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Updated 7:00 AM November 23, 2009

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Sculpture of football legend Bo Schembechler unveiled

Long after Bo Schembechler led the U-M football team to prominence, he was working tirelessly to do the same for heart health.

His work through the Cardiovascular Center to educate the public and further research was done with the same passion and commitment that he gave to U-M athletics.

Last Thursday, three years after his death, a bronze bust of Schembechler was unveiled during a ceremony in the Cardiovascular Center.

The life-size bust was created by Northville sculptor John Thomas, who consulted with the university and Schembechler's family on the rendering of the football legend. The sculpture was made possible by a gift from Dr. Robert and Lynn Browne of Ada, Mich.

"With the sculpture we wanted to capture Bo's loyalty, dedication and drive for excellence," says Dr. Kim Eagle, director of the Cardiovascular Center and one of Schembechler's personal physicians. "We hope it will serve as an inspiration to our patients, visitors and staff."

The artist took 10 months to complete the bust, which was designed to show the vitality and passion of the Wolverines coach. Schembechler is depicted in his usual Michigan cap and with his arms folded, as if standing on the sidelines watching his beloved teams.
Dr. Kim Eagle, above right, co-director of the Cardiovascular Center, speaks during the unveiling of a bronze bust of legendary football coach Bo Schembechler. Looking on is Cathy Schembechler, wife of the man who coached the Wolverines from 1969-89. Schembechler, who died in 2006 after a 37-year battle with heart disease, worked tirelessly through the CVC to educate the public and help further its research. (Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)

He coached the Wolverines from 1969-89, and easily is considered one of the greatest college football coaches of all time. Schembechler led teams to 17 bowl games. For 37 years, he battled heart disease, and on Nov. 17, 2006, died at the age of 77.

"His ability to serve other people, and particularly this great university, I think, was the reason he lived so long," Eagle says. "He had a purpose in life."

Schembechler's commitment to battling cardiovascular disease lives on through the Heart of a Champion Fund. Money donated to the fund supports the important work of young U-M investigators whose groundbreaking research creates new knowledge and methods to prevent, diagnose and treat heart disease.

The book, "The Heart of a Champion: My 37-year War Against Heart Disease," chronicles Schembechler's health issues and provides a game plan for everyone in fighting the nation's leading cause of death. Book sales support the fund and its research. It was co-written by Schembechler, Eagle and Fritz Seyferth, former development director at the cardiovascular center and retired executive associate athletic director at U-M.

"He was the most courageous patient I ever met," Eagle says.
(Photo by Martin Vloet, U-M Photo Services)

The unveiling of the Schembechler bust takes place during a special time in U-M history: It also marks the 40th anniversary of Schembechler's hiring as head football coach of the Wolverines.

"Bo was like a father and best friend to many of his players," says Seyferth, a U-M football player from 1969-71, and an administrative assistant and recruiting coordinator on the Schembechler staff. "In writing the book on Bo's fight, we saw the incredibly sensitive and caring person that was underneath the focused and committed servant leader."

Directors of the CVC welcomed Schembechler's wife Cathy, members of the Schembechler family and the late coach's close friends at the presentation ceremony.

The sculpture will be permanently installed on the third level patient reception area of the Cardiovascular Center.

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