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Mulcahy’s legacy stretches beyond tennis

MU alumnus held public office, started law firm amid family tragedy

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This story is the first part in a three-part series featuring Marquette alumnus and tennis benefactor Charles “Chas” Mulcahy. Read the second and third parts here.

As a young lawyer, Charles “Chas” Mulcahy was assigned to change his firm’s office address, 640 East Mason St., to match the building’s name, The 660 Building. On his first attempt, Mulcahy was unable to have the public work director agree to such a change, but after sitting in the public works office lobby for three days, the director finally agreed.

“He wanted to get rid of me,” Mulcahy said with a smile. “I think he admired my tenacity a little bit.”

Mulcahy never backs down from a challenge. He’s driven by a love for competition and an apathy for failure, something he hasn’t lost since his career as a Marquette tennis legend from 1956-’59. 

“I have a little bit of rebel in me where I’m not afraid to take on things that I think are wrong,” Mulcahy said. “You have to have an attitude that you don’t care what other people think.”

Growing up with five brothers and a father who was a product of the Great Depression, Mulcahy learned how to work hard and how to compete.

In 1955, he made “the most important decision of his life,” deciding to come to Marquette after his father took him to see the men’s basketball team play Kentucky in the NCAA Tournament Regional Semifinals. Marquette won the game 79-71.

In the ’50’s, freshmen were ineligible to play varsity sports, but that didn’t stop Mulcahy from practicing. He spent the whole year practicing with Ralph Blount, the team’s No. 1 singles player.

Mulcahy’s sophomore year, Blount graduated, and Mulcahy assumed the No. 1 singles position and captainship for the next three seasons. By the time Mulachy graduated, he amassed a 28-4 singles record as well as two NCAA tournament appearances. In 1988 he earned a spot in the M Club Hall of Fame. Long after his graduation, Mulcahy still remains closely involved with the university and both tennis programs.

In 1975 Mulcahy founded the Milwaukee Tennis Classic, now one of the oldest collegiate tennis tournament in the U.S. Marquette hosts the event, both of which the men and women’s teams participate in to this day.

Mulcahy used revenue funds from the tournament to help Marquette get the scoreboard in the Helfaer Tennis Stadium, which now displays his name.

“There are not a lot of guys that have a passion for tennis and a passion for a school like (Mulchay),” said Marquette men’s tennis coach Steve Rodecap.

For Mulcahy, the honor that means the most to him from his time at Marquette is the McCahill Award, which is awarded to a Marquette scholar athlete that has shown the highest level of scholarship, leadership and athletics in memory of former Marquette football-star-turned-Marine captain Robert McCahill, who died in Iwo Jima during World War II. Mulcahy won the award in 1959. Thirty-one years later in 1990, his daughter Meg won the same award, also in tennis.  

“To me, (the McCahill Award) has been one of the most important things that has happened to me,” Mulcahy said. “I have done a lot of other things, but this is something that is very special.”

In the summer of 1962, after graduating from Marquette Law School, a law firm hired Mulcahy, but he put the job and wedding plans on hold to enlist in the Air Force.

Following his service in the military, Mulcahy once again put being a full-time lawyer on hold. After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Mulcahy felt compelled to join public office, and decided to run for a position on the Milwaukee County Task Force. This was a tall order, considering his opponent was 32-year incumbent Rick White.

“We started organizing volunteers,” Mulcahy said. “We didn’t have any money, but we had people and ideas.”

Mulcahy’s campaign was a success; 27,000 votes were cast, and he beat the odds, winning the election by 194 votes.

For the next 12 years, despite his status as a young gunning politician, Mulcahy worked hard on various pieces of legislation, some of which are still law today, and projects such as creating the Milwaukee Regional Medical Center.

“No one would stand up for the (center),” Mulcahy said. “I was the only one that would stand up and say that we need to do this. When people started to come together, it was a great feeling to see this happen.”

In 2015 Mulcahy was awarded the John L. Doyne Collaboration Award for his work with the Medical Center.

As Mulcahy was closing in on 12 years served on the county board, he began to think of stepping away from politics. Then, his life took a dramatic turn that reaffirmed this notion.

One day while in the backyard, his second daughter Katie died in an accident. Mulcahy persevered using lessons he learned about getting knocked down during competition, but through this tragic experience, he realized that he wanted more control over his schedule so he could spend more time with his family.

Mulcahy stepped away from public office to work solely at his law firm that he founded in 1966. He grew his firm to have six offices across the state of Wisconsin and approximately 400 employees.

He continued with other side projects that included teaching as an adjunct professor at the Marquette Law School, as well as being counsel to the King of Belgium, a duty that required him to help Belgium immigrants and decedents in Wisconsin. The King of Belgium was so impressed with Mulcahy’s efforts, he decided to knight Mulcahy under the Order of King Leopold I, the highest order in Belgium.

Mulcahy’s passion led him far, but he appears unrefined to those that don’t know him.

“(Mulcahy) is an idea guy, and he is going to push for things that he feels is going to benefit Marquette or the tennis program, and he isn’t going to shy away,” Rodecap said. “Chas is the type of person that you have to appreciate. Not everyone is going to agree with every idea, but you appreciate how much passion and care he has for this institution and program because that is unique.”

Today, Mulcahy continues to work on various projects including establishing the Al/Adam Hurvis Education Foundation, named after one of Mulcahy’s mentors, which offers scholarships to incoming college students, and the Life After Tennis group that helps Marquette tennis players work on the skills they need for future jobs.

 

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3 Comments

3 Responses to “Mulcahy’s legacy stretches beyond tennis”

  1. Recent Mulcahy on February 19th, 2016 12:37 am

    As a ’75 MU Alum and a blessed member of the Mulcahy clan, I have personally witnessed Chas’ regular dedication to Marquette and their tennis program throughout the years ~ in addition to so many other endeavors he pursues with passion and energy. I am very honored to be related to, and extremely proud of my brother-in-law, Chas Mulcahy!

  2. Beth Mulcahy Elardo on February 19th, 2016 1:35 am

    Wow, great article on Charles “Chas” Mulcahy in today’s newswire! Thank you for honoring my sweet father; he lives MU’s ideals every day and he is a role model for many!

    Beth Mulcahy Elardo
    Marquette University, B.A. 1992; J.D. 1995
    University of San Diego, MSEL, 2016

  3. Jan lennon on February 23rd, 2016 9:41 am

    What a wonderful tribute to someone who has made such a tremendous difference with his quiet, effective, thoughtful, and visionary leadership. Thank you, Chas. Like countless others, I am honored to call you and Judy friends. Jan Lennon

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