Panella leaves lasting legacy of student support

by Laura Schreiner

Rich Panella, ’12(H), was beloved as Stritch’s women’s basketball coach for nearly 25 years, with more than 500 wins on record. His legacy, however, endures not only through his storied career, but through the indelible impressions he made on the lives of all he coached, worked with and encountered.

Panella died on Jan. 12, 2018, following a valiant 8-year fight against amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS), which he approached with his customary determination and “team together” attitude. As his former athletes and colleagues reflected on their favorite “Coach” stories, a common theme emerged—his compassion and tireless support for students.

“Coach was like a father figure to me,” said Kelly Janssen, ’01. “When I was ready to give up my freshman year, he talked me into staying. He and his wife (Mira) made sure that we had everything we needed to be successful—on and off the court.”

In 2012, the Rich and Mira Panella “Team Together” Endowed Scholarship Fund was established to support student-athletes as they grow through challenging and transformative educational experiences.

“While at Stritch, I was not only a member of an outstanding basketball team, I was also part of a family that was built on love and trust between players and our coach,” said Michele (Janicki) Baumann, ’00 ’10. “This family was born long before I set foot on Stritch’s campus and continues to grow to this day. It is a family that will forever live by the motto ‘Team Together.’”

Panella's former athletes and colleagues shared their favorite "Coach" memories. Read their stories at www.stritch.edu/Panella. To support the Rich and Mira Panella “Team Together” Endowed Scholarship Fund, contact Coleen Southwell at casouthwell@stritch.edu or (414) 410-4225. 

 A Milwaukee native, Panella earned conference Coach of the Year honors 13 times and was inducted into the Stritch Athletics, Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association and NAIA halls of fame. He also served as the University’s softball coach for nearly 20 seasons. After his retirement in 2010, the basketball court in the Stritch Fieldhouse was named in his honor. In 2012, Stritch conferred to him an honorary doctorate.