"Al Slader was a man among boys,” remembers Sports Hall of Famer Terry Hensle ’60. Terry nailed it. When Al came to Peddie as a freshman in 1956, he brought with him a precocious, unaffected manliness his classmates and teammates immediately admired. He had a way of lifting those around him by inspiring a sense of their own possibilities.
During three seasons of varsity football, Al combined the speed and agility of a halfback with the sheer physical power you’d expect from a fullback. He made a difference from day one. In his rookie game as a first-stringer, he dazzled the Pingry defenders with a surprise end run for Peddie’s first and only touchdown of the day. One game later against Admiral Farragut, he again tallied the team’s first score, leading the way to the first Peddie win of the season.
Al’s athletic ability was most visible and formidable on the wrestling mat. Rarely defeated during his grappling career, he posted a 9-1 season as a sophomore at 165. He won the state championship that year, then racked up a 10-1 record the next. Despite stepping up to 175 and even 182 to fill critical needs in the lineup, he still posted a 10-1 season as a senior.
Al’s impact as an athlete was matched by his impact as a leader. Fellow wrestler Don Gavin ’60 recalls, “Al never let his prowess go to his head. He remained a genuinely good guy who helped everyone he came into contact with, treating us all as his teammates, both on the mat and off. To a 104-lb, five-foot-tall freshman who wasn’t yet accepted by the ‘cool guys,’ this was very supportive and affirming.”
It was no surprise that Al was chosen by his wrestling teammates to be their junior-year Captain and senior-year Co-Captain. Or that he was awarded the Langford Scholarship for outstanding qualities of citizenship. Or that he was elected Class President three times and voted “Most Respected Student” in the Senior Poll.
And somehow 30 years later it was no surprise to learn that it was Al who earned worldwide respect by piloting a crippled United Airlines 747 to a safe landing after an explosion rendered the aircraft theoretically impossible to fly. It would be just like him to man up to the challenge, ignore protocol in favor of gut ability, and steady his teammates in the cockpit with the same skillfulness and nerve he showed us at Peddie. When you think about it, saving the lives of 328 passengers, 15 flight attendants, and three flight-crew members was a very Al Slader thing to do.