Brandeis University Hall of Famer Danielle Fitzpatrick was known not just as a great basketball player, but also as a great teammate. That trait has served her well in her career as a fire fighter in the town of Wellesley, Massachusetts.
“She epitomized what a teammate was,” said Brandeis women’s basketball head coach Carol Simon. “She made teammates accountable, but she also listened. She led by example and was vocal, but not ‘in your face.’ She was like a magnet. Teammates just wanted to be around her and listen to her.”
“Athletes make excellent fire fighters as they understand teamwork, and the value of preparation to be ready to meet any challenge, whatever that may be," said Wellesley Fire Department Chief Rick DeLorie. "She is a great role model with a solid work ethic and has the personality to effectively lead others."
“I began playing basketball in the sixth grade,” Fitzpatrick recalled. “I had played with friends at recess and was told I was ‘so tall that I needed to be playing for the town’ so I did.”
She started playing Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) for the New Hampshire Shooting Stars within her first year of playing, with her mother serving as assistant coach of her first team.
“I think making the high school varsity team my freshman year is when I really started to think about playing in college,” she said. “When you get that first letter of interest from a college, it is a really exciting moment. It made my goal of playing college ball all the more real and felt like all the hours I was putting in were paying off.”
“In high school, she was a very good player, strong, and competitive,” Simon said. “She was a big, strong post player who could play with her back to the basket. As soon as I saw her, I knew she was a UAA player.”
Photo: Danielle Fitzpatrick with Brandeis head coach Carol Simon
Simon was one of the main reasons Fitzpatrick chose Brandeis as were the reputations of the school and the UAA. “I knew Brandeis was a great institution and Coach Simon made a great impression on me and my family,” she recalled. “You could tell she was intense about basketball, but she also had a caring nature about the team off the court. The UAA was also one of the biggest factors in my decision, to be able to participate in such a historic and competitive conference, and getting to travel like a Division I school.”
Fitzpatrick, who was enshrined in the Brandeis Athletics Hall of Fame in 2013, is the program’s all-time leader in field goal percentage (.577 with the next-highest being .496) and field goals made (544). She ranks fifth all-time in points (1,281), doing so in the second fewest games played of the nine Judges with 1,000 career points. Fitzpatrick ranks fourth in points per game (13.8), 10th in rebounds (505), and 13th in free throws made (193).
“She stepped right in from day one,” Simon stated. “We knew she would be a great player. She was consistent throughout her career, even as a freshman.”
She scored her 1,000th career point against rival Tufts University in her senior season, yet her greatest memories from that season were the program’s first win ever at NYU and the team capturing the 2004 ECAC Women’s Basketball Championship.
Photos: L, Fitzpatrick with then Brandeis Athletic Director Sheryl Sousa; R, Fitzpatrick at her Hall of Fame induction
“After a couple of seasons struggling to get over .500, the 2004 team really came together,” Fitzpatrick stated. “Jayne Wise, Rachael Kostegan, and I were the three seniors and had our minds set on getting to the postseason after failing to do so in our first three years. It was truly playing to be the best team we could be. That true team mentality was vital to our success.”
“She did what she urged others to do,” Simon said. “Her actions as a player and teammate backed up her words.”
After graduation, Fitzpatrick became an assistant basketball coach at University of Massachusetts-Boston. She also coached at Wheelock College and Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “It was a lot of fun. I knew it was going to be really hard to fill the void of playing college basketball, but it was a great experience being in a different role,” she said. “My assistant coaches at Brandeis were so helpful to me. They pushed me, but were also so positive. I wanted to play that role for the players I coached.”
Her ties to Brandeis remained strong as Fitzpatrick worked for a year as an Alumni Relations Administrative Assistant and two and one-half years as a Campaign Operations Coordinator until January 2008. “I had a great time talking to other alumni, raising funds for Brandeis, and working with some great people, but I realized that working in an office wasn’t my true passion,” she stated. “I knew I wanted to help people with a job that was physical and challenging. My Uncle Ted was a retired fire chief and the more I learned about being a fire fighter, the more I knew it was the job for me.”
In Massachusetts, the fire fighter training requires a 10-week Fire Academy, which includes physical training every morning, classroom lectures, and extensive hands-on drills. “Not only do you learn the science of fire and how to put fires out, but also how to pump hydraulics, technical rescue, throw ladders, repelling, and how to rescue people (and ourselves) in just about any situation,” she said. “It was intense, but a lot of fun.”
After graduating from the academy, she became an Emergency Medical Technician (EMT), another requirement of becoming a fire fighter. “Growing up being a competitive athlete with great coaches who pushed me to always be better prepared me to succeed in the academy and on the job,” Fitzpatrick commented. “So much of the job relies on teamwork. It is essential to getting our jobs done effectively and efficiently.”
Photo: Danielle Fitzpatrick on the job as a Wellesley fire fighter
“She is a valued and respected member of our team on the fire department. Like any good teammate, Danielle cares about her fellow fire fighters and is totally committed to giving 100% of her effort, skills and knowledge to complete every phase of our job,” DeLorie remarked.
The Wellesley Fire Department does a lot of work with the Muscular Dystrophy Association (the national charity of the International Association of Fire Fighters for the past 60 years). The department sponsors a “Muscle Walk” every year, a “Fill the Boot” drive twice a year, and hosts a MDA holiday party at the firehouse. “Participating in these events has given me the honor of meeting many of the youth and adults who are fighting Muscular Dystrophy and really inspires me to work hard to raise money toward a cure.”
Fitzpatrick has truly found her passion passion in her career since she began in February, 2010. “Being able to help people on what is, often, the worst day of their lives is very rewarding,” she said. “Making a difference in someone’s life, no matter how big or small, and in the community is what pushes me.”
Photo: Danielle Fitzpatrick as a Wellesley fire fighter
She served in a temporary role as Lieutenant/Supervisor and DeLorie recalled her doing an excellent job in the position. “Danielle and her engine company responded to numerous calls, but one in particular stands out in my mind,” he said. “It was a multi-alarm fire in Needham. The fire was extinguished and everyone was safe.”
“Danielle is an extraordinary person who has both the passion to continually train to maintain job excellence, and is a kind and empathetic person that cares for those people that call on us for assistance. I'm proud to be the chief that hired Danielle Fitzpatrick; she is very special to all of us,” DeLorie added.