What’s in a Name?

by Darcie Shinberger

For nearly nine decades Western Illinois University has been known as the Leathernecks or the Fighting Leathernecks, but how did the University go from the “Fighting Teachers” to the Leathernecks? There’s only one answer …. because of one man.

Col. Ray "Rock" Hanson

Legendary WWI and WWII Hero and decorated Marine Corps Colonel Ray “Rock” Hanson

Legendary WWI and WWII Hero and decorated Marine Corps Colonel Ray “Rock” Hanson began his long tenure at Western in 1926. It was because of Hanson’s determination and persistence, along with his Marine Corps legacy, that helped secure The Fighting Leathernecks as WIU’s team name in 1927. Today, Western remains the only public school in the U.S. with permission to use the Leathernecks as its nickname.

Hanson, who coached football, baseball, and basketball, served as director of the physical education department and is distinguished as the longest-serving athletic director at Western. Even after his retirement in 1964, Coach Hanson remained active at Western and in the Macomb community. He passed away Jan. 4, 1982, at the age of 86.

Hanson’s name lives on at Western not only through the school’s nickname, but Col. Rock III (a/k/a Rocky), an English bulldog and Western’s mascot, is named in honor of this brave recipient of the Silver Star citation for bravery, a French Croix de Guerre, and a Purple Heart.

The first English Bulldog, a symbol of the U.S. Marine Corps, arrived at WIU in September 1959 to serve as the first official Leathernecks mascot. A few weeks later, the Student Government Association Executive Council selected the name Col. Rock for the new mascot from more than 200 entries in a naming contest. WIU student Richard Stevenson submitted the winning name.

Pennants from the Rock Hanson Collection at the Western Illinois University Bookstore

Pennants from the Rock Hanson Collection at the Western Illinois University Bookstore

While Col. Hanson has been gone for nearly 30 years, his legacy continues each and every day at Western Illinois University.

And as we say at WIU… Every Day Is a Great Day to Be a Leatherneck!

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Next time you’re at the WIU Bookstore, check out the new Ray “Rock” Hanson Vintage Collection! (You can also order online at bookstore.wiu.edu/Rock-Hanson-Collection_c_23.html.) Read more about it at www.wiu.edu/news/newsrelease.php?release_id=12897.

Kowal: Leathernecks Help Leathernecks

Connie Kowal at WIU Feb. 9, 2015

Conrad “Connie” Kowal–who graduated with his bachelor’s degree from Western in 1974 and, that same year, played on Western’s baseball team, which was one of the most successful baseball teams in WIU history?spoke to students in a few management and marketing classes Monday, Feb. 9.

Last Monday, Western Illinois University students were able to meet–and learn from–one of Western’s many accomplished legacies.

Conrad “Connie” Kowal, who was named one of Western’s “Distinguished Alumni” in 1992, traveled back to his alma mater to attend the third annual Western Illinois Baseball Lead Off Dinner Sunday, Feb. 8.

Although he’s a busy sports marketing executive–Connie is currently the director of the Libertyville Sports Complex & Recreation Department (he also served as a sports executive with the Chicago Cubs for 14 years, 1985-98, and was the senior director of marketing and business development/business chief of staff for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints from 2003-05)–Connie stayed over in Macomb through Monday in order to share his 30+ years of experience in the sports marketing/management industry with many soon-to-be fellow Leatherneck alumni.

WIU Management and Marketing Assistant Professor Cathy Onion “booked” Connie–who graduated with his bachelor’s degree in 1974 and, that same year, played on Western’s baseball team, which was one of the most successful baseball teams in WIU history–to speak to students taking courses in business communications, management principles, direct marketing management, marketing management, and recreation sport principles, as well as to members of the Marketing Club and Sport Management Association student organizations.

While many Western students didn’t get to meet Connie last week, Professor Onion shared some nuggets of Connie’s wisdom (and stories about his career and WIU experiences) below.

WIU Alumnus '74 Connie Kowal

WIU Alum (’74) Connie Kowal

Q). Why do you feel it’s important to invite successful alumni back to talk with students?

Prof. Onion: It’s one thing to hear tips and advice from your advisers and professors, but when an alum speaks to students, he/she lends credibility to what a professor is saying. In my experience, the alumni who return to campus to speak typically share three traits:

  1. They love the institution and value the education they earned at WIU.
  2. They want to offer advice and expertise in their markets (areas of work or study).
  3. They want to help students. As Connie says, “Leathernecks Help Leathernecks.”

Q). What was his presentation about?

Onion: He talked about his experience with the Cubs and his good friend Ernie Banks. He also discussed his work with the National Football League’s New Orleans Saints in 2003, 2004, as well as in 2005–the Hurricane Katrina year.

WIU alumnus Connie Kowal's presentation to WIU students Feb. 9, 2015.

WIU alumnus Connie Kowal’s presentation to WIU students Feb. 9, 2015.

In April of 2005 (draft day), he established the marketing theme “Ya Gotta Have Faith.” As he shared his experiences with WIU students, he noted: “Little did we know that just a few months later, when Katrina hit New Orleans August 29, our marketing campaign would have two meanings.”

He continued:

“We evacuated New Orleans and moved our operation to the San Antonio’s Alamodome. Our operation was set up in the basement of the Alamodome with piping and drapes. We were a glorified trade show. We put in 23-hour days, and I grew a beard because I simply did not have time to shave. We were managing our jobs, but we were also managing lives of players and personnel. Everything they had was eight hours away. The NFL season–which was only two weeks away–was not going to wait on us. We had to do whatever it took to be ready. We had guys (players) practicing in parking lots and just anywhere they could find a space. When we won that opening game September 11 by three points (23-20) against the Carolina Panthers, there was not a dry eye in the locker room–not one. It was the most emotional win I’ve ever experienced. I’ll never forget it.”

When a student asked Connie: “Can you tell us a story of compassion shown after Hurricane Katrina?” He replied:

“All of America reached out to us. Everyone. Everywhere. Whatever they could do to help, they did.”

Below are some of his Connie “isms” he shared, too:

  • Mind your ABCs — Be Accessible, Be Reliable, Be Credible
  • Be the #1 fan of your own fan club
  • Work hard, do your job, work hard, do your job, work hard, do your job. Grinders win in life!
  • If I can do it, you can do it. I’m not that good. I just out-hustled people
  • Sports is a perishable product. If you don’t sell the seat today, you can’t resell it tomorrow–game over. Do your job.
  • The smallest task can lead to the biggest accomplishment.
  • Business is a contact sport. Learn to talk to people. I’ve never hired thumbs. I hire people.
  • Never pretend to be someone you are not.
  • This is not a one-and-done relationship. You have my contact information. If I can help you in anyway, please get in touch with me and remember: Leathernecks Help Leathernecks!

Q). Anything else you want to highlight about Connie’s presentations to students?

Onion: Just one of the stories he shared… His freshman year, Connie tried out for the WIU baseball team. He was cut.

“I didn’t blame the coach or say I got a bad deal. I worked at it and came back the next year,” he explained.

He watched every WIU baseball game from the stands and played in a summer league. The next year, he went back to the tryouts and introduced himself to Coach Pawlow again. He made the team. He was a utility player–until his senior year. Then the coach put him in as a back up at third base, and he went 4 for 4 at the plate. He never came out of the lineup again.

“I’m 5’5, my name is Connie for goodness sake, I have an overbite, and I’ve lost my hair,” he told students. “I had a lot of things to overcome, but I did it.”

The 1974 team he played on was one game away from the College World Series, when they lost in the bottom of the 11th inning, 0-1, due to a walk off.

Street sign’s namesake was a Civil Rights leader

Ever noticed that the street signs on Murray Street–right in front of the Union–have a second name, “C.T. Vivian Way”?

Maybe when you’re walking to and from class, the last thing on your mind is why certain streets are named the way they are. But this street sign is one you should definitely take note of from now on.

The man behind the name is Cordy Tindell Vivian, a WIU alumnus who was a close friend and lieutenant of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., who just happened to be on campus last Friday to speak about his educational experiences as part of the national HistoryMakers’ program.

picture of C.T. Vivian greeting students and staff

WIU alumnus and Civil Rights activist C.T. Vivian, right, greets students and staff at WIU on Sept. 17.

picture of C.T. Vivian speaking at WIU

Vivian, a Macomb native, was a close friend and lieutenant of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

In his Sept. 17 speech at Western, Vivian, a Macomb native, said today’s minority students are not receiving the level of education, or educational support, they can and should be.

“What we did for civil rights then, we’ve got to do that in education now,” he said. “There’s got to be an education movement that’s just as important as the Civil Rights Movement was.”

Read the full story about Vivian’s visit here.

President Bayliss and President Lincoln (and body-stealing?!?)

For those of you who live in Bayliss Hall–or did back when you were a student–have you ever thought about where the name of the residence hall comes Bayliss Hallfrom?

If I told you it was a past president of WIU, Alfred E. Bayliss, who took office in 1906, maybe you would take note and …move on.

But what if you were to hear that past-president Bayliss shares a connection to Abraham Lincoln–and to bodysnatchers?

(Now, don’t worry, WIU hasn’t jumped on the vampire bandwagon."Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" book)

But this story did arise because of an intriguing-sounding book.

Recently, WIU Campus Recreation employee Julie Terstriep (who also happens to be an alumna) started wondering about Western’s presidential past when she found herself engrossed in a good book, a true story that focused on the time period after President Lincoln’s assassination.

As she was reading, she came across a name that jumped off the page: the same name that marks the residence hall just east of where she works on campus.

“It mentioned that Clara Bayliss was at Lincoln’s reburial on behalf of her husband [Alfred], as he was a member of the National Lincoln Monument Association,” Terstriep explained.

Excuse me, but did you just say “re-burial”?

Terstriep was reading the 2007 book written by Thomas Craughwell called Stealing Lincoln’s Body. According to its description on Amazon.com, the book

“provides an intriguing glimpse at a macabre but interesting footnote to the story of Abraham Lincoln: the tale of how, on election night of 1876, several Chicago counterfeiters attempted to abduct and hold for ransom the 16th president’s corpse. …”

Terstriep was curious about whether the Bayliss mentioned at the reburial could possibly be the same Bayliss who once led WIU. So she contacted Western "Stealing Lincoln's Body" book coverIllinois University Archives, and did some more digging. She even contacted the author himself.

And it turned out her hunch was right. Here’s what she learned:

Born in Gloucester, England in 1847, Bayliss came to the U.S. at age six. By the time he was 12 he was supporting himself and working his way through the Hillsdale Academy in Michigan. At 16, Bayliss enlisted in the 11th Michigan Cavalry. He was present at the capture of Jefferson Davis.

He later became a principal at LaGrange High School in Indiana. Four years later, he moved to the position of superintendent of public schools in Sterling, IL. It was from this position that Bayliss came to WIU. During his years as president of Western, he was known for hand-picking faculty, believing that good teachers were “called” to the profession.

And, Terstriep learned, his wife represented him (as a member of the National Lincoln Monument Association) as Lincoln’s reburial in 1901 in Springfield.

“I just thought it was a really cool story,” she said.

But there’s still one question remaining: why wasn’t Alfred Bayliss at the reburial himself? There’s no clear answer.

But even if she doesn’t find one, she at least knows more about the history of her university now. And, she says, she’s prepared to win the next round of trivia!