For their lifelong dedication to Central Catholic, their strong commitment to the faith, and their servant spirit, it is with great pride that we recognize Paul J. and Alice A. LaRocca as 2020 Knights to Remember.