Former Chicago Bears chairman Michael McCaskey has died after a long battle with cancer, the team announced on Saturday. He was 76.
The grandson of George C. Halas, McCaskey joined the organization in 1983, succeeding his grandfather as the team’s president and chief executive officer. He served in that role until 1999, when he became the Bears’ chairman. He was voted the NFL’s Executive of the Year following Chicago’s Super Bowl championship season in 1985.
In 2005, McCaskey co-founded the Bears Care charity, which has raised over $21 million for more than 100 agencies in the surrounding area. These fundraising efforts have helped a wide array of programs, including education, youth athletics and medical research and health awareness programs focusing on breast and ovarian cancer.
“Mike was already successful in every sense of the word when he took over for George S. Halas after the passing of ‘Papa Bear’ in 1983,” the McCaskey family said in a statement. “We are grateful to Mike for overseeing arguably the greatest team in NFL history, and for his many years of service to the Bears and to us. The oldest of eleven siblings has many duties thrust upon him, not all of them pleasant, yet Mike handled them all with grace and patience. Although Mike’s passing was not brought on by the novel coronavirus, our family, like so many people, is not able to gather and grieve together at this time. Our hearts go out to those who have lost loved ones to COVID-19. Our focus in the coming days will be to celebrate Mike’s life, and be whatever source of support we can be to John and Kathryn and those they love.”
McCaskey graduated from Yale in 1965 as a philosophy and psychology major. He volunteered in the Peace Corps for two years, and taught science, English and music to junior high students in Ethiopia. Before joining the Bears, he taught organizational behavior and management at UCLA, and later became an associate professor at Harvard Business School.
“My heart is heavy as I think about Michael McCaskey and can’t believe he is no longer with us,” said Bears president and CEO Ted Phillips. “His fierce love of the Bears was unmatched as was his intellectual capacity and thirst for knowledge on a myriad of subjects. Michael displayed a professorial presence that could be challenging, but was also inspiring. I will be forever grateful for the many opportunities for growth that he provided me, as well as for his trust and support. Michael always strived to do things the right way with high character and with the Bears best interests always paramount. Michael was a good man, gone much too soon. He presided over the only Super Bowl Championship Chicago Bears team in 1985, and I know he is still smiling about that magical season. God bless Michael and his family.”
The oldest of 11 children by Ed and Virginia McCaskey, Michael is survived by his two children, John and Kathryn, and one grandson, Jackson.