Abington native Paul Rice “Herky” Rubincam, UPenn Athletics Hall of Famer, died last month

Paul Rice “Herky” Rubincam was born in Abington. He died on February 7 of heart failure at home in Palm City, Florida. He was 89.

Paul was an athletics director at the University of Pennsylvania, and is in the school’s Hall of Fame.

He was honored by the UPenn Almanac in an obituary:

Born in 1933 in Abington, Pennsylvania, Mr. Rubincam grew up in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, where he attended Coatesville High School. As a boy, he got the nickname Herky, short for Hercules, because he thought he was as strong as the mythical hero. He was an all-state basketball player at Coatesville and a star postgraduate player for two years at the Lawrenceville School; later in life, he would be inducted into both school’s halls of fame. He attended the Wharton School for an undergraduate degree, which he received in 1960 after serving in the U.S. Army for two years. In the Army, he was stationed in Texas and Germany and played on the basketball and baseball teams.

Mr. Rubincam was involved with sports at Penn from his time as an undergraduate. He was elected captain of the 1959-1960 men’s basketball team but was unable to play due to eligibility issues caused by his military duty. Instead, he served as an assistant coach with that team and returned to the coaching staff two years after graduating. While coaching, Mr. Rubincam also worked in Penn’s admissions office, where he later served as assistant dean until 1970. From 1970 to 1974, he took the newly formed position of director of conferences before moving to Wharton as its director of alumni affairs, a position he held for more than a decade.

As Penn’s director of athletics from 1985 to 1993, Mr. Rubincam made three of the most significant hires in the athletic department’s history: Fran Dunphy as head coach of men’s basketball, Al Bagnoli as head football coach, and Roger Reina as head wrestling coach (hiring Mr. Reina at the age of 24, by far the youngest wrestling coach in America at the time). Those three coaches won a total of 27 Ivy League championships and made the Quakers Ivy League and national powers during their respective tenures. From 1993 to 1996, Mr. Rubincam served as as director of special gifts development, during which he increased Penn’s annual fund-raising campaign for sports to nearly $3 million. He also directed the multimillion-dollar renovation of Penn’s athletic facilities, added varsity golf to its 30-team intercollegiate program, and elevated women’s soccer to varsity status. From 1996 until his retirement, Mr. Rubincam spent 11 years as executive director of the Big 5.

“I was deeply saddened to learn of the passing of Paul Rubincam,” said Alanna Shanahan, the T. Gibbs Kane, Jr. W’69 Director of Athletics and Recreation. “Herky’s impact on the University, Penn Athletics and the Big 5 was profound and his induction into the Penn Athletics Hall of Fame in 2019 was so well deserved. There are few Quakers who had five decades of service to our great University like Paul did. My thoughts and prayers are with the Rubincam family during this time.” When Mr. Rubincam received the invitation to his 2019 hall of fame induction, he initially believed the invitation was as a master of ceremonies rather than an inductee, a misunderstanding that his contemporaries fondly attribute to his unassuming nature.

“A lot of what he did was behind the scenes,” said Decker Uhlhorn, a senior advisor at Penn and Mr. Rubincam’s close friend. “And that’s how he wanted it. But his work was so important. I can’t even imagine how many student-athletes he impacted, in any number of ways. And nobody ever had anything bad to say about him. He just went about being who he was and getting things done. He didn’t care about getting his name in the lights. He just had a passion for the University. And that was enough. He was a factor in countless lives, through his relationships and his work. That’s his legacy.”

Mr. Rubincam was a lifelong golfer who also played tennis and squash at the Philadelphia Cricket Club. He liked to fish in Maine and listen to the music of John Denver, the Four Aces, and Elton John.

Mr. Rubincam is survived by his wife, Penny; his sons, Paul III and Peter; his daughter, Lindsay; six grandchildren; and other relatives. A celebration of his life will be held later. Donations in his name may be made to the Penn Champions Club, Office of the Treasurer, P.O. Box 71332, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19176, and the Lawrenceville School Alumni Fund, P.O. Box 6125, Lawrenceville, New Jersey 08648.

Photo courtesy of UPenn