By Mike O'Brien
Assistant Athletic Director for Communications
Pat Dwyer is a true Connecticut native through and through. The oldest of five, he was born and raised in East Hartford where his father worked in a factory and his mother stayed home to raise the children. A three-sport athlete in his youth—baseball, basketball, football—he graduated from East Hartford High School in 1963.
Pat applied to Yale, Harvard and Little Three rival Amherst College, but his top choice was always Wesleyan. He was very familiar with Middletown, having played sports there as a child, so he knew it would be a comfortable transition for him while remaining close to family.
His younger brothers, Kevin and Tom, followed in his footsteps and attended Wesleyan as well. Pat played and co-captained the baseball and football teams for the Cardinals. On the gridiron, he competed on both sides of the field as an offensive guard and outside linebacker, and in the spring he played right field and first base. In his freshman season, he played for legendary Head Coach Norm Daniels, who spent 33 years coaching the Wesleyan baseball team and 19 years at the helm of the football program.
Entering his sophomore campaign, the football team underwent a coaching change as Don Russell took the reins. Additionally, Pat welcomed his brother Kevin to the squad, as he joined him on the defensive line and played nose guard. Kevin was also named a co-captain his senior year.
In the early '60s, Amherst was the team to beat, having won four consecutive Little Three Championships from 1962 to 1965. After back-to-back 4-4 campaigns, the Cardinals posted a 5-3 mark during Pat's junior season, to help build momentum for a historic senior year.
Pat wasn't aware of the significance of the Little Three rivalry prior to attending Wesleyan, however, he quickly understood once he stepped foot on campus. The Cardinals were 0-3 against Amherst and 1-2 against Williams entering his senior year, but that was about to change.
Following a season-opening loss at Middlebury (14-6), Wesleyan went on to win the next three games by a staggering mark of 113-6, scoring at least 33 points in each game and shutting out Bowdoin and WPI in the process. Boasting a new sense of confidence entering their home game against Amherst, the Cardinals snapped a 10-game losing streak against the then-Lord Jeffs with a thrilling 21-20 victory. Two games later, Wesleyan cruised to a 21-7 win at Williams to claim its first Little Three title in 11 years. It was without a doubt the best moment of Pat's football career at Wesleyan.
The Dwyer brother's legacy continued the following year, with Tom joining the program as a freshman defensive end and Kevin leading the way as a senior co-captain. During Tom's junior and senior seasons, the Cardinals won back-to-back Little Three titles, including a perfect 8-0 campaign in 1969—the last undefeated team in program history.
Pat was also the secretary of his class and a member of the fraternity Delta Kappa Epsilon (DKE). In the '60s, Wesleyan was an all-male school and the frats played a pivotal role in the overall college experience. He was exposed to many guys his age who came from different socioeconomic backgrounds, including many who attended private schools and came from wealthy families. Though he had a terrific upbringing, Pat wasn't as fortunate as some of the other guys and had to maintain a steady source of income by doing various chores around the house.
The relationships that Pat developed from 1963 to 1967 would last a lifetime. Almost every year since, he and fellow DKE members have competed in the annual Wesleyan men's basketball golf outing. They regularly have about 8 to 12 guys from the '60s show up, and this past Saturday, DKE celebrated its 150th anniversary.
Pat's experience during those four brief years paved the way for a successful and incredibly accomplished career. "I would not be where I am today if it had not been for Wesleyan," he says.
Unbeknownst to Pat during his undergrad years, Coach Russell nominated him for the NCAA post-graduate scholarship. He won the scholarship and after graduating in 1967, he used the money to attend UConn School of Law. Pat also got married shortly after graduating—he has been married for 50 years—and had two kids.
As a law student with two children, Pat had to find ways to support his family. Attending classes during the day, he would write for the sports column at the Hartford Courant at night. He did this for a couple years until all his hard work paid off, and he passed the Connecticut Bar Exam on his first try. Pat graduated with his Juris Doctor (J.D.) degree in 1970, and his career took off.
Roughly 10 years later, Pat moved his family (wife and three children) and his law office to Glastonbury, Conn., where he has been ever since. An established lawyer for 47 years and counting, he spends much of his time in court in litigation.
Pat's son Dan followed in his father's footsteps, becoming a lawyer and playing NESCAC football as well. However, he attended the rival school Williams, where he became an accomplished quarterback on a team that won 23 straight games. While Williams was excelling on the gridiron, Wesleyan was struggling. The frustration grew for alums, but when Mike Whalen '83 and Dan DiCenzo parted ways with the Ephs and came to Middletown in 2010, a new era began.
"Those two guys (Mike and Dan) have nothing but Wesleyan at heart," said Dwyer. "I do want to congratulate President (Michael) Roth as well. We just had our 50th Class Reunion in June, and President Roth gave a tremendous speech. He's done a great job, and we are very lucky to have him."
Pat is thrilled to see the rebirth of the Wesleyan Athletics program. The Cardinals went 43 years without winning a Little Three title in football, but have now won twice in the past four years. His support is evident, as he can be seen at most home football games and every baseball game with his dog and a cigar.
"I have known Pat and his family for a long time," said Whalen. "His son Dan and I became very good friends while I was at Williams and since coming back to Wesleyan in 2010, Pat has been a big supporter in promoting the pursuit of excellence within our athletics programs.
"He is a fixture at most home Wesleyan football and baseball games, and he is excited that many of our teams are competing for both Little Three and NESCAC championships. The guys from Pat's era played on many successful teams while at Wesleyan, so they all take a great sense of pride with the resurgence of our program."