Remembering the Greatest of All Time

As the world pays tribute to the life of famed boxer Muhammad Ali, one Brooklyn College staff member recalls his chance meeting with the former heavyweight champion back in 1988.

Donald Persaud, an assistant custodian who has worked at the college for 18 years, was at work at an ice cream parlor that he owned in San Diego when he got word that the luminary was staying at a neighboring hotel. When he saw Ali walk past the parlor one afternoon, Persaud couldn’t resist extending an invitation to the champ for a cone.

“I said, ҅Mr. Ali, nice to see you,’” Persaud recalls. “He gave me a salute. I asked him if he would please come back later. He came in the next day and told me he would like a combination of chocolate chip and Oreo cookie.”

Persaud also couldn’t resist making the champ a vanilla and fudge malt, which he took with him back to his hotel. “He told me it tasted like heaven,” Persaud says. “There aren’t enough words to explain how happy he made me that day.”

Donald Persaud and Muhammad Ali

Ali, one of the most significant sports figures of the 20th century, died earlier this month in Scottsdale, Arizona, after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. The Brooklyn College Library Archives and Special Collections has, in its Hank Kaplan Boxing Archive, one of Ali’s old punching bags and a 75-pound book titled GOAT: A Tribute to Muhammad Ali (Taschen, 2004), filled with 3,000 images of the boxer known as the greatest of all time.