inducted October 2, 2008
Bruce Gehrke was a typical three-sport star coming out of Sewanhaka High School in Floral Park, Long Island, but it was football that eventually became paramount in Gehrke’s life.
It was a good choice for the future Columbia great who eventually went on to play for his hometown New York Giants and spent several years coaching high school football and basketball on his native Long Island.
Gehrke began his collegiate career at Columbia in September 1942. In his first year, he starred on the varsity football, basketball and baseball teams.
The following year, Gehrke played shortstop for Columbia’s 1944 championship baseball team, while training for the Navy. Hugely popular among his teammates and fellow students, Gehrke had that intangible flair for color that made him a crowd pleaser. His play, in every sport, was daring and spectacular, with little regard for personal safety, yet he was as crafty a competitor as anyone could have been.
Even competition in three varsity sports couldn’t fill Gehrke’s appetite for athletics, so he coached his fraternity basketball team in intramural play.
Gehrke’s college career was cut into two parts when he spent a year with the Navy overseas in Okinawa during World War II. He returned to Columbia for his junior year in September 1946.
In his senior year, Gehrke played a major role in Columbia’s 21-20 victory over Army, regarded as one of the greatest Columbia Football games ever played. One of Columbia’s most versatile athletes ever, Gehrke is the last Lion athlete to have lettered all four years in three different varsity sports, other than track and cross country athletes.
Gehrke graduated from Columbia in 1948, finishing a phenomenal career that included a league title in baseball, two in basketball as well as some of the Lions’ most successful football seasons.