It is a diverse group drawn together by the experiences they had and the impact they made at the University of Maine.
The five recent inductees into the University of Maine’s Sports Hall of Fame said they will always have a special place in their hearts for Orono and the time they spent there.
An All-American rifle marksman who was the first member of his family to attend college (Milton Friend); the son of Lithuanian immigrants who set five school basketball records (John Norris); a swimmer with six New England titles (Carolyn Bryden Corse); a man who set three school baseball slugging records (Al Hackett); and the last athlete to start for three teams and who played five sports during his first year at Maine (Dana Drew) were all recalled their fondest memories of their time in Orono.
“Mine would have to be the companionships typified by the Maine ‘hello,” recalled Drew, an 83-year-old retiree who now finds himself chasing a golf ball on Cape Cod frequently. “We had a group of people who were all interested in the same things. And, at the time, the money was scarce so it made things pretty good.
“It was like a big family back then. Everybody said ‘hello’ to everybody else,” added Drew, who had a work-study job in the kitchen and used to run in his kitchen garb to practice whatever sport he was playing at the time.
“I enjoyed the practices,” said the Class of 1939 graduate who played football, basketball, baseball, outdoor track and indoor track his first year at Maine.
“He went to Patten Academy and they didn’t have football. He never even saw a football game until he made the team and played,” chuckled Hackett, who went on to work in the UMaine admissions office at and broadcast Black Bear baseball and basketball games.
“He didn’t know the positions so when they tried out, he went to the line with the fewest number of players. He became the starting halfback.”
And Drew said, “I probably enjoyed football more than the other sports. I really enjoyed it very much.”
Bangor native Norris said all he ever wanted to do was “play for the University of Maine” and to be able to do so was his best memory.
“But I came from a poor background and I never had the funds to go to school so I wound up going to Georgetown University [Washington, D.C.] for two years. There were some alumni up here who got me interested in Georgetown and they took care of everything [financially],” said Norris, who started at Georgetown before transferring to Maine.
Norris was a two-time All-Yankee Conference choice and an All-American honorable mention.
“I was homesick and I got a little financial help [to attend Maine],” he said.
Norris was a forward at Georgetown and he said that made him an even more effective center at Maine because he could hit the outside shot.
“And I’ll never forget the year we beat Rhode Island down there. We hadn’t won in their gym in 25-30 years,” said Norris.
He will always remember the home crowds.
“The fans were so good. The students were so good to us,” said Norris, a 1953 Maine grad who added that he was blessed by playing for good coaches throughout his career, including his time prior to Maine, and by being surrounded by a host of good people at the university.
Friend said it was his unique experience at Maine that led him to become a professor at the University of Wisconsin.
“It was a very small, intimate campus at the time,” said Friend, who also teaches university classes in England. “There were small classes so I got to know the professors on a personal basis and after graduation I kept in contact with several of them. It was a family-type atmosphere that created a very congenital opportunity for learning. It made a great impact on my life. It was so nice to come back. I always relate back to my opportunity to study at Maine compared to what the student of today is faced with.”
He said colleges are much more business-like these days and the personal touch that is conducive to learning is missing.
Hackett said he will never forget his baseball spring trips to Virginia, North Carolina and Washington D.C.
“I was from a little town called Derby [near Milo] and to be able to go on a spring trip to Virginia, North Carolina and Washington D.C. was like hitting the big time for me,” said Hackett, a 1953 grad. “We played one game on a field in front of the White House.”
Corse, a member of the class of 1983, earned the Kay Fromer Award as the senior swimmer who registered the most points in New England championship competition. She said she will always cherish “the camaraderie and the friendships I established. Most of them revolved around swimming.
“We developed some close bonds,” added Corse, who has used e-mail to keep in touch with her friends.
All five said that to be included on a list of 96 University of Maine Sports Hall of Fame inductees has supplied each of them with an honor they will always cherish.
“It’s amazing. I was so pleased with it,” said Drew.
Hackett said it was a “great feeling.”
Corse said when they called to tell her she had earned a spot in the Hall, “I thought it was a joke.
“It didn’t hit me until I got there. It is definitely an honor, especially when you look at the list of names [of the other inductees],” said Corse.
She also said being inducted with such a diverse group of individuals was “cool.”
Friend said the thing that made it “very gratifying for me was that they recognized somebody who participated in a non-spectator sport. And I wouldn’t have had that kind of opportunity if the university hadn’t offered that type of activity. My whole life would have been changed in many ways. It gave me the chance to enter a whole different world.”