By: Kaylee Darnell
If you have ever been to an IU South Bend men’s or women’s basketball game, you probably heard the prominent voice of Duane Lewandowski, who has been the IU South Bend Public Address Announcer and official scorebook keeper for 26 years.
Lewandowski graduated from Washington High School and took a job as a part time sports writer at the South Bend Tribune in 1977. Alongside his sports writing career, he juggled other jobs to continue to pay the bills. He stayed with the Tribune until he married and inherited three step children.
“Not long after [his leave from the Tribune], my dad, who retired in 1987, was offered the PA job at School Field. He didn’t want it but thought I might. After going to so many games as a kid doing football PA at a historical place like School Field, I felt thrilled to take the job. That’s where my PA days were born,” Lewandowski said.
He credits the start of his career at IU South Bend to being at the right place at the right time. He was working at Madison Elementary School when the school’s gym teacher, Mary Wisnewski, became the first person to coach the women’s program. He said they often talked about sports, and that she eventually asked for help to keep the book at a few games.
“I was still only doing the women’s book, when one Saturday afternoon of a doubleheader, the men’s book was tossed in front of me basically saying, ‘you’re it’,” Lewandowski said. “When the announcer position opened, I felt I could do both, since I was already doing the same kind of thing at South Bend Adams High School – names in front of me, marking points and fouls and telling everyone who scored and who fouled. As long as I made sure to have eye contact with the officials, it was easy for me.”
Lewandowski officially retired on Feb. 27, after he got to watch the women’s basketball team win the conference tournament.
“I never went into this past season saying that this was going to be my last,” Lewandowski said. “One night, after a long doubleheader that was intense, I was mentally drained. It just hit me. I kinda knew it was time to start cutting back on my schedule. I currently work as a hall monitor for a security company at Schmucker Middle School, and my hours of 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. were leading right into the 5:30 first tip of our weekday doubleheaders. Trying to eat dinner at the table when there was time, leaving home at 8 a.m. and not getting home until 10 pm started to wear me down a bit.”
Although his retirement was somewhat unexpected, Lewandowski said he is grateful for the experiences he had in the position.
“So, I cashed in my chips. It was a great run, and I loved being such an important part of the game both by doing the book and announcing the action. How fun is that? I felt I did it pretty well for a lot of years,” he said. “Always felt the best compliments were ones from the opposing fans or coaches. A special thanks has to go out to our current athletic director Steve Bruce, who has been a good friend and constant support, and to former long time athletic secretary Angie Klontz, who was so valuable during her time at IUSB. I’m sure I’m going to miss it at some point. Paul Condry wasted no time in saying there is room for me on any broadcasts of future games. But for now, it’s just Penn. More time with my wife and grandkids. I thank all the coaches who I worked for and with and wish them nothing but the best going forward.”
Over the years of announcing games, Lewandowski was able to leave his mark on and off the court, and also in the memories of those around South Bend.
Scott Cooper, head coach of IU South Bend’s men’s basketball team, reflected on Lewandowski’s impact.
“Duane has been a fixture in the Saint Joseph County athletics scene for longer than most of us have lived in the area. It is difficult to imagine a home in IU South Bend athletics event without him,” Cooper said. “His voice is as synonymous with every made three point shot, ‘jam’, or starting lineup announcement as the athletes who play in the games. Everyone who ever met Duane knows he was happy to step up and help however he could to make our home events a first-class experience for all who were a part of them. Win or lose, he was always quick to give me a kind word after every game. I will miss Duane and everything he has done for us, but wish him the best in retirement.”
Steven Bruce, athletic director and head coach of the women’s basketball team, said Lewandowski made a memorable impact at IU South Bend.
”For 26 years, Duane autographed his work with excellence. For 26 years, he was the consummate professional, setting the Gold Standard, and bringing integrity to our athletic program. For 26 years, with a full heart, he has been a part of our IU South Bend family,” Bruce said. “As he steps into ‘tomorrow’s shoes’, we honor him for the great work that he has done, the great person that he is, and the irreplaceable figure that he will be.”
Lewandowski has been a staple in IU South Bend athletics for almost two decades, and all of IU South Bend congratulates him on his career not only at our school but throughout South Bend. We all wish him the very best on his retirement. Thank you Duane!