Big Crowd Surprises Coach K for 90th Birthday Salute
[Posted February 15, 2015] A full house of more than 220 alumni, co-coaches and friends came out to salute a very surprised Dick Kampmann (yes, he was surprised!) for his 90th birthday on February 7 at Pepperdine University.
Pictured above: Coach K greets 1973 Cross-Country captain Danny McQuoid, who flew from Sao Paolo, Brazil, to join in the birthday salute. (Photo courtesy Lisa Duffy Atkin/UHEF)
Uni alumni dating back to Kampmann’s first team in 1960 (!) were on hand to speak, with Western League 880 yards champion Harvey Stein getting the biggest roar:
“When I spoke to [Coach K’s son] Bill [Stimming] a few weeks ago, he said ‘This is a roast; I’d like you to roast Coach K.’ I’m thinking, ‘Roast Coach K? I mean, that’s like, roasting Moses! What do you say?”
The event was hosted by Stimming, who somehow kept the event quiet from Coach K, despite hundreds of e-mails and social-media messages promoting the event to Uni and Pepperdine alumni who had run for Kampmann over his nearly 50 years in coaching. A light lunch was served in the Rockwell Dining Center (better known as The Waves Café), with the cake and decor arranged by Angie and Francisco Campos ‘77 (a Kampmann alum).
Once seated and recovered from the surprise of the event itself, Kampmann received congratulations from Pepperdine Associate Vice Chancellor Sam Lagana, who carried with him certificates honoring Coach K from Los Angeles City Council Member Mike Bonin (11th District) and California State AssemblyMember Richard Bloom (50th District). He was also congratulated by former Pepperdine Athletic Director John Watson, current Pepperdine track & field coach Robert Radnoti, former Uni baseball and football coach Joe Sedia and current Uni cross country and track & field coach Kelly Aguda.
Among the many who stepped to the microphone to salute Kampmann were stars of yesteryear, including members of his 1970 City Track & Field and 1974 and 1975 City Cross Country champions. David Duffy, who in 1974 broke Mel Patton’s school 100 yards record from 1942, and Paul Medvin, twice State champion in the mile (1978-79), also came for the event, along with former field-events coach Bob Fordiani, and coaching competitors, friends and students including Dean Balzarett, Ron Brumel, Bruce Thomson and Francois Wolman.
Kampmann himself took the microphone for a new minutes in the middle of the program to reflect on reaching 90, the event and reflections on the journey:
“You know, it’s usually when the kids got tired running or they wanted to rest, they’d say ‘Coach, tell us a story,’ and that would take another 30-40 minutes and after a period of time, I finally caught on that ‘You don’t want to hear my story, you just want to sit here and rest.’
“I have been probably, as I guess Lou Gehrig said, the luckiest man on this earth, to have done what I was able to do and to be with the people that came out to me, and you can see that they still carried on and still have thoughts, and I think the memories that they have – that’s the reward for me, more than anything else, is that I gave these young people an opportunity to experience a little, miniature part of life and that they had to rely on each other in order to reach an objective.
“I have been very blessed in the fact that I taught at schools that gave me the opportunity to do what I feel I do best, and that is to coach and teach young people how to achieve.
“I can’t believe that all you people [can] still stand around, and you must be long-distance runners in order to hang in there that long.
“I normally speak for hours, but I am not going to do it because it’s late and I understand that some of you got other appointments, but I want to thank you very, very, very much for allowing me to coach you as a student, and the parents who turned their young people over to me for a period of time. And as you heard the talk, the kids – they’re not kids now – they’re all very strong professionals – they got out what athletics is supposed to be for, and that makes me feel good.
“Those are the memories I have and I will carry them with me.
“When I reached 90, I thought, ‘hey, maybe I can get to 100.’ (cheers) But my role model happened to be a fellow who lived to be 104, in Jim Pursell, the former USC and Uni guy. He’s been my idol [who] I followed myself [as Uni coach]. And to tell you the kind of person he was, when I was at Dorsey High School, we had a contest against Uni, and they had had a winning streak of, I think it was like 33 or 37 in a row in dual meets, and I took this group of young people, and they had never really won anything, and went over to University High School and we beat ’em, snapping their thing. And the thing that impressed me most was that after the meet was over, I was talking to Jim Pursell and he said, ‘Coach, could I get on the bus and talk to your kids for a few minutes?’ And I thought, ‘Wow, of course you can.’
“And he proceeded to tell my Dorsey kids what a fantastic job they had done in snapping a seven-year streak of whatever [number] it was. And that to me is, I said [to myself], ‘That’s the kind of coach I want to be. I want to do that.’ And that’s what I thought.
“Anyway, I thank you and appreciate everything that you have said. And we still may try for 100, but I’m not sure.”
Everyone who was in attendance is hoping he does.
Sorry I missed you coach. God bless you and all the god your brought to our lives.
Sr. Class 1975
Coach, it made my day to know you are still with us and going strong! Amazing to think that I am now the age you were when you coached me in cross country and track. You instilled in me a love of running an exertion generally that remains an abiding source of satisfaction in my life. Thank you.
Cross Country & Mile
Class of 1981
I’m am so sorry I’m missed Coach Kampmann’s birthday party. I think about him all the time. His influence on my life was and still is immense.
Class of 1966
Please correct I am class of 1978 ! My Wife Angeline & I And daughters Monica and Rachel assisted Bill Stemming yes with the cakes and decor. We have been fortunate to have Coach “K” in our lives for many, many years!
I had the honor of running one year of track under Coach Kampmann at Uni in Spring, 1964. He had watched me take joy in running up and down the basketball court and invited me to come out for the track team in my last semester at Uni. I had never run in a track meet in my life and had no great expectations. He was skillful in building those ambitions and in making me love/respect the sport. He took me and a hundred other athletes under his wing and I hope they are all as grateful as I am. Our 440yd runners placed 1-2-4 in Western League that year, and my 880yd guys placed 1-2-5. I still have my medal and it rightfully belongs to Coach K. We only had one home league meet because our track infield had gigantic gopher holes for a sprinkler system all season, but I remember Coach K running around the infield of each track where we had meets and yelling at me as I cam around each turn. At Palisades, I had never run in a staggered start before, and had never led in a race before. When we came out of the stagger, I didn’t know that I was the lead runner because I started in the far outside position and could not see any of the other runners. Coach K yelled at me to take the pole and I’m not sure what I ever would have done otherwise! When you were competing, it seemed like he only cared about you. Great memories! My four children became excellent track runners at Rio Mesa High School under an equally-talented High School track coach named Brian Fitzgerald.
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First semester 10th grade gym class, 1974: Coach K picks out my friend Ricky Derin as someone who would make a good pole vaulter. I interpret this to mean that I too would be good pole vaulter. Ricky soars to 11′ and city finals that year; I at least manage to make the travel team. Coach K (and Ford) made track team truly one of my memorable high school experiences. Keep the Faith!
Sorry I missed this whole event and later found out that Coach K had passed. I ran just two years for Uni (’79 and ’81) but have remained in track and field at the masters level since then (2016 All American in Men’s 50-54 Javelin). He was an inspiration. We had a great team in ’81 with Copland, Bray, Collins and George setting the mile relay record (still standing). Not sure who from the ’81 squad ran in college other than Bray who ran at SMC. Medvin was two years ahead of me and was precocious even in junior high school. Sorry he never broke 4 minutes but he certainly gave it his all.