Orange on Brown
The place was Rosebud, but the occasion was straight up Orange and Blue—emphasis on Orange. This past January, the grandfather/grandson duo of Bart Ladd, ’57 BUS, and Grant Pitcher, ’19 ACES, took Illini basketball great Dee Brown, 05 LAS, to lunch at the Chicago restaurant—and then presented the high-scoring point guard with an orange blazer on behalf of the Tucson Illini Club.
“We created an honorary award for Dee, for being such a standout Illini,” explains Ladd, a longtime member and past vice president of the alumni club. The sport coat, accompanied by a certificate, comprises the club’s inaugural Lou Henson Award, named for the longtime U of I basketball coach and reflecting his penchant for high-visibility apparel at Illini games.
Ladd, a Chicago marketing executive who moved to Tucson when he retired in 2007, traveled back to the city expressly for the occasion. He says the club was inspired to give the award to Brown because of his stellar performance on the court. “Dee was much revered by Illini alums, particularly in Tucson, because of the Illini’s victory over the University of Arizona in the 2005 NCAA basketball semi-finals,” Ladd explains. “Illinois, at the four-minute mark and down by 15 points, came back to win that game, and went on to play North Carolina in the NCAA title game.” (Alas, UNC won.) “I was at the game against Arizona,” he recalls. “It was unforgettable.”
Brown, who went on to play professional basketball in the NBA and Europe, now coaches for the UIC Flames. Before lunch, Ladd and Pitcher went to the UIC campus at Brown’s invitation to watch the team practice. “Dee was one of my childhood sports heroes,” says Pitcher, who graduated in May and works as a product consultant for EnFusion, a Chicago software company. “And Grandpa and I are both huge Illini fans. It was cool that we could share that moment. Going to the practice was amazing.”
Ladd’s family sprawls with U of I alumni, including his father, Bruce Ladd, ’33; his twin brother, Bruce, ’57; wife, Janice (Swedberg) Ladd, ’58 MEDIA; and granddaughter, Allison Pitcher, ’16 MEDIA (Grant’s sister). As to the potential recipient of the Tucson Illini Club’s second Lou Henson Award, “We haven’t taken it that far yet,” Ladd quips. “We’re a bit short-sighted at the moment.” The group has 125-some members and hosts tailgates, game watches, golf outings and fundraisers throughout the year.