The Judson University community mourns the sudden passing of former Athletic Director and Director of Cross Country and Track & Field Joel Popenfoose.
“Judson University is extremely saddened to learn of the passing of Joel Popenfoose,” stated Judson University President Dr. Gene Crume. “‘Coach Pop’ had a unique way of tying his pastoral experience with his coaching style to serve everyone he came across, whether it was his student-athletes, his colleagues, or the administration. When Joel took over the Athletic Director position at Judson, he was quoted in the Courier News saying, ‘my whole life has been helping people develop,’ and that is most certainly the truth. He was a Christ-like leader, and we were fortunate to have him influence our campus for several years. He will be missed dearly by the entire Judson University community.”
Under Popenfoose’s leadership from 2013 to 2021, the Eagles established 140 school records and produced 46 All-Conference performers and 17 Conference Champions. The Eagles also made their presence felt on a national level as they qualified at least one athlete for every NAIA National Championship since Popenfoose began in 2013. From 2013 to 2021, the Eagles celebrated 34 NAIA National qualifiers, 18 NAIA Daktronics Scholar-Athletes, 13 NAIA All Americans, and 5 NAIA National Champions. Eight different Eagle teams placed at NAIA Nationals during this time with the Women’s team producing three top 20 finishes including an 8th place finish at the 2019 Indoor Nationals. In addition, 6-time National Champion Anali Cisneros recorded a 4th place finish at the 2018 USATF Outdoor Championships. Popenfoose has received several awards of outstanding achievement from the Elgin Sports Hall of Fame for his programs earning national championship appearances. Popenfoose also served as an adjunct professor in the Exercise and Sports Science.
“Coach Pop was an amazing coach, mentor, leader, and pastoral influence to so many scholar-athletes, coaches, and colleagues at Judson University and beyond,” said Dr. Nikki Fennern, Executive Vice President. “Joel will forever be remembered for his continual care and concern for every person he encountered, his leadership and mentorship of scholar-athletes and staff, and the relationships he built across all aspects of the University. Our thoughts and prayers are extended to Joel’s family during this difficult time.”
The Judson University can community can support the Popenfoose family by sending cards through the Judson University President’s office and/or supporting his GoFundMe Campaign.
UPDATE: Joel Popenfoose’s memorial service will take place on Saturday, April 29, at Harvest Bible Chapel-Elgin, 1000 N. Randall Road, Elgin 60123. Visitation will be from 2:30 – 4:00 p.m. with the service starting at 4:00 p.m.