Former Penn Athletics Director Paul “Herky” Rubincam died last week at the age of 89.
“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Paul Rubincam,” Alanna Shanahan, the current athletic director, said in a statement. “Herky’s impact on the University, Penn Athletics and the Big 5 was profound and his induction into the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019 was so well deserved. There are few Quakers who had five decades of service to our great University like Paul did.”
As alluded to above, Rubincam had a long and illustrious career with the Quakers. Originally coming to the University as an undergraduate student in 1953, his time on the varsity baseball and basketball teams was interrupted by an Army stint — leading to a late graduation in 1960.
When he returned after his military service, he was primed to be the basketball captain, but eligibility questions prevented him from ever taking the floor again — as a player. He was, however, invited to help coach the team, which led to a long career in the Penn Athletics department (along with University administration, where he was an assistant dean of admissions). That illustrious career culminated in his service as athletic director from 1985-1994.
As athletic director, Rubincam made three of the most important hires in Penn Athletics history: football coach Al Bagnoli, basketball coach Fran Dunphy, and wrestling coach Roger Reina.
Those three hires alone brought 27 Ivy League titles home to Penn. Rubincam clearly had a knack for finding diamonds in the rough, as Reina was the youngest coach in the nation at 24 years old when he was hired in 1986, and Bagnoli had only coached at the Division III level up to the point of his hiring.
The echo of those hires still reverberates strongly on campus today, as Reina is still coaching for the Quakers, and though Bagnoli and Dunphy have since moved elsewhere, members of their respective coaching trees are still at the helms of the teams they once led.
Despite his success, Rubincam was succeeded by Steve Bilsky after nine years in his role. After departing as athletic director in 1994, Rubincam continued to work at Penn as the associate vice president/director of special gifts before serving as the executive director of Big 5 basketball for 11 years.
Rubincam was inducted into the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019.