Freep’s McCabe on Albion Gift: ‘It Felt Like Home to Us’

July 19, 2017

Mick McCabe, who spent 46 years carving out a special niche at the Detroit Free Press, didn’t attend Albion College. But his respect and love for the school runs deep nonetheless.

Why? That’s easy.

It’s because of the relationships he built over the decades when he also covered Albion as part of his Michigan Intercollegiate Athletic Association beat. That’s how he got to know and admire coaches like Mike Turner and Frank Joranko and Morley Fraser as well as Peter Mitchell, the school’s president, who one day called McCabe’s oldest daughter, Katie, and convinced her Albion was the place for her.

He recalled a story that to this day still amazes him.

Mick McCabe posing with student Katie Boni.

Mick McCabe poses with Katie Boni, ’18, an Albion College journalism student. McCabe was honored for his 46 years as a journalist at the Detroit Free Press with a celebrity roast in May. As a thank you to Albion College, where two of his kids graduated, McCabe donated the proceeds from the roast to the College’s journalism program.

“Katie wanted to play sports and she thought she wanted to go to medical school,” McCabe said. “I heard 95 percent of Albion’s graduates from the pre-med program got into medical school. She had no interest in Michigan or Michigan and she liked the Division III philosophy.”

But she was unsure where she wanted to go until Mitchell made a personal pitch.

“One day the phone rang and this voice asked if Katie was there and I said no,” McCabe said. “He said, ‘I’m Peter Mitchell, president of Albion College, and I hear Katie hasn’t made up her mind about college.’”

She soon did and Katie McCabe ended up starring in soccer and basketball at Albion, majored in pre-med and biology and is now a pediatrician in Chicago.

So when she was sold, so were her parents. And they have been ever since.

“She had a terrific time at Albion and her last week there was difficult because she didn’t want to leave,” McCabe said.

One of their sons Chris, ’08, also graduated from Albion and was part of the Carl A. Gerstacker Institute for Business and Management and a second son Kevin graduated from Notre Dame.

And while both are excelling in fulfilling careers that range from medicine to high tech to teaching, McCabe and his wife Joyce never lost the special feeling they had, and still have, for Albion.

“I tried to steer, but not push, our kids toward Albion,” he said. “And Albion was great for them. I really liked everything about Albion. There was nobody we didn’t like at Albion. It felt like home to us.”

Maybe that’s why, in a celebration of McCabe and his years as the Free Press’ prep columnist and writer, a roast was held in May at Lochmoor Country Club in Grosse Point to honor his decades of devotion to the community.

The event featured several long-time coaches who made it a wonderfully uncomfortable evening for him.

“It worked out much better than I ever anticipated,” he said. “And I just got killed. (Former Michigan football coach) Lloyd Carr was amazing. (MSU women’s basketball coach) Suzy Merchant killed me. (Former Free Press sports editor Gene Myers) eviscerated me. But at least I got the last word in.”

When McCabe was first approached about the roast as a fundraiser, organizers figured proceeds would go to the University of Detroit Mercy journalism program, (both McCabe and his wife graduated from Mercy College of Detroit before it merged with the University of Detroit in 1990).

“But I said no,” McCabe said.

Instead, proceeds from the event – some $3,500 – was steered to Albion’s journalism program.

“We just want to help out some students,” said McCabe, who left open the possibility of further gifts to the school. “It could be. We haven’t crossed that bridge yet.”

Now in retirement, McCabe hopes to remain close to the school he did not attend but still loves.

Indeed, in his farewell column in the Free Press, he wrote simply, “I also will have Saturdays free to attend Albion football games.”