NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- Iona Preparatory School K-12 dedicated its athletic field on Saturday to a steadfast supporter who, during the course of his tenure as co-owner of the New York Giants, was one of the most influential figures in the history of the National Football League.
In renaming Iona Prep’s football field after Wellington T. Mara before a crowd of hundreds of friends, family, alumni and students, Iona Prep President Brother Thomas Leto cited Mr. Mara’s legacy on-and-off the field and praised his generosity and commitment to the Iona community.
“It is an honor to dedicate this field to Mr. Mara, a man who believed in working hard, giving back and being strong—traits that we hold dear,” said Brother Leto. “On behalf of Iona Prep, I would like to thank the Mara Family for not only supporting our mission, but for being living examples of it.”
Mara, who had four sons and 10 grandchildren attend Iona Prep, was committed to the school and enjoyed watching football games while sitting under the pine tree overlooking the field. He passed away in 2005.
The plaque commemorating the Wellington T. Mara Field reads: “Once a Gael, always a Gael.”
Members of the Mara family were on hand for the field dedication, as were Brother Leto, Athletic Director Bernard Mahoney and New York Giants scout Tim McDonnell, Mara’s grandson who graduated from Iona Prep in 2001. Chief Advancement Officer Mark Hogan served as master of ceremonies for the dedication, which was among the highlights of the Homecoming festivities that included the varsity football team’s game against Cardinal Hayes High School, a “Kidzone” for children, and Reunion dinner for alumni.
As part of the dedication, the Rev. Anthony Sorgie of Immaculate Conception and Assumption in Tuckahoe blessed the field and Iona Prep students presented members of the Mara family with flowers and a wrapped gift, pieces of the turf that now bears their patriarch’s name, in honor of the day. Grace Cashman, the daughter of Yankees general manager Brian Cashman, sang the National Anthem. Christian McHugh, a senior honor student who plays football and lacrosse for the Gaels, spoke of the deep sense of pride of putting on the maroon and gold uniform.
“That pride doubles today, knowing we will be playing on a field named after a man that was truly a Giant,” McHugh said. “We are taught what he believed: Work hard. Give back. Be strong. We couldn’t have asked for a better namesake for our field.”
Speaking on behalf of the family, McDonnell thanked the Iona community and remembered how his grandfather would sit under the pine tree on the hill watching his games.
“Iona Prep, the Christian Brothers and Iona Prep athletics always held a special place in my grandparents' life,” McDonnell said. “I had such a strong sense of pride and encouragement when I saw him here. It made me want to focus even more and do something in the game that would catch the old scout's eye.”
The dedication of the football field was a fitting honor for Mara, one of the National Football League’s most prominent and respected figures. Starting out as a ball boy for the team, he spent his entire adult life with the Mara family-owned New York Giants, and he was widely regarded as one of the league’s most influential owners. He was inducted into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in 1997.
“As a graduate of both the Upper and Lower schools, I grew up watching some of the Mara grandchildren play varsity sports and hearing about their family’s incredible and continued generosity to the school,” Mr. Hogan said. “It is such a privilege to have their collective, storied legacy at Iona Prep, my alma mater, be cemented in this way.”
Under Mara's direction the New York Football Giants won six NFL titles (including two Super Bowl wins), nine conference championships (including six Eastern Conference championships in the days before the NFL-AFL merger and three NFC championships post-merger), and 13 division championships.
After the ceremony, Giants President and CEO John Mara, Iona Prep Class of 1972, said the school has always meant a lot to his family.
“I don't think my father would have liked the attention though; he would had stayed under the tree back there,” John Mara said. “But it’s a nice honor for the family, and we're very appreciative that Iona Prep would do this.”