[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.