Program has ties to Valley

There is a strong and historic Youngstown-area connection to the brand new athletic program at Lourdes College, a small private Roman Catholic school in the Toledo suburb of Sylvania..

Roseanne Gill-Jacobson, a 1975 graduate of Campbell Memorial High, has been named the college’s first athletic director, while Andre Smith of Youngstown, a former Youngstown State basketball standout and assistant basketball coach, has been selected as Lourdes’ first basketball coach.

Gill-Jacobson, the daughter of Betty and Sloko Gill, former Youngstown College assistant football coach under coach Dwight “Dike” Beede, was brought to Lourdes from Thiel College early this spring to spearhead the formation of the athletic program.

She also was named vice president for student services at Lourdes, which was founded in 1958 by the Sisters of St. Francis; and will oversee all departments in the office of student services, including career services, enrollment management and student activities and recreation.

While at Thiel, Gill-Jacobson worked 10 years as vice president of student life, including a span of several years as interim athletic director.

Soon after arriving at Lourdes, she helped set up and serve as a member of Lourdes’ search committees for its first basketball and volleyball coaches, and was instrumental in recruiting Smith from Thiel where they worked together.

Smith, who has a seven-year-old son, Andre Jr., was Thiel’s assistant basketball coach last season after serving as assistant women’s basketball coach the previous two years.

While a two-year YSU player from 1993-95 under coach Dan Peters, Smith led the Penguins in scoring, steals and assists both seasons, and was team MVP both years.

Then he served YSU’s assistant coach for two seasons (1997-1999) under Peters, who now is director of basketball operations at Akron.

Gill-Jacobson said the search committee considered Smith the top choice among the candidates.

“The committee thought he would be a very good fit. He also will serve as Upward Bound director for a year or more. He also was multi-cultural director at Thiel, so he had a lot of experience that made him a natural fit for us,” said Gill-Jacobson, also emphasizing that the school was looking for men of character and that Smith fit that mold.

“I always have been exposed to good coaches, like my father, “Dike” Beede and Dom Rosselli at [Youngstown] and Jack Leipheimer at Thiel. They were such men of character. They were coaches who cared about students off and on the field. That is our mission, to hire coaches who will help to build students of character, and we believe that Andre Smith will be that type of coach.”

Sloko Gill also played football for Campbell Memorial, Youngstown College and the Detroit Lions, and was a Campbell elementary school teacher.

Gill-Jacobson said Lourdes also will be organizing an intercollegiate volleyball team, and just recently hired its coach, Greg Reitz, a former assistant volleyball coach at the University of Toledo.

“They will have one year to recruit and develop the programs,” she said of Smith and Reitz. “We have to prepare the campus for intercollegiate athletics. We only have one gym. The sports that we had were intramural and club sports.”

She said Lourdes “will begin intercollegiate competition in 2010. We will compete the first year [2010-11] as an independent and then apply for NAIA membership once we start competing.”

“We wanted to start slowly and do it the right way. Our plan is to develop one or two sports a year for about five years,” she said.

XJohn Kovach covers college athletics for The Vindicator. Write to him at

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