On the occasion of its annual Founders Day ceremony (celebrating 181 years of operation) Kalamazoo College announced the George Acker Endowed Scholarship. The scholarship will support juniors or seniors who best exemplify the qualities and character of Coach Acker, including an exceptional work ethic, leadership, a commitment to involvement in campus activities, and a high standard of integrity. Preference will be given to students who are (like Coach Acker was) the first in his family to attend college.
Acker served as a coach and professor at Kalamazoo College for 35 years (1958-93) and was inducted into the Kalamazoo College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998. He coached men’s tennis teams to seven NCAA Division III championships while winning 35 consecutive MIAA championships. His tennis teams were 573-231 overall and an incredible 209-1 in conference play.
Acker was as true a “liberal arts coach” as they come. He served as head coach of the Hornet wrestling (1960-74) and cross-country (1985-88) teams. He also was line coach for the Hornet football team from 1959-69, helping guide Rolla Anderson’s squads to back-to-back MIAA championships in 1962 and 1963. He served as the College’s athletic trainer and director of the intramural sports program at different times during his career.
Most of all, he loved teaching. “Nothing has given me as much pleasure as teaching the students in my theory and activities classes,” said Acker in 1985, when he accepted the Florence J. Lucasse Award for Excellence in Teaching, the faculty’s highest honor. “Teaching and coaching are very similar, so that I feel that when I’m coaching a sport it is an extension of my teaching.” Many persons, including this author, knew “Coach” as “Teacher,” and as profoundly as the athletes he instructed, they, too, were touched by his compassion and his ability to bring out their best. Coach Acker died on July 20, 2011, of complications surrounding the stroke he suffered several days earlier.