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When Bill Ledvort was preparing for his Morton College alumni profile, the lifelong Berwyn resident thought he’d provide some background material “to facilitate” the interview.
Ledvort poured his heart out into writing 1,400 words on what Morton College meant to him. It is sincere and genuine, just like Ledvort himself.
“In summary, I would say MC has about as a significant influence on my life as can be possible,” Ledvort wrote.
He met his wife, Pam, and the best man at his wedding, George Fejt, at Morton College. Ledvort, now 10th, left as the No. 2 all-time leading scorer in Morton College history with 1,133 points. He and a lifelong rival (Daryl Owens) formed the starting backcourt on Morton College’s 1981 Skyway Conference championship team, the school’s first title in 24 years. The net from that championship season is kept at Ledvort’s home.
He cherished that his late parents, Bill and Loretta, got to enjoy the final two seasons of Ledvort’s basketball career, a sport he played since the sixth grade. His parents were well-known figures in the Berwyn community as his dad was the paint manager when Sears had a store in the Cermak Plaza, while his mom was the city’s welfare administrator.
Growing up near St. Mary of Celle Church, Ledvort lived eight houses away from current Morton College men’s basketball coach Conte Stamas. Stamas taught Ledvort how to throw a curve ball and the two honed their skills in the backyard alleys of Berwyn playing endless one-on-one basketball games.
Ledvort is grateful to have crossed paths at Morton College with Henry and Marie Vais, whose contributions to athletics resulted in the College’s gymnasium being named after Henry.
“They were very special people who everyone loved,” noted Ledvort, the controller for Mullins Food Products in Broadview. “While many of the relationships I formed at Morton College aren’t active now, they are still very special in my heart and part of who I am.”
Coming out of Morton West, Ledvort was undecided on where to attend college or a career path. At the time, The LIFE Newspapers conducted an annual Berwyn vs. Cicero all-star basketball game as a benefit for Seguin. Ledvort suited up for the Berwyn side in the game played at the Cicero Stadium.
“Following the game, Morton College coach Bob Kopecky approached me and said he would really like me to attend Morton College and play basketball,” Ledvort recalled. “Three players (Ed Sailer, John Mugnaini and Mike Capobianco) I played against in the game were committed to playing their second years at Morton College.
"I respected all three and their roles in making the Morton East team successful the past several years. One thing led to another and I decided I would go to Morton College for two years to have more time while taking transferrable classes to get a better idea of what my career may be and also play the game I love.”
The late Bob “Slivers” Slivovsky, Morton College’s equipment manager and sports historian, also was another influence was in Ledvort’s decision to head to Pershing and Central. The two knew each through Sokol Tabor, a local gymnastics organization.
The basketball program prior to Ledvort’s arrival was in the Dark Ages with a record of 35-168 for a winning percentage of .172 in the past seven seasons. Morton College hadn’t had a winning season in 22 years.
Things were about to change. Both Morton West and Morton East featured competitive programs and most of the top players migrated to Morton College. The Panthers were 14-18 in Ledvort’s freshman season of 1979-80, which equaled the win total from the previous two seasons combined.
Daryl Owens, a basketball rival of Ledvort’s going back to the sixth grade, transferred in from Aurora University the following year. Ledvort considered him to be his favorite teammate in all his years of playing basketball and the main reason behind Morton College’s 23-10 season.
“I knew Daryl since we were in grade school playing against each other,” Ledvort recalled. “Our fathers were friends which started the rivalry from the first game I played against him when I was at St. Mary of Celle and he was at St. Anthony back in sixth grade.
“Playing against him in grade school and high school was hard enough, but he had a twin brother, Dean, who made it impossible for me. Daryl would force my dribble one way and Dean would come around and steal the ball from me on a regular basis.
“Daryl was the main reason we won conference. He was the most unselfish player I played with at any level and that set the tone for our team chemistry. He could do it all, play great defense, score, assist and rebound. He was one of the very special players who gained more personal satisfaction from an assist than making a basket. He’s the reason I was able to have some individual accomplishments in points scored.”
Dave Christ, the team’s leading rebounder at 6-2, became just the third player in Morton College history to surpass the 1,000-point career mark.
“He was a great rebounder and became a great scorer, too,” Ledvort noted. “He set the tone for us being a tough team.”
Ledvort and Christ combined to score 2,140 points, then a Morton College record for teammates over two seasons. And the Panthers won 20 games for the just the third time in school history and the first since 1948.
“The team’s success was based on chemistry,” Ledvort remembered. “We had some really good players, but all 10 players were responsible for us winning conference for the first time in many years. Our sixth through 10th players made games easier because we had to scrimmage against them in practice. It was also what may have been the last mostly local team with players from Morton West and Morton East.”
Back then, the NJCAA’s current three-division format was a few years from being implemented. Everyone was lumped into one division (imagine Duke vs. Dominican) and Kankakee, a national power which featured the late actor Michael Clarke Duncan, thumped the Panthers in the playoffs.
Ledvort had some small college offers, but opted for DePaul to study accounting. He credited Clare Korinek, his academic advisor, for making sure all his classes from Morton College successfully transferred.
“I knew it was pretty much over,” said Ledvort, who received Morton College’s Sophomore Athlete of the Year Award. “I wasn’t a Division I guy. But it helped me – it forced me to realize to hunker down academically.”
Ledvort had taken some business classes at Morton College and decided it was the route to go. After graduation from DePaul, Ledvort had the good fortune to be hired at The LIFE Newspapers when it was located at 26th Street and Harlem Avenue in Berwyn. He spent 20 years at LIFE and cherishes his wonderful memories of working for Jack Kubik, Don Randa and Paul Donars.
Ledvort went to work at La Raza newspaper and Morton College before moving on to Mullins Foods, which reminds him of The LIFE’s paternalistic approach to its employees. Mullins, a family-owned business, makes condiments for companies like McDonald’s, Arby’s, Nestle and others.
“The Mullins family is not only very successful, but also extremely good to their employees and very special people,” Ledvort says.
Ledvort has married to Pam, a science teacher at St. Leonard School in Berwyn, for 27 years. She played on the only Morton College women’s volleyball team to win a conference championship in 1981.
They have two children – Elissa, 24; and William, 13. Ledvort now doing what his dad did – coaching his children. He coached Elissa’s basketball team when she played at St. Leonard and now is coaching his son’s basketball team at St. Leonard.
“I start think back and look at all the interactions in my life,” Ledvort said. “There’s a connection with Morton College, which was a very special place in my life.”