Longtime Johns Hopkins University football coach Jim Margraff was remembered Saturday night as a father, a husband, a teammate, and an extraordinary leader who made a meaningful impact on countless lives.
An estimated 1,500 former players, friends, family members, coworkers, and other members of the Hopkins community gathered in the university's Ralph S. O'Connor Recreation Center to pay tribute to Margraff, who died suddenly earlier this month at 58. A standing room only crowd listened as some of the people who knew Margraff best shared memories of a man who was a friend and a mentor to so many during his storied coaching career.
"No matter the playing field, Jim invested his time, always, unequivocally in others," Johns Hopkins University President Ronald J. Daniels said.
Daniels remembered Margraff as an exceptional coach and a dedicated mentor, but most importantly as a loving father to his three children, Megan, Will, and James.
"Jim made us all better, through his faith in our possibility—institution and individual alike—and his passion, persistence, integrity, and kindness will be deeply and profoundly missed," he said
The 11 speakers at Saturday's memorial came from different parts of Margraff's life, from friends he made as a Hopkins undergraduate to those who played for him over his 29 years as JHU's head coach. Margraff, a 1982 Hopkins graduate, took over the program at his alma mater in 1990 and posted a 221-89-3 record during his tenure, making him the winningest football coach in state history.
Bill Stromberg was the star receiver and Margraff the starting quarterback for the Blue Jays from 1978 to 1981. Together, the duo rewrote the school's record books, becoming the greatest passing duo in Hopkins history. They also became lifelong friends.
Stromberg's remarks Saturday painted the picture of a man who was dedicated, passionate, humble, and giving.
"Jim Margraff was a truly special person who quietly inspired us in so many ways," said Stromberg, now a university trustee and president and CEO of Baltimore-based asset management firm T. Rowe Price. "Fiercely competitive and yet genuinely humble and honorable, he brought out the best in everyone he touched. He was incredibly successful with wins and losses but even more so as a builder of values, character, and culture. A wise leader and mentor, and a true friend, he will always hold a special place in our hearts."
Tim Miller, a member of JHU's Class of 2010, said Margraff was the first person he turned to when his father was diagnosed with cancer. After his father passed away, he said, Margraff told him they were part of a much larger family that included every person who had ever come in contact with the Hopkins football program.
"One of the truly amazing things about Coach Margraff was that, at the end of the day, he didn't care how good you were," Miller said. "What he cared about was the person you were—the person you were to your family and how you were going to make that positive impact on the community."
The night ended with remarks from Margraff's sons, James and Will. Both recalled a caring father who was open with his affection, who made sure his children knew how proud of them he was, and who taught them the best ways to live their lives.
"I know how lucky I am to have a father who cared deeply about me, who cared deeply about people, who did not believe in shortcuts and was a man of integrity," James Margraff said. "I hope to embody all of those positive traits. To be kind-hearted yet tough, to care and to evaluate with clarity, and to live a life spending my days doing what I love."