Between Hinkle Fieldhouse gates 2 and 3, you’ll find a bust of Tony Hinkle. Inscribed on the concrete base below it are these words:
“The Butler Way”
Tony Hinkle, 1898-1992
That sculpture was a gift from John Seal ’70 and his daughter Courtney, in memory of Myrna Seal, his wife of 42 years and her mother. The Class of 2009, of which Courtney was a member, also donated to the project.
“I just like Butler, and I love Butler basketball,” John Seal said, explaining the gift. “I bleed blue.”
But there’s much more to his story than that. John Seal played basketball for Butler from 1966-1970, Tony Hinkle’s final seasons as coach. He remembers the man fondly, from the way he recruited players to the classes he taught to how he treated others.
Seal grew up in Brookville, Ind., near the Ohio border, and caught Hinkle’s eye as a junior when his high school team reached the semi-state round of the Indiana high school basketball tournament. One day, Seal got a call from Herb Schwomeyer, then the dean of men, inviting him to visit Butler.
“He showed me around, and it was probably 4 o’clock before I ever met Coach Hinkle,” Seal recalls. “We went over to the fieldhouse, and he was sitting downstairs – the basketball offices were in the basement.
“He said, ‘Hi, kid, how you doin’? We’d really like to have you come here. It’s a great school. You’ll get a great education. We’ll take care of all the money; you don’t have to worry about that.'”
Then Hinkle asked what size shoe Seal wore. Seal said 11, and Hinkle asked equipment manager Charlie McElfresh to find a pair of 11s.
“That,” Seal said, “was his recruiting.”
Seal went on to play for four years – first with the freshman team, then with the varsity, as was the custom then. His favorite memory of those years was “just playing for Hinkle. The experience of being around him.”
And indeed, Seal did get the great education Hinkle promised. Some of that was in classes Hinkle taught – Theory and Practice of Basketball and Theory and Practice of Football. “Just to sit there and listen to him talk was great. I mean, he wrote part of the basketball rulebook.”
But, mostly, Seal’s education was in accounting. In 1972, John and Myrna Seal moved to Connersville, Ind. He took a position that Butler trustee Samuel Regenstreif offered at Design & Manufacturing Corp., a dishwasher manufacturing company. Seal rose quickly to controller of the $350 million company.
He moved on to Stant Corp., which makes gas and radiator caps for the automotive industry. Then he and Myrna ran their own companies, Connersville Engineering Services and Creative Fixtures Inc.
In the meantime, their daughter Courtney would get three degrees from Butler, finishing with her doctor of pharmacy in 2009.
The Seals retired in 2004. With the extra time, they became even more devoted Bulldog fans, following the team at home and on the road. Though Myrna died in 2010, after a lengthy battle with colon cancer, John’s devotion to the Bulldogs continued. In the middle of the 2010-2011 season, when he was asked to serve on the campaign cabinet for Hinkle Fieldhouse renovations, he accepted gladly. Seal knows something about construction and renovation – his Connersville Engineering handled hundreds of architectural engineering jobs.
“If you look at the budgets of what it’s going to take, a great portion of what they have to do in Hinkle Fieldhouse is plumbing and electrical – and that’s just to bring it up to today’s code,” Seal said. “Butler basketball will always have history – it’s no one’s intent to change the integrity of the structure or the look of the fieldhouse. But the things we’re talking about – better food stands, nice restroom facilities, improved seating and things like that – will make a better fan experience.”