Robert Harris Sigholtz
Colonel, United States Army
By Matt Schudel
Courtesy of the Washington Post
Saturday, September 10, 2005
Robert H. Sigholtz, 84, who was general manager of Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium and the D.C. Armory complex as well as athletic director at Georgetown University, died September 2, 2005, at a hospice in Scottsdale, Arizona. He had been injured in a fall at his home in Paradise Valley, Arizona.
Dr. Sigholtz, who had a distinguished record as a combat infantryman in three wars, came to Georgetown in 1968 as a professor of military science and as director of the university's ROTC program. His strong personality, shaped as an Army airborne troop commander, proved both a strength and a liability during his stormy three-year tenure as athletic director.
When he was nominated for the position in 1969, he was opposed by several student groups, including the captains of seven of Georgetown's 12 athletic teams. Once in the job, he had a long-running feud with men's basketball coach Jack Magee that, The Washington Post reported, "has dominated that athletic department for almost three years, poisoned the atmosphere and generally taken all the fun out of basketball."
In February 1972, Dr. Sigholtz was fired as athletic director, but in one of his final acts he helped recruit John Thompson as a candidate for head basketball coach. Thompson, now a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame, was named coach in March 1972.
From 1973 to 1984, Dr. Sigholtz managed RFK Stadium and the D.C. Armory and became a leading authority on crowd control and the management of civic arenas. He represented the D.C. government in negotiations with sports teams and entertainers and was responsible for everything from the condition of the playing field to the comfort of the spectators.
In 1984, his contract was not renewed, even though the stadium earned a profit every year under his leadership. One reason reported at the time was a dispute with Redskins owner Jack Kent Cooke, who sought to gain more control of the stadium.
Dr. Sigholtz also waged an ill-fated campaign to bring major league baseball back to Washington. In 1979, he said RFK Stadium could easily be altered to accommodate a baseball team.
"I think it's just a matter of time," he said. "I'm surprised we don't have one this year."
Robert Harris Sigholtz was born in Philadelphia, where he starred in four high school sports. He enlisted in the Army in 1942 and rose from a Platoon Sergeant to an infantry Lieutenant in the China-Burma theater during World War II.
From 1946 to 1948, he played professional basketball with the Baltimore Bullets before being recalled to the Army. He was a reconnaissance officer during the Korean War and later served in special forces units and the 82nd Airborne Division.
On February 22, 1967, as a Colonel commanding the 2nd Battalion of the 503rd Infantry Regiment in Vietnam, he led the only parachute assault by U.S. forces in the war.
"He was an outstanding battalion commander," said retired Army General John R. Deane Jr., Dr. Sigholtz's commanding general in Vietnam. "He was very courageous and self-effacing. His soldiers worshiped him."
In 1969, Dr. Sigholtz's only son, Army Captain Robert H. Sigholtz Jr., was killed in Vietnam while serving in the same unit his father had commanded.
For his own service, Dr. Sigholtz was awarded
three Silver Stars, two Legions of Merit, three Distinguished Flying Crosses,
four Bronze Stars and 13 Air Medals.
He was president of the Touchdown Club in Washington and was chosen by the State Department in 1980 to advise the Kenyan government on staging an international boxing competition. From the 1950s to the 1970s, he refereed high school and college football and basketball games.
After leaving Washington, Dr. Sigholtz managed car dealerships in Santa Monica, Calif., and was a consultant on stadium issues to the National Football League and professional sports teams. He moved to Arizona in 1994.
At the time of his death, he served on an advisory commission to the Arizona Department of Veterans Services and on the advisory board of Childhelp USA, a national organization to benefit abused children founded by his second wife.
His first marriage, to Roberta Wynne Sigholtz, ended in divorce.
After the death of his daughter, Catherine McMaster, in 1980, Dr. Sigholtz adopted her daughters, Taryn Gosch of Phoenix and Whitney Knoerlein of Baltimore.
Other survivors include his wife of 20 years,
Sara O'Meara Sigholtz of Paradise Valley; a stepson, John Hopkins of Scottsdale;
and four grandchildren.
Posted: 4 December 2005