Beau Wilcox, the young alumnus who emceed the Hendrix Sports Hall of Honor banquet Friday night, noted the amazing developments:
An former athlete in a speech used the correct past partiple form of swim (swum), possibly a first in athletic banquet history.
A coach and honoree quoted Rudyard Kipling.
Another former coach and honoree talked about skinny-dipping Durango.
Not your normal evening on the Hendrix campus.
Or was it?
Dr. Karen Cormier Burks, a former physician at UAMS who now owns a medical center in North Little Rock and a former All-America swimmer, used swum correctly in a sentence.
“I was a geek,” said the graduate of Oak Grove High School. “The athletes in high school didn’t know what to do with — and the geeks didn’t know what to do with me. I came here (Hendrix) and fit right in.”
She was wearing a dress for the occasion, which was also amazing.
“I’ve worn a dress probably five times in my life and four of those five times was for something involving Hendrix. I don’t like dresses, but this is how proud I am to represent Hendrix.”
Kim “Kiwi” Stevenson, a former star distance runner in the 1970s who traveled from his native New Zealand for the event, quoted Kipling in reflecting on his career at Hendrix, “If you can fill the unforgiving minute With 60 seconds’ worth of distance run. Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And — which is more — you’ll be a Man, my son!”
And Gerald Cound, a former roommate of Hendrix legendary coach Cliff Garrison and highly successful businessman and former track coach, noted that one of the secrets of his success was making track fun for young men, including a “skinny dipping in Durango” team bonding event on the way to a national meet.
Six were inducted Friday night. There was a continuous track theme. Five were former standouts in the sport and Burks participated in a first-cousin activity — swimming and diving.
There was also a constant theme of toughness and discipline.
The late “Woody” Robertson, who was among many who represented a golden era of Hendrix athletics in the 1930s, later had a distinguished career in education, helping several small school districts in Arkansas get out of financial distress.
John Montgomery, who had a successful coaching career at Conway, Benton, North Little Rock and Arkansas Tech, played as a 156-pound linebacker and offensive guard and wore a leather helmet. He also wore a metal facemask attached to the leather helmet because he had his nose broken three or four times — although one injury was attributed to his sister.
But, as usual, there was a lot of talk about family.
Montgomery received a plaque but he said one of his biggest rewards when he recently united with Danny Hudson, one of his athletes whom he hasn’t seen in a couple of decades. He said Hudson gave him a hug and told him, “of the people in my life who are in my life and who made me who I am, you are one of them.”
Don Weir, who still holds four Hendrix College records for track performances, grew up an orphan. He left the U.S. Naval Academy at Anapolis to enroll at Hendrix.
“I was honored to have an appointment to Anapolis but at Hendrix, I had a newfound family and I was able to do the things I loved most, running and jumping.
Cound said his first introduction to Hendrix was when he slept on what would later become a cross country course he would be familiar with while hitchhiking from Oklahoma to Dyersburg, Tenn. “But it wasn’t a very official meeting,” he said. “I love the Hendrix community. My five years (coaching) at Hendrix were as good as any in my professional life.”
Cound, who has been involved in many projects, had a couple of Forrest Gump type experiences.
Garrison recalled Cound, as an athlete at Arkansas State Teachers College, missed the team bus after a track meet in Memphis but showed up at a motel in Forrest City later than night. “Coach Raymond Bright later told me he didn’t know whether he hitchhiked or ran to Forrest City,” said Garrison.
Later, when he served as an assistant basketball coach to Garrison at Hendrix, Cound missed another bus on a cold night in Jackson, Miss. “We saw him come running back to the motel, still in his dress shoes and coat and tie. He smiled and said, ‘You left me.’” Garrison recalled.
“I hope I don’t get left many more times,” Cound said.
Stevenson noted that when he first came to Conway, he was prompted to invite a girl to a winter formal and purchase a corsage. He went to a Conway florist and his explanation of what he wanted, in his New Zealand accent, was not understood by the female clerk.
Suddenly, he heard a male voice in a back room asked him if he was from New Zealand. Then, he said he heard, “People from New Zealand take a step forward and they never take one back. I was in World War II and was in battle alongside soldiers from New Zealand. They were the toughest soldiers I’ve been around in my life. In honor of those guys, give the guy anything he wants and don’t let him pay for anything.”
He then noted, “I don’t know what the guy said, but I never paid full price for anything in this town.”
Another family — one that crosses international boundaries.
Life right on track.
(Sports columnist David McCollum can be reached at 501-505-1235 or firstname.lastname@example.org)