Bortke Web3BISMARCK, N.D. – The world said goodbye to a great man, mentor and motivator over the weekend. Al Bortke, the legendary former University of Mary athletic director and men’s basketball coach passed away on Sunday, Sept. 20, 2015, at the age of 78. He left behind innumerable people whose lives he has touched as a coach, mentor and friend.

The first athletic director at the University of Mary and the second head men’s basketball coach, Bortke served the university for 36 years. He oversaw the growth of an athletic department that went from one team to as many as 19 and also coached the Marauders to over 300 victories on the hard court.

“While Al’s place as a history maker at the University of Mary in over 36 years of service is acknowledged in Bortke Court in the McDowell Activity Center, the place he holds deep in the hearts of those who knew him is one of deep esteem and loving friendship,” stated University of Mary President Monsignor James Shea. “Al Bortke exemplified the meaning and spirit of developing the potential of others and administering with integrity. Providing strong role modeling through his own involvement in Special Olympics, Al Bortke promoted a continuing expectation that student athletes respond to community needs as volunteer. His was a lifetime of ‘pursuing victory with honor’ as an extraordinary, trustworthy, and greatly respected servant leader.”

“Al was the cornerstone for University of Mary athletics for close to four decades, growing the Marauders from one team to a department that reached national prominence,” said Marauders athletic director Roger Thomas.

Bortke’s legendary run began in 1973, when he assumed the dual role as University of Mary athletic director and head men’s basketball coach.

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On the basketball court, Bortke compiled a record of 335-157 in 16 seasons from 1973 to 1989. He is second in career wins among all college men’s basketball coaches in North Dakota history. Eleven times the Marauders registered 21 or more wins, including one stretch of seven straight seasons and 10 out of 11 years. Only twice did the Marauders suffer a losing season.

The high point occurred in 1981-82 when Mary went 30-3 and advanced to the national
tournament. The 30 wins remains a single season school record and that squad was the inaugural entry into the Marauders Hall of Fame with Bortke in 1991. It is also the only Mary men’s basketball team to advance to a
national tournament.

As athletic director, he helped launch the University of Mary into the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) where the Marauders became a national power in several women’s and men’s sports. During this period he received many honors, including several athletic director of the year awards, became the first inductee into the Marauders Hall of Fame, and in 2006, was enshrined in the NAIA Hall of Fame. The Mary athletic program started with one sport — men’s basketball — and grew to as many as 19 teams under Bortke’s direction.Dale Brown John Wooden Al Bortke Sept 2006 WebA shining moment for Bortke and the program came in 2006 when the University of Mary welcomed to campus fellow legendary basketball coaches John Wooden and Dale Brown to help launch the school’s entrance into the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Division II. This step considered even more impressive when the NCAA waived the school’s final two transitional years allowing Mary to become one of the quickest to achieve active membership in NCAA history in 2007.

Bortke stepped down as Mary’s athletic director in July 2008.

At the time of his retirement, then University of Mary President Sister Thomas Welder stated “no person has done more for the University of Mary athletic program than Al Bortke. Beyond what he has meant to this university, his strong values have touched the lives of so many coaches and student athletes and people in the Bismarck-Mandan community, as well as his own family.

Since retiring from Mary, Bortke continued to be active throughout the community and in his church, and served as co-chair of the successful capital campaign to renovate the Bismarck Municipal Ballpark.

A native of Hettinger, N.D., Al was married to his wife Linda for 54 years and the couple had two sons, Todd and Paul.

Mass of Christian Burial will be held at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 26, at Church of the Ascension, 1825 S 3rd St, Bismarck. Visitation will be held from 4 – 7 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 25, at Church of the Ascension, where a vigil/rosary will begin at 7 p.m. Visitation will continue one hour prior to the service at the church.

Further arrangements are pending with Eastgate Funeral Service, Bismarck. (See more at: