North Central College is remembering the service of alumnus and Life Trustee Albert Benedetti of Naperville, a longtime stalwart of the College who died on May 3. He was 88.
He was president of Bruno Benedetti & Sons, a Naperville home building company. A street in Naperville bears the family name, Benedetti Drive.
“Few figures have had more impact on the North Central College physical campus in the past half century than Al, and his role in Naperville over this period … has been equally significant,” said Harold R. Wilde, North Central College president. “His generous spirit, his love of the College and its athletic program since his own participation on Cardinal baseball and football teams following World War II made Al a one-of-a-kind cheerleader for his alma mater.”
Benedetti graduated from North Central College in 1948 with a degree in chemistry. As a student-athlete, he starred on the 1946 and 1947 championship football teams and played in the 1947 Corn Bowl, the College’s first postseason appearance and only one until 2005.
Benedetti joined Bruno Benedetti & Sons in 1951 and was named president of the residential construction company in 1963. He served as a member of the Board of Directors of Washington Bank and Trust Company (later Westbank) for 14 years, the Naperville Area Chamber of Commerce for nine years and the Northern Illinois Home Builders Association for six years.
Benedetti’s contributions to North Central College as an alumnus date back to 1976, when he—along with alumni Donald Deetjen ’66, Larry Gregory ’51, Dick Wehrli ’56 and others—made possible the “$18,000 Miracle in Naperville” that created the College’s former stadium with sweat equity, volunteer services and donated materials.
After a flood destroyed the stadium in 1996, Benedetti and Wehrli led the effort to construct the stadium in service today that includes classrooms, the Dyson Wellness Center and offices. Cardinal Stadium was renamed Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium in 2003.
“Our football program is really going to miss him,” said John Thorne, the College’s head football coach. “He’s been a good father and a good grandfather, and all things that we want our young players to aspire to be.”
Benedetti suggested statues honoring World War II veterans, one in downtown Naperville on Washington Street at Van Buren Avenue and the other, a 700-pound bronze memorial installed in the College’s Championship Plaza in 2001 that honors William W. Shatzer II, class of 1942, a stellar student athlete who sacrificed his life for his country.
Wehrli, a partner with Benedetti in the Naperville businesses Mustang Construction and DuKane Precast, called Benedetti a good friend and mentor. “He taught me how to run a business and treat people,” Wehrli said. “I got my master’s degree in business from him.”
Benedetti began serving on the College’s Board of Trustees in 1988. In 1999, Benedetti was honored with the College’s Gael D. Swing Award for Meritorious Service. In 2002, he received the College’s Outstanding Alumni Award. In 2006, he was inducted into the North Central College Athletics Hall of Fame.
In addition to Cardinal football, Wehrli said that Benedetti’s other passions included baseball, recalling that Benedetti tried out with the Chicago Cubs and was offered a contract.
Benedetti and his wife, Alpha, were named members of the College’s 1861 Society for lifetime contributions of $1 million or more to the College. In addition to his contributions toward Benedetti-Wehrli Stadium, Benedetti also was instrumental in construction of the College’s baseball stadium, dedicated in 1999 as Alumni Field and now called Zimmerman Stadium.
In 1987, he chaired the Executive Committee of the Merner Fieldhouse Project, directing fundraising efforts to complete a $1.3 million renovation and modernization of the facility. Benedetti, Dick Wehrli and North Central Trustee Scott Wehrli ’91 were pivotal in the construction of the College’s environmentally innovative 200,000-square-foot Residence Hall/Recreation Center that opened in 2009.
Rick Spencer, the College’s vice president for institutional advancement, said he treasures his memories of Benedetti. “I’ve known Al since I was a little boy growing up in Naperville,” Spencer said. “He made a big impact on me, this College and our students for years to come. If he had an interest in something, he would lead the effort to get it done.”
Benedetti is survived by his wife, Alpha, four daughters and five grandchildren. Several of his family members also graduated from North Central College including his daughter Valerie Munson, class of 1986, grandchildren Dana Ripper, class of 1998, Ann Loveland, class of 2004, and Philip Munson, class of 2010.
Visitation will be from 2 to 7 p.m. Sunday, May 13 at Friedrich-Jones Funeral Home, 44 S. Mill St., Naperville. A funeral Mass will be held at 9:30 a.m. Monday, May 14 at Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church, 36 N. Ellsworth St., Naperville.
Among their contributions to the community, Albert and Alpha Benedetti donated a statue of the Virgin Mary that was installed in a courtyard at Naperville’s Ss. Peter and Paul Catholic Church in 2010. Bruno Benedetti & Sons was among the Naperville businesses that in 1979 contributed toward the reconstruction at Naper Settlement of a replica of Naperville’s first bandstand, built in 1885.