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The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

Fit to be king
Lilli Dellheim, Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

St. Joe’s reacts to Zane Major’s legacy following his death

Photo Courtesy of SJU Athletics

Zane Major ’79 died on Jan. 12 at the age of 61, leaving behind a long line of people that he touched both on and off the basketball court.

Major’s loyalty and eternal willingness to give himself for others made him the consummate Hawk, according to those who knew him best.

A graduate of Roman Catholic High School and native of North Philadelphia, Major was deeply entrenched in the city’s basketball lore dating back to his high school days in which he led Roman Catholic to a Philadelphia Catholic League Title.

He went on to play at St. Joe’s from 1975-79, and is part of the program’s 1,000 point club.

In his adult life, Major volunteered his time however he could, returning to serve as an assistant coach at Roman Catholic and involving himself in community outreach programs in Philadelphia.

He was in his first year as the Reading High School girls freshman basketball coach when he died, finding an outlet for his passion for basketball however he could.

Geoff Arnold, St. Joe’s men’s basketball assistant coach and fellow Philadelphia area native grew up hearing about the legend of Zane Major on the basketball court.

“There was Zane the basketball player and Zane the person,” Arnold said “Both were tremendous assets to the community and to kids of all race, gender and ethnicities.”

While Major certainly left a mark on the court, those who knew him best chose to focus on the selflessness that he exhibited off the court as his lasting legacy.

“Zane was always there to pick you up, no matter what was going on with him,” said  Michael ’78 Thomas, a former St. Joe’s teammate and close friend of Major’s, who gave the eulogy at the funeral on behalf of St. Joe’s alumni and teammates. “After his career, he just always looked to give himself to others and the community in any way he could.”

Thomas, who played with Major for three years at St. Joe’s, said their friendship had grown since they graduated. Both followed paths of life that led them to Atlanta, Ga., where they reconnected often, reminiscing about their college days.

Philadelphia was where their friendship was founded and where they would both ultimately return.

“You’re looking at 44 years of friendship, which is rare in today’s world,” Thomas said.

This type of loyalty came to characterize Major and was especially apparent in the Roman Catholic and St. Joe’s communities.

“I saw the way he volunteered his time in coaching and trying to help other people,” said John Griffin, former St. Joe’s and Roman Catholic men’s basketball coach. “Life wasn’t always good to him, yet he still found ways to give back and help younger people especially. If there was a way he could make a contribution, he would do it in his own quiet way.”

Griffin, who was teammates with Major at both Roman Catholic and St. Joe’s, attested to his loyalty. Just two weeks ago, Major came to speak to the Roman Catholic basketball team team, which Griffin’s son now coaches.

“He was a very loyal person and he cared about the people he grew up with,” Griffin said. “He stayed close to Roman and stayed close to St. Joe’s.”

Major was also a constant presence around his beloved Hawks and wore his Hawk allegiance on his sleeve, according to Arnold.

“Zane was just always around and always had his camera,” Arnold said. Major had recently established Zane Major Photography LLC to showcase the photos he took. “He loved life and wanted to capture all of its moments.”

While Major enjoyed returning to Michael J. Hagan ’85 Arena to watch the Hawks as a fan, he did not take the role of spectator in his own life, proactively making a difference in any community he was apart of.

“He lived his life not as a spectator,” former Director of Athletics Don DiJulia said. “He was a people person, persistent and always a positive attitude.”

This positive attitude will continue to motivate all those who knew Major as it did during his fruitful life.

“He always wanted you to be a better person, a better student, a better player,” Thomas said. “He was there to help however he could and you saw that with the great number of people he impacted in his life. ”

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  • M

    Michael ConroyJan 25, 2019 at 11:08 am

    Great article, Ryan. Zane was a great guy. I know him from RCHS and SJU. Thank you.

  • T

    TedJan 24, 2019 at 9:47 am

    Great article. Brought back memories of watching him as a kid and glad to hear what a difference he made in life.