Dear Members of the Hamilton Community,
I am writing with the sad news that long-time professor of physical education, coach, trainer, and athletics director Eugene (Gene) Long died on Friday. He was 93.
A native of Oneonta, Gene received degrees from the Cortland State Teachers College (now SUNY Cortland), and after serving in the U.S. Marine Corps came to Hamilton in 1953 as an instructor in physical education and athletics trainer. During the ensuing 38 years until his retirement in 1991, he coached cross country, winter track, and outdoor track, and served as the athletics trainer, professor of physical education, and athletics director. Gene was also an accomplished racquet player, excelling in squash, tennis and badminton. Whenever the hockey team traveled, he and Coach Greg Batt often played squash against opposing coaches. According to one alumnus, it was said that while the hockey team did not win many games during that time, Gene and Greg were undefeated against the coaches and trainers for the other teams. He is credited with inventing the hockey goalie mask in 1959, among other innovations in athletic equipment and training practices.
A former colleague, new to the College in the early 1980s, remembers philosophical conversations with Gene:
“Gene spoke of the importance of a total program including physical education, intramurals, club sports, and varsity teams. He explained the hierarchy in terms of a pyramid or triangle, with the physical education requirement being the broad, foundational piece, then intramurals, club sports, and then varsity sports. In his model, the crucial piece was the physical education program, required for all students. This had to be a critical part of their liberal arts education providing an introduction to lifetime activities, a healthy lifestyle with an emphasis on the age old healthy mind and body philosophy of the ancient Greeks. In Gene’s program it all started with physical education and coaches were teachers first. Coaches had to be fully integrated, tenured members of the faculty with an educational role he felt was critical to the liberal arts experience.”
The colleague added: “The important thing I learned about Gene was that he had a great sense of balance, not only on the court, but in his approach to the athletic program. The program he developed served all students at all levels.”
Alumni also remember Gene with affection. One described Gene as “a fine gentleman, who conducted himself with class in all situations.” Said another, “Gene was a singular guy….a gentleman to the core, incredible motivator, fun to be around.”
Gene became athletics director at Hamilton the year after the College joined the New England Small College Athletic Conference as a charter member in 1971, and served in that role when James Michener published Sports in America in 1976. In it, Michener wrote, “Supported by the general faculty, [Long] initiated a program for all incoming men. It was in parts and seemed to me exactly what I would sponsor if I were the president of a small college. … I would like to see a program such as this in operation everywhere.”
Our Hamilton community glows less brightly with Gene’s passing. I take some comfort in the knowledge that Gene had so many significant interactions during his 38 years at Hamilton and that Gene’s passion for athletics and the role of physical education in the liberal arts lives on today.
Gene remained active in retirement, playing badminton into his late 80s and making frames for his grandson, an outstanding artist of cityscapes in oil.