Where Are They Now: John Ermilio Class of ’67 & ’72

dancing hat guy

dancing hat guy

Cassie McHugh Co-Editor in Chief

Did you know that the CEO of Wawa went to Villanova? Or that NASA astronaut Andrew M. Allen is a Villanovan? Villanova has a network of over 123,000 alumni, many of whom have gone on to do incredible things. They have stories to tell, advice to share, and amazing memories of their own Villanova experiences. In this column, we will share their stories, both of their time here at Villanova and beyond. 

This week, we feature John Ermilio, who you might know better as “dancing hat guy.” Ermilio graduated from the University with both Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees in mathematics and has spent his career as a consulting actuary, specializing in retirement and pensions. He sat down with us last week, shortly before heading out to Pittsburgh, to talk about being one of Villanova’s most recognizable faces, his thoughts on this year’s team, and his favorite Villanova memories.   

The Villanovan (TV): You’re famous throughout the Villanova community as the “dancing guy” at basketball games. What has that experience been like? 

John Ermilio (JE): It’s been more fun than anything else. People keep saying, ‘What are you doing?’ I say, ‘I’m having an awfully good time.’ The team, the coaches, the parents—they’re doing a lot of hard work for us to have a lot of fun. The biggest fun of all is high fiving the people next to me. It’s funny because before a game I get a little bit nervous. I get a little pit in my stomach, like ‘Oh my God, I hope I come up with some moves.’ But it’s fun to do it.

TV: Is there a game that was most memorable for you?

JE: There was a game in Minnesota, about ten, fifteen years ago, and we hoped to get to the Final Four, and we lost. Everybody else in those times, you lose and you’re booing and making jabs. The students get up after the game, and they chant ‘Thank you seniors.’ I was taken aback. I was welled up, that the students here are so respectful. You know, everybody’s sad about it, but they took the time to say thank you to the seniors… Those are games I remember because it was just great to be involved in that part of Villanova.

TV: What was your experience like at the 2016 championship?

JE: That was something else. It was such an honor to be any way associated with that team. That team was special. When Daniel comes out with the broom—Nothing’s gonna stop us. I never ever thought, ‘We’re going to lose this game.’ The team never stopped playing their game. They never stopped being committed to excellence. And you know, I’m seeing it again with this team. This team is like a symphony. 

TV: Do you have a life motto?

JE: We’re here for a very short time, and I think, if anything, we don’t know anything. Our real life begins after this. If there’s a life motto I have, it’s whatever the issues are, whatever the problems are, the pain or enjoyment, you’re lucky if you enjoy most of it, and you haven’t even started yet. 

TV: If you could be a Villanova student again for a day, what would you do?

JE: I get to do that a little bit because my son’s here [Editor’s note: Ermilio’s son Jordan is the Director of Engineering Service Learning and an adjunct professor at the University] and I get involved with the programs he’s in. I take potential donors to his class. He has an open class every Friday at 2:30. All the different projects he has going, he puts them all together and they report to each other. If I was a student again, I would do that. Thanks to all the work that all the other people do. 

TV: Isn’t that always what it comes back to?

JE: Right. Tap the rock. 

TV: What is your best piece of advice for a current Villanova student?

JE: If anything, I feel like I’m being left out by the technology. Students today—I tell my grandchildren this—Be prepared for absolutely anything. Be the creator of it. Be the inventor of it, the innovator. Think outside the box. The box traps you. Get outside the box. You have to think ten years ahead. I was just thinking coming over here, self-driving cars are outrageous. I can’t even think about what I’m going to do in the car. (laughs) That requires you to think outside the box.

TV: What’s the best connection you made during your time here?

JE: I met my best friend in life on the first day of school here. To this day, we’re just best of friends. The friends you make in college are the ones. 

TV: What’s your favorite Villanova memory?

JE: When we won the Championship in 1985, I was 40 years old at the time. I called my dad, and I said to him, ‘I’ve been waiting 40 years for this,’ and he says ‘Yeah, I’ve been waiting 70.’ I hold onto that. In 2016, when we won, I was in Houston and I had a room and I called both of my sons and I said, ‘Come down here. You gotta come be with us for the Championship game.’ They both said the same thing —‘When we were ten years old in 1985, we were with our dad on Lancaster Avenue. We want to be with our boys. Dad, thanks but no thanks.’ I felt good about that. You talk about Villanova memories, that’s a ‘Tap the Rock,’ that goes back to the 1930s when my dad was here. I always try and think of on campus memories, and there was a time when I was on campus and it was empty. People were leaving for Christmas. But I felt at home. I felt this comfort being here. I felt this belonging.