Plenty has changed since the group first donned Converse high tops and took the court for the Buccaneers. Now burgeoning numbers of grandchildren and retirement loom large—but a recent get-together at the home of Bob’62 and Jan Winkler brought back many Beloit memories.
The event grew out of an SAE reunion last year, organized by Frank McClellan’61 and college trustee Bill Boyd’63, who passed away in December.
Although SAE does not currently have a chapter on campus, the college hosted the reunion that brought back more than 50 SAEs from previous eras. This gathering inspired Winkler to reunite his group of friends.
“Winkler orchestrated the whole thing,” says Ben Galloway’62, a founder and co-chair of Beloit’s 1889 Council, a group founded in 2013 to support Beloit athletics that is named for the first year the college offered a formal athletics program.
The Winkler’s home served as an ideal venue for the reunion. The couple had just installed a shuffleboard in the basement identical to the one at Goody’s, the infamous Beloit tavern.
Five alumni and their spouses made the Colorado reunion, including Tom Rath’62, McClellan’61, Dennis Hodge’61, and Galloway’62. Hardboiled eggs and Pabst Blue Ribbons in hand, and standing above the doppelganger shuffleboard, the guys’ memories came back faster than a shooting guard pitted against a dwindling shot clock.
Winkler vividly recalls caravans of cars packed with teammates puttering through darkness and snow toward Northfield, Minn., and Mount Vernon and Grinnell, Iowa. “The whole team would be in a group of two or three cars,” Winkler says, “and we’d be taking these two-lane highways at night on crazy drives trying to get back to Beloit after a game.”
Rath, his high school classmate, might not have played basketball if he hadn’t taken a speech course with McClellan. “I looked at Frank and I thought ‘Frank’s as tall as I am. I used to be a starter during high school. Maybe I’ll give it a try.’”
For Galloway and McClellan, who grew up in Rockford, Ill., and Delavan, Wis., respectively, the connection to Buccaneer basketball is lifelong.
Galloway first saw the Buccaneers play in 1948. His father, Wendell Galloway’33, had season tickets. Galloway witnessed the 1951 Buccaneer victory at the Chicago Stadium against DePaul University, one of legendary coach Dolph Stanley’s great achievements.
Both Galloway and McClellan are among the final class of basketball players recruited by Stanley, although they never had the chance to play for him. Bill Knapton, another legendary head basketball coach, was waiting in the wings to start his 40-year reign at Beloit when they arrived as freshmen.
McClellan’s introduction to Beloit came through his older brother, Robert McClellan’53, who played under Stanley. “The town came out, the Field House was full of fans, Dolph Stanley’s brand of basketball put Beloit on the map.”
As the recollections between basketball and SAE bleed together, it’s clear what stands out to each of these Beloiters.
For McClellan, it’s evenings at the SAE house playing music with a handful of others “like we were the Kingston Trio” and playing basketball in Brussels, Belgium, during a semester abroad. “It’s a difficult decision to be 18- to 22-years old and walk away from your basketball team to go study abroad,” McClellan says, “but that’s the sort of thing you can do at Beloit College.”
Pride in Beloit has driven each of these men to give back, whether it’s been serving as founding members of the 1889 Council as Galloway and Hodge currently do—and McClellan did, too, until he moved to Mississippi—or Winkler’s time as an admissions counselor during the early Beloit Plan years and his work on the search committee that yielded seventh college president Martha Peterson.
“Beloit gave each of us a great education and a real sense of camaraderie,” Hodge says. “We’re all firm believers in the idea of great academics and the opportunity to give student-athletes a chance to contribute to the college.”