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Area man has deep Purdue roots

Commentary

November 16, 2013
By Neil Rudel (nrudel@altoonamirror.com) , The Altoona Mirror

Probably no one living in central Pennsylvania grew up more connected to Purdue than Art DeCamp.

While household names in the Nittany Nation were Paterno, Reid and Suhey, DeCamp, a Huntingdon resident now of almost 20 years, heard all about the likes of Bob Griese, Gary Danielson and Rick Mount.

He watched them as a youth in West Lafayette and heard about them from his dad, John DeCamp, the voice of Purdue sports from 1940-86.

John DeCamp, who died in 2003 at the age of 82, was a Boilermaker legend. He founded the Purdue sports radio network, mentored numerous students, including Chris Schenkel, and later had the Purdue radio booth at Ross-Ade Stadium named for him.

"He's one of the few non-athletes in the Purdue Sports Hall of Fame," Art DeCamp said.

In 2012, John DeCamp was inducted into the Indiana Broadcasters Association Hall of Fame; his resume also included being part of the Indianapolis 500 radio broadcast for 30-plus years.

"His voice was known the world over for that one day event because they had 1300 affiliates," Art said.

Purdue has had only fleeting success in football since Art's days as a student there in the late 1960s-early '70s.

"Football was very strong when I was growing up," he said. "They went to the Rose Bowl with Bob Griese in 1967, and he was one of my boyhood heroes - not just for his achievements on the field but also his mannerisms in the way he led the team."

DeCamp remembers several Pennsylvania players contributing to the Boilers' success, including Altoona's Ed Flanagan and Johnstown's Gary Hrivnak, both future NFL players.

"I think one of the reasons Purdue had a lot of Pennsylvania players in the '60s is Penn State didn't have the national prominence it does today," DeCamp said.

But growing up in Indiana also meant an allegiance to basketball.

"I'd have to say I'm a bigger basketball fan than football," DeCamp said. "I watched a lot of football games from the stands. I was able to be in the [radio] booth for a few of them, and during my college years I actually worked on the broadcast games with Dad, doing statistics and some color."

He laughed at the memory of when someone handed him a microphone.

"That was probably a mistake," he said.

He decided not to follow his father into broadcasting - "I had different goals I wanted to achieve," he said - and instead forged a career in business that landed him with Owens Corning, where he served as plant manager (it later became Containment Solutions, based in Mount Union.)

"I like this area very much," he said. "I've lived various places during my working career - Indiana, Texas, Tennessee and Florida - and for my personal interests, especially now that I'm retired, Pennsylvania is a perfect place for me to be. I like the outdoors and the change of seasons and climate. I've developed some wonderful friendships."

DeCamp's wife, Sharon, is the librarian for the Williamsburg Community School District. (She is also a Purdue grad whose father, a Purdue professor, taught Neil Armstrong, Purdue's most notable alumni.) Their children both graduated from Purdue, which makes four generations of Boilers in the DeCamp family.

Art is still getting used to Penn State in the Big Ten.

"I'm a traditionalist, and I tend to think the Big Ten is more of a midwestern league," he said. "I wish the [local] media covered the Big Ten more. You hear a lot about Penn State and Pitt and Notre Dame, but we don't hear as much about the other Big Ten schools. I think Penn State might be better accepted if there was better coverage of the whole league. I'm having more trouble about Rutgers and Maryland coming next year. That seems like an awful stretch to me."

DeCamp, 62, occasionally gets to Penn State to see various Purdue teams. He doesn't plan to attend today but will keep an eye or ear on the game.

"It's not doing much good this year, but I still root for them," he said of the 1-8 Boilers. "You never know. They may rise up and surprise someone."

If not in football, there's always basketball season.

Rudel can be reached at 946-7527 or nrudel@altoonamirror.com.

 
 

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