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Last month I had the honor of attending Coach Frank Girardi’s induction into the National Football Foundation College Football Hall of Fame. The event was held in the Grand Ballroom of the Waldorf Astoria in New York City — the same space where all Democratic and Republican candidates for President of the United States have come together for the Al Smith Dinner since 1945.
The evening was filled with love, humor and pride. The College was well-represented with three tables filled with members of the Lycoming family. A dozen members of Coach’s family were beaming and many had tears in their eyes when their beloved G was presented for induction. Several of Coach’s former players, including current head coach Mike Clark, proudly watched as the brilliance of their coach and mentor was feted in front of the luminaries of football. G’s long-time collaborators Robb Curry and Steve Wiser and trustees Peter Lynn (and his wife Joyce) and Dale Krapf (and brother Dallas) and I were no less proud and filled with emotion.
As the evening unfolded, I surveyed the room. Coach Girardi was seated on the stage near Pro Football Hall-of-Famer Rod Woodson, who was being recognized for his great collegiate career at Purdue University. Arrayed above the stage were banners from the colleges and universities of the honorees; the Lycoming College banner was surrounded by those of the University of Texas, Ole Miss, the University of Georgia, Iowa State and Colorado. It occurred to me that the whole scene was a metaphor for Lycoming’s ascendance to the status of a truly national institution.
The greats of college football were everywhere. Penn State Coach James Franklin stopped by our table to greet Dallas Krapf, who is a great friend to Nittany Lion football, as well as the Warriors. The incomparable Archie Manning received the NFF’s Gold Medal. Two-time Heisman Trophy Award Winner Archie Griffin introduced the inductees. Roger Staubach presented Verne Lundquist with a football recognizing his four decades as the voice of the SEC. Toward the beginning of the ceremony, a board member of NFF read the names of all the institutions represented in the Hall Fame. Because of the greatness of Coach Girardi, Lycoming College will forever be mentioned when this roll is called.
Peter Lynn and I had our own very close brush with greatness that evening. After attending a post dinner reception in the Empire Room, we had returned to the Grand Ballroom coat check room. As we waited for the elevator to ascend to the lobby, Peyton Manning rounded the corner, and then joined us on the elevator. For thirty seconds, we had the opportunity to chat with the man who owns almost every career passing record in the NFL. He smiled appreciatively when I told him that my wife Sharon was such a huge fan that she changed her allegiance from the Colts to the Broncos when he made that move.
During my four years in office, I’ve been privileged to come to know Frank Girardi. Coach G is an unusual person and his impact on Lycoming has been profound. The way that he compiled his extraordinary record — 13 MAC Conference titles and two appearances in the Division III national championship — taught us what it takes to achieve greatness. Coach believed in the potential of people, he was relentless in demanding the best from them, he preached and created an environment where players felt they were part of a family, and he sought perfection in execution. G’s accomplishments teach us what it will take for us to realize our vision of becoming recognized as one of the very best of the national liberal arts colleges. They should also inspire all of us to believe in the possibility of a Greater Lycoming!
Thanks and congratulations Coach Girardi!
Kent C. Trachte, Ph.D., is the 15th president of Lycoming College.