WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass. — Four longtime members of the Williams College Athletic Department who served a combined 153 years were feted on Tuesday evening, May 27, in the Faculty Club.
Ed Grees, Mike Russo, Bud Fisher and Dick Farley were honored at a program emceed by Athletic Director Lisa Melendy and sponsored by President Adam Falk.
Retired Athletic Director Bob Peck, who was in attendance, hired all four of the Eph coaches.
Grees was the head Alpine ski coach for 33 years.
Early in his Williams career, Grees was working in the Outing Club Office and coaching and as a joke, he wrote a course description for "Beginning Bear Hunting." But the joke was on Grees as the course description made it into the college's course catalog and six students signed up for the class.
That, he joked, was "the first time I thought I was going to get fired at Williams ... ."
But the college kept him around to coach 20 Eph All-Americans competing against Division I scholarship athletes with Division III financial-aid supported athletes.
Russo concludes his soccer coaching career at the conclusion of the 2014 season, which will be his 36th year directing the program. He has been named the National Coach of the Year four times and is the first NCAA coach on any level to win the national award in consecutive seasons.
In his first three seasons, the Ephs won a total of eight games. After opening season No. 4 with a loss to RPI, he told his wife, Angela, "I don't think we're going to be here long." That was 32 years ago.
Russo recalled a knock on his door after that season-opening loss to RPI. It was Aytac Apaydin, a junior from Turkey, who assured Russo that the team would soon get a handle on his concepts and tactics and perform better. That 1982 team went on to finish 10-5-1, recording a 1-0 win over Dartmouth. The 1982 season was the first of 32 consecutive winning seasons under Russo.
He told the gathering about the one time he had been hired away from Williams by the New England Revolution of the Major League Soccer. After two nights of walking around Williamstown and thinking about leaving, he decided he could not leave Williams.
Russo has coached 51 All-Americans and four national players of the year and four players who have gone on to play for their national team.
Fisher, a native of Rumford, Maine, was teaching in the Rumford school system and on the verge of what he considered his dream job — head ski coach at Rumford High School — when he received a phone call from Williams Athletic Director Bob Peck asking that he come to Williamstown for an interview.
Fisher was hired as the head Nordic coach, coached freshmen baseball, was the first head coach of women's cross country and has been at Williams for 42 years — except for the two days he spent reconsidering his decision to accept, and then reject, the job of head coach of the U.S. National Team.
Fisher said he "greatly appreciated the advice of Bob Peck to take advantage of sabbaticals and coaching exchanges to remain current and fresh in coaching" and that Williams is a special place for "allowing us all to explore and experience new situations."
He will not coach Nordic skiing next year, but he will fill in for Melendy, who will be on sabbatical, before he finally returns to his beloved Maine in spring 2015.
Fisher coached nine All-Americans competing against Division I scholarship athletes at NCAA championships with financial aid supported athletes.
Farley arrived in fall 1972 as an assistant football and track and field coach. Planning to stay two years, he remained for an additional 40.
Farley was an assistant coach in men's and women's track and field, then the head coach for both. He became an assistant track coach again when he was named the Ephs' head football coach. Two years ago, he was co-coach of men's and women's track and field with Peter Farwell and then finally as an assistant this past year, capping his 42 years.
He spent 32 years coaching Eph football, with the first 15 years as an assistant under Bob Odell before being named the head coach in 1987. He never had a losing season and he posted the first perfect football season (8-0-0) in college history in 1989, then posted four more.
Farley coached nine First Team All-Americans and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006.
"I always told my players it was faith, family, football, but I probably screwed that up and put football ahead of family," he said. "If I was asked to trade positions with my wife, Suzanne, and make the commitment she made, I could not do it. She's a saint."
Known for being blunt and honest in his observations after track practices, he would tell his athletes who said they felt good that they were lazy for not extending themselves and feeling worn out.
"It's track, you're not supposed to feel good after practice," he said.
Perhaps Farley's most famous phrase is "if you can't play here you can't play anywhere, there is no Division IV."
On Oct. 11, 2014, the new turf football/lacrosse field at Weston Field Athletic Complex will be named Farley-Lamb, recognizing the contributions of Dick Farley and Renzie Lamb. Lamb is a former assistant coach in football and longtime Eph head men's lacrosse coach.