Story by Lori Gottula, photo by Randy Gottula
On Friday, April 20, 2018, Jerry Joy of Stella officially joined the ranks of the legendary on the Peru State College campus. That night, with several of Jerry’s family members and friends in attendance, the Peru State College Foundation unveiled signage that will forever link Jerry’s name to PSC. The newly-remodeled home locker room in the college’s football fieldhouse was named the Jerry Joy Home Locker Room.
Jerry was head coach of the Bobcat football team in the mid 70s and early 80s. He took a struggling program that had won just 29 games in 13 seasons, and turned the program around. His first year as head coach, the Bobcats had a 5-4 season. In the seven years that he served as head coach, his team went 40-36-2. The 1979 team was 9-1 and attended the Boothill Bowl, playing Pittsburgh State. That team has been inducted into the Peru State College Hall of Fame.
In the mid-80s, Joy was hired as the deanof students, and not only doubled enrollment, but took the sports programs to new levels. He hired football coaches like Charlie Wade, who was a former head coach at the University of Minnesota, and Harold Wheeler, who was defensive coordinator at the University of Houston. Tom Shea, who came from Dakota State University served as head coach. Under their tutelage, the 1990 football team won the NAIA Division II national championship, and put Peru State College athletics on the map.
Jerry was also instrumental in the construction of the Al Wheeler Activity Center, the facility where Peru State plays its home basketball and volleyball games.
In other words, Jerry Joy received Friday night’s honor the hard way. He earned it.
At the unveiling ceremony, the executive director of the Peru State College Foundation, Todd Simpson, served as emcee. He and head football coach Steve Schneider told the audience of nearly 100 donors and football players that the importance of the locker room upgrade could not be over-emphasized.
“This is where the guys live,” Schneider said. “This is their home.”
The locker room project began in September of 2016 when Schneider and the foundation’s advancement officer, Rebecca Jewel, approached two of Jerry’s relatives with the idea of raising $100,000 for a locker room remodel. The foundation hoped to name the locker room in Jerry’s honor.
Jerry’s daughter, Cristy Joy, and nephew, Mark Joy, set to work immediately. They contacted all of Jerry’s former players, his family members, and as many friends as they could find. In less than one year, they and the foundation raised more than $130,000.
“We are here because of you,” Cristy Joy told the audience of donors Friday night.
PSC President Dan Hanson thanked the donors as well. He then stated that the locker room remodel was indeed important, but that the greatest testament to Jerry’s career was the number of lives that he has changed.
“My favorite story is about Barry Lockard,” President Hanson said.
“Barry was raised in Stella, Nebraska. Jerry recruited him to play quarterback for the PSC football team in the late 70s or early 80s.
“Barry didn’t get off to the best start academically,” President Hanson said, “So after his first year, he dropped out. He didn’t know what he would do or where he would go. He started working construction on highway two when the highway was changed to a four lanes between Nebraska City and Lincoln.
“Somehow, Jerry Joy found his way out to a bridge where Barry was working, and talked him into coming back to school. I don’t even think Barry played much for Coach Joy after that, but Jerry invested in the young man.
“Barry Lockard earned his degree, then went on to become a success in corporate America, first with Black and Decker, then as a world-wide account manager for Microsoft. Today, he is president of Cornhusker Bank in Lincoln.”
And that story is just one of hundreds that President Hanson could have told. Jerry Joy has spent his life helping young people find direction. That’s the reason why so many people have donated to the locker room project.
Following the unveiling, President Hanson announced that the state college board has been so impressed with the fundraising project that it had approved stage two of the fieldhouse remodel.
“That announcement just came this morning,” Hanson said. “Because of the successful fundraising efforts in Jerry’s honor, we will start the upgrade on the exterior of the building immediately.”
What a testament to the career of Jerry Joy, whose name will now forever be connected to the college he loves—his alma mater, Peru State College.