Bowles passed away Dec. 30, 2005, but his spirit could be felt throughout the weekend, from the Willamette Opener Track and Field Meet to the Hall of Fame induction ceremony. On Sunday, March 5, more than 300 attended a memorial service at Cone Field House for the beloved and legendary coach.
The weekend was a celebration of champions — Bearcats past and present and the man who showed so many what it truly means to be a winner.
Five new members were inducted into Willamette’s Athletic Hall of Fame in recognition of their outstanding contributions to the heritage and tradition of the Bearcats athletics program.
Russ Beaton ’60 coached tennis at WU from 1982-98, winning the NAIA District II title nine straight years. His teams or individual players qualified for the NAIA post-season tournament 13 of his 17 years. Beaton himself was a standout on the WU golf team, earning All-Conference honors three of his four seasons, contributing to four consecutive conference championships for the Bearcats.
Dave Fleming ’81 was a five-time Northwest Conference individual champion, twice earned NAIA All-America honors in cross country and track, and still holds several Willamette records. WU’s cross country teams won the Northwest Conference championship all four years Fleming competed, and he was a member of the 1979 cross country team inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2001.
Margaret Elizabeth Ashley (MEA) Frantz-Neal ’94 was a three-sport standout for the Bearcats. The 1992 NAIA javelin champion, she also earned NAIA All-America honors in track in 1991, 1992 and 1994. Frantz-Neal continues to hold several Willamette records in track, volleyball and basketball, and she served as team captain in all three. See MEA’s banquet remarks below.
Dan Hawkins, Bearcats football coach from 1993-97, posted an overall record of 40-12-1. He led Willamette to three Northwest Conference titles, to the NAIA quarterfinals in 1996 and to the NAIA Championship game in 1997. Hawkins was named Northwest Conference Coach of the Year three times. He moved on to coach at Boise State from 1997-2006, and a 53-10 record in his five years as head coach made him the most successful coach in Division I-A football at that time. He has since been named head coach at the University of Colorado.
Ron Jensen ’70 was a two-time All-American in the decathlon and captured the Northwest Conference shot put title in 1968 and 1970. Still a record-holder at Willamette, he was a member of the 1968 Bearcat football team that went to the NAIA semifinals and was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 1993. Jensen went on to coach track at Chemeketa Community College, Colorado State University, Idaho State University, and overseas in China and Australia before founding the Salem Track Club for local youth.
On being inducted into Willamette's Athletic Hall of Fame, Margaret Elizabeth Ashley (MEA) Frantz-Neal ’94 testified to the value of athletics in education and in life:
“I believe that Sparks Center and McCulloch Stadium are the greatest teaching facilities on this campus. What I learned on their grounds prepared me for the real world more than any class I attended.
“Athletics taught me to know my responsibility, to accept it, and to be accountable without excuses when I didn't achieve it. That hard work is hard, but it often leads to success. They taught me that physical exercise reduces stress, and being healthy requires mental and physical effort. They taught me to prepare for every possibility while remaining relaxed and flexible to change. They taught me never to cut corners. That when you cheat, you are only cheating yourself.
“They taught me that when you are a member of a group, you are accountable for and to everyone in that group, as well as how that group is perceived by others. That a lot should be learned from a failure and changes made so it doesn't happen a second time. That sometimes people just have a bad day. Regardless, they still need continued support and trust.
“They taught me that everyone has a gift. It may manifest itself differently than yours, but that doesn't mean it is less valuable. That we should encourage and debate those differences, but with love and care. They taught me if you believe in yourself and what you're doing, others will do the same, and respect will follow. That believing is the key to faith, and with faith all things are possible.
“I thank my parents for their support and encouragement. I thank my coaches for their guidance and patience. I thank my teammates for their blood, sweat and enduring friendship. I thank my husband for his continued support in my athletic pursuits. And I will be forever grateful to Chuck Bowles for recruiting me.
“So to Willamette University: I thank you, I miss you, and I will never forget you. I am truly honored. Go, Bearcats!”
Pictured left to right: Dave Fleming ’81, Ron Jensen ’70, Margaret Elizabeth Ashley Frantz-Neal ’94, Russ Beaton ’60 , Dan Hawkins