Dick Whatley, a member of the Hall of Fame for Athletes who served Ursinus for more than three decades in a variety of roles including coach of the football and track and field teams, passed away last month at the age of 86.
Whatley wore many hats during his time in Collegeville, which began when he accepted a position as assistant football coach, assistant professor of physical education, and Dean of Men in 1959. He took the reins of the football team in 1960, compiling a 40-77-8 record in 16 seasons, at the time the longest tenure of any Ursinus coach. He still ranks second in Ursinus history in games coached and third in victories.
Before Whatley's arrival, Ursinus had notched just two winning seasons since 1933 and had an annual recruiting budget that "would have fit comfortably into a pay phone," per an athletics guide published in 1986. Despite handicaps "that would have stopped Bear Bryant dead in his tracks," Whatley transformed the Bears into champions in 1969, when they won five of their last six games to tie Johns Hopkins and Lebanon Valley for a share of the MAC Southern Division title, their first conference crown in school history.
Whatley led the Bears to another winning season in 1972, one of only seven such campaigns between 1933 and 1998.
Whatley, who filled the role of Dean of Men during his time as head football coach before becoming associate dean of student life in later years, served as an assistant with the track and field team from 1970 until 1982, when he became head coach.
During his ten years at the helm of the track program, Whatley guided the Bears to an 81-31-1 dual-meet record. He marshalled the team to an undefeated season and the MAC championship in 1987, becoming the first coach in college history to win conference titles in two different sports. Seven school records (six indoor, one outdoor) from the Whatley era still stand to this day.
Whatley retired from Ursinus in 1993 as professor emeritus of exercise and sport science. He continued to coach during retirement in Maine at Colby College, Kents Hill School, and Winthrop High School. Whatley was inducted into the Hall of Fame for Athletes in 2004.
"Dick Whatley possessed the dynamic ability to juggle significant responsibilities for the college while fostering an environment that produced student success," said Ursinus football coach Peter Gallagher. "His distinguished Hall of Fame career impacted so many and his storied legacy will live on throughout the history of Ursinus College."
Whatley is survived by his beloved wife of 65 years, Anne Bernice Whatley (nee McKiel). He was a devoted father to William (Tina), Suzanne, Timothy, Janet Blum (Brian), Edward (Denice), and 15 grandchildren. He will be buried in Albion, Maine, on August 11. In lieu of flowers, memorials may be directed to the Ursinus College Department of Athletics at 601 E. Main Street, Collegeville, PA 19426.