Awesome Alumni: Meeting Joseph Kiernan ’43

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Rigel D. '22, Staff Writer

Most people traverse through life on their own as they leave their marks on history, but Joseph Kiernan ’43 has made his mark by honoring others. 

In 1939 during the Great Depression, Kiernan took his first step into the brotherhood of Catholic High. He formed a bond with many of his classmates and associates during his tenure at Catholic High. He later joined the Cahillite newspaper and his time there allowed him to interact with one of the most influential figures of his life, Billy Markward.

Kiernan joined the Cahillite newspaper (this publication) in his last two years at Catholic High. Much of his interest in writing he attributed to his role model the famous sportswriter Walter Wellesley “Red” Smith. He was especially inspired by Red Smith’s writings on various athletes and on the Tribune paper.

His biggest “scoop” was an interview with legendary Catholic High Basketball Coach Billy Markward. Kiernan described Markward as more than just a coach, but also a role model. Kiernan praised how uplifting Markward was to his players and how had a good relationship with everyone he met. Markward, known for pioneering approach against racism in the early 1900’s, has long been one of the best known heroes at Broad and Vine.  Markward’s legendary coaching skills are well known. He led Cahillites to a championship 20 different times and having more than 200 of his players continue to college basketball during his 41 years of coaching at Catholic High. Markward was later inducted into the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame in 2015 due to the efforts of Kiernan.

Like many other men at the time, Kiernan enlisted into the military after his graduation in 1943. He joined the US Army Air Corps and served in the European Theatre. He flew 35 missions alongside his trusty B-24 Ball Turret Gunner.

After the war Kiernan took a job at the RCA Corporation and General Electric until his retirement. During this time he also graduated from St. Joseph’s and Temple University and later spent his time at Saint Joseph University teaching night school for 28 years. He later married his wife Betty, with whom he had five children. 

It has been many years since Kiernan has graduated Roman Catholic High, but he still manages to support the school. He visited on January 27th, 2020 to start off Catholic Schools week and to honor the 130th anniversary of Roman Catholic High. On that same day he met the great nephew of Billy Markward, Tyler Markward ’20. He met current Student Council President, Lamont Gee ’20. He was also interviewed for this article by Cahillite member, myself, Rigel Dumagco.

Kiernan has written five different books on various topics including his wartime experiences or on Catholic High. He wrote two of his books on Roman with Wartime Cinderella being about Roman winning the 1943 Red Cross Hoops Tournament and Billy Markward and Friends honoring the legendary coach and his impact on those around him. Kiernan constantly lifts others onto the pedestal and supports those around him. He has recently tried to induct Billy Markward into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame to further honor his old friend. We can all learn from his tenacious attitude towards life. 

“There’s a phrase in sports that applies to life in general, ’Stick with the winners’ as in sports people like to write about winning teams. Life likes to view the winners positively. Stick with someone who is successful.”