2010 Hall of Fame - Gerry Hagedorn
Courtesy: Idaho Athletic Media Relations
          Release: 01/05/2012
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A Moscow man, born and raised, Gerry Hagedorn has been a Vandal for every one of his 87 years.

From his earliest memories of watching Steve Belko and Lyle Smith leading the Vandals on the court and the gridiron, to his own moments as an Idaho student-athlete and his lifelong support of the programs, University of Idaho Athletics is ingrained in Gerry's life.

When Gerry was a young boy, his mother's cousin, Dwight Scheyer, a thrower at Washington State, visited their Moscow home. Scheyer left Gerry with two things on that occasion - a newfound interest in the sport of track and field, and a black, rubber discus.

"I learned to throw it, but I hated chasing the thing, so I started throwing it against the barn," Gerry recalls. He left so many black marks on the wall of the barn his father threatened to make him re-paint the whole thing if he didn't stop.

In high school, neighbor and former Idaho track and field coach Mike Ryan, for whom the Idaho track office is dedicated, pulled Gerry aside one day after practice, handed him a wooden javelin and a couple instructional manuals

"I tried it and loved it - that old javelin has been stuck in many a wheat field," Hagedorn said.

Gerry was a natural in the javelin and won a pair of Idaho high school state titles in the event as a junior and senior. His shining moment in high school track and field came at the state meet in his senior season in the discus, however.

"I was having a pretty good day and I got a throw off that was 156-10, and that was a state record," Gerry says with a laugh, before mentioning that his toss was bested by the very next thrower. "So, I had the state record for two minutes."

In addition to being a standout track and field athlete, Gerry also played basketball for Moscow High and excelled for the Bears as a punter and a "hard-charging fullback" on the football team. He even received recruiting interest from the University of Washington, but it didn't matter, because his mind already was made up.

"There wasn't any decision," Gerry says proudly. "I wanted to be a Vandal, I didn't want to be a Cougar and I didn't want to be a Dawg - my brother was the same way."

Gerry spent two years as a walk-on for the Vandal track and field team and even earned a walk-on spot with the basketball team, but had his career cut short after he enlisted in the Army Air Corps. He served as a pilot during World War II before returning to Moscow. He wasn't able to finish his college career, though, because his father put him to work on the family farm.

Hagedorn went on to be one of the nation's top breeders of Polled Hereford cattle - his bulls won national awards and sold for as much as $50,000 each. He also served on the national board of the American Polled Hereford Association for many years.

While Gerry may have left school early to pursue his farming career, he never forgot about his Vandals. He was a founding member of the Vandal Scholarship Fund, an organization that has provided millions of dollars in support for University of Idaho student-athletes for more than half a century. Gerry's personal contributions to Idaho athletics total in the hundreds of thousands of dollars and include the Vandal Athletic Center, the track and field offices and team equipment and endowed scholarships for student-athletes.

More than financial contributions, though, Gerry's personal connections to the program are what really stand out.

"When I first met Gerry, I just remember thinking, 'Wow, this is just the coolest guy ever,'" Idaho co-head coach Yogi Teevens says. "He would come by and hang out in the office and he fell in love with the team. He'd be at practice almost daily, just hanging out and watching the kids.

"He always just wanted to support us in any way he could, and it was a whole lot more than just financially."

Hagedorn would come to practice as often as possible and was a fixture at Idaho's local meets, and according to Teevens and many former Vandal student-athletes, Gerry's presence brightened everyone around him.

"I can vividly remember my freshman year when I first came to practice and Gerry was there," former Vandal Melinda Owen said. "We began our warm up laps and almost every one of the athletes stopped and bee-lined it to him as soon as they saw he was there. I was so amazed by how much the athletes adored him."

Teevens said that one particular event really illustrates Gerry's love for the team. He was watching Vandal great Russ Winger throw the discus at an indoor meet, and after Winger hit a big personal-best, Gerry was so excited that he jumped up, slipped on the steps and broke his hip.

"I was with him in the hospital that night before his surgery and all he could talk about was that throw," Teevens said. "He's lying there and the doctors are telling him he might not make it through the surgery, and he's just sitting there going on and on about how he got to see that throw and how excited he was for Russ."

For Gerry, the memories that stand out the most are the little things, like seeing Winger convert from the slide to the turn method in the shot put.
"I was standing out there, retrieving the shots and Russ caught one just right, and I saw him just blossom," Gerry recalled. "He didn't want to do the turn, but I saw his face when he hit that one and he just knew he'd gotten it."
Gerry formed a lasting relationship with former javelin thrower Brandon Folk, who persevered through a number of injuries during his career at Idaho and continues to talk regularly to Gerry.

"He went through so much adversity during his career, and now he's got a wife, a house and he's getting his doctorate in Mechanical Engineering, and I'm just so proud of him," Gerry said of Folk. "That's the reason I do it. That's why I give to these guys."

The most telling evidence of Hagedorn's generosity and character is how he tells his life stories. Rather than boast about his many personal accomplishments, he'd prefer to point out the feats of the many others he's met at the University of Idaho and beyond.

"He's been so successful in his life and in this community, but you wouldn't know it unless you sat him down and asked him about it," Teevens said. "He always makes sure that other people have recognition for the things that they've done, and that's just the way he is."

Gerry adds, "I almost feel guilty about going into this Hall of Fame, when there are so many athletes greater than I, who aren't going to get there."

Greater athletes there very well may be, but Gerry represents a select group of Vandals whose impact can't be counted, timed or scored, but who have shaped the history and the future of athletics at the University of Idaho.

- By Spencer Farrin
University of Idaho Athletics Media Relations

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