You had me at Hoopfest: The Sullivans

In the month of February, the month of love, we have been celebrating couples for whom Hoopfest holds a special place in their relationship. Pat and Diane Sullivan have been an integral part of Hoopfest since the beginning.

“We didn’t even like each other at first, or so we thought,” Diane Sullivan said of herself and her husband, Pat. “55 years later, it’s been really, really fun!”

Sullivan wedding sketch
A sketch of one of the Sullivans original wedding photos, done by their daughter, Kathleen in 2010.

The couple met in October 1959 when they were set up on a blind date. Shortly thereafter, Pat called Diane only to find out from her mother that Diane was sick and couldn’t go out. Diane didn’t like Pat much yet anyway. Pat explained at this point he was 24 years old and all of his former girlfriends were married, so did he have to lose? He decided on the spot to send Diane a dozen roses, signing the card “Mercenaze,” the name of Pat’s race horse.

Despite not being head over heels for one another quite yet, they decided to go on two more dates before Pat moved to the east coast. In December, Pat called Diane from Washington, D.C. and asked her to marry him. The couple was married on February 27, exactly 55 years ago today.

The Sullivans are longtime Spokane residents. Pat is a Gonzaga Law School alumnus and spent his career at Winston and Cashatt, where he became a senior partner. The two began volunteering with Hoopfest in 1990 in preparation for the inaugural event. Diane spent 12 years on the Hoopfest board and Pat has played in the tournament, spent numerous Hoopfests as a court monitor and volunteered year round in any way needed. Diane worked as an advocate at juvenile court, where she finished her last case specifically so she could work at Hoopfest as the administrator.

During his career, Pat was involved with the YMCA board and served as a trustee at the GU Law School and was awarded the Gonzaga Law Medal in 2010.

Together, the Sullivans have been a powerhouse team within the community and around the world. With a heart for the performing arts, they started the Spokane Interplayers professional theater group, which recently merged with Couer d’Alene’s Lake City Playhouse. Additionally, the couple funds a scholarship at Gonzaga’s Law School.

For 12 years, Pat was the chairman of the board at Hope 4 Kids International, a US-based nonprofit, humanitarian organization that sends volunteer teams around the world to bring relief to areas of severe poverty and disease. He has since been named chairman emeritus.

Sullivans africa 1

The Sullivans have traveled to 102 countries on 27 mission trips and don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon. In 2004, they began wholly investing in a project in Uganda where they visited at least once a year for 12 years. Last year they visited seven Latin American countries and are already planning to make several stops throughout Asia this year. They will likewise return to their recent focus project, Guatemala, where the Hope 4 Kids program already produced 185 water wells in 2014.

Sullivans guate

“It’s not very sexy, but…” Pat said open-endedly.

But such a necessary and meaningful contribution to humanity.

Even as they’ve traveled the globe, the Sullivans have been able to share the love of basketball and their love for Hoopfest.

“Hoopfest has been our hero,” Diane said. “We’ve taken basketballs, nets, hoops, shirts and all sorts of gear to these people who have nothing.”

At the orphanage they visit in Uganda, Hoopfest actually played a key role in facilitating the building of a basketball court next to the four dormitories there. Typically the leftover Hoopfest gear that the Sullivans have taken over has been oversized for the people who receive it, but Diane loves watching the women turn double or triple extra-large Hoopfest T-shirts into dresses.

Despite their travels, Pat and Diane always prioritize being back in Spokane each year for Hoopfest. In fact, it’s hard to find a part of Hoopfest not covered with Sullivan finger prints. Stay tuned to our March eNewsletter for more on the Sullivan legacy.

Sullivans 50th
Pat and Diane at their 50th Anniversary Celebration 5 years ago.

Our hats are off to Pat and Diane for their commitment to one another and to the world around them. Thank you, Pat and Diane, for keeping Hoopfest at the top of your list. Please join us in our congratulations.

There are 3 comments for this article

  1. Pat & Diane Sullivan says

    What a story! Thank you Sena….

  2. Judy LaMont says

    There has never been any doubt that you two capture and are the. Spirit of Hoopfest! Nice tribute!

  3. Judy LaMont says

    There has never been any doubt that you two capture and are the. Spirit of Hoopfest! Nice tribute!


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