As part of the 2018 homecoming festivities, the McPherson College Athletics department, in conjunction with the Champions Club, inducted four new members into the Athletics Hall of Fame. The 2018 class, is made up of Silas O’Neal, class of 1963, a member of the Bulldog football team, Lela (Ball) Beam, class of 1984, a former Bulldog track and field and cross county athlete, Don Cameron, class of 1973, who played basketball for the Bulldogs, and Glen Gayer, class of 1954, who was on the Bulldog basketball and baseball teams, later coached both Bulldog basketball programs, and has been a longtime supporter of the college and Bulldog Athletics.
The event took place in the Mingenback Theater and was emceed by Carol Swenson, former Mac College Sports Information Director, who was inducted into the Hall of Fame in 2014.
After a welcome from Dr. Michael Schneider, President of McPherson College, the 2018 inductees were introduced. The first inductee was Silas O’Neal, Class of 1963. O’Neal played football for the Bulldogs in 1961-1962. He was a first team All-KCAC defensive tackle in 1961, and in 1962 made the All-KCAC first team again, this time on both offense and defense. After graduating from Mac College in 1962, O’Neal moved back to Mississippi and became a high school football coach, and later a high school administrator. O’Neal was inducted into this year’s hall of fame posthumously, having passed away in 2004.
Accepting on behalf of O’Neal was his youngest son, Byron O’Neal. Byron introduced the rest of the family members who were in attendance, and thanked the college for the honor bestowed on his father. He shared with those in attendance the fondness that his father had of his time at McPherson College, and he thanked God for leading his father to McPherson.
The next inductee was Lela (Ball) Beam, a cross country / track and field runner from the class of 1984. Beam was a 1982 KCAC cross country champion with a time of 18:08, first team All-KCAC in track and field in 1983, and hold the 3K school record at Mac College. She was introduced by fellow cross country teammate Roy Grosbach. Grosbach said the thing he remembered and appreciated most about Beam, was that she was a good teammate and a caring person.
Beam accepted the award, and began by thanking “the Essence she calls God” for instilling in her the desire to run. She reminisced about her first visit to McPherson College, arriving on campus on a cold November morning. She met her future teammates and knew that McPherson College was where she needed to be.
The third inductee was Don Cameron, a member of the men’s basketball team at McPherson College and the class of 1973. Cameron came McPherson College after playing two years at Colby Community College. He was a two time letter winner in basketball for the Bulldogs, and was twice named first team All-KCAC in 1971-1972, and again in 1972-1973. After graduating from McPherson College in 1973, Cameron went on to coach high school basketball in the state of Kansas for 43 years. He was also a high school administrator for 29 years. During his time as a coach and administrator, Cameron was actively involved with Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He was introduced by his brother-in-law, Steve Burkholder, who also graduated from Mac, and was a teammate of Cameron’s
Cameron said he almost didn’t make it to Mac to play basketball. After two years at Colby, he was planning on going to Ft. Hays State University. A week before he was to report to campus, he was out for a jog, when he ran into one of his mentors. His friend asked him if he had visited Mac, when Cameron said he hadn’t, the mentor told him he should go home and call Mac and set up a visit. Cameron heeded the advice of the friend, made the call, and showed up on campus for a visit. He said that besides is relationship with Christ and his relationship with his wife, it was the best decision of his life.
The final inductee of the day, was Glen Gayer, class of 1954 and former basketball coach for both Bulldog basketball programs. During his days as a Bulldog student athlete, Gayer was a letter winner in both basketball and baseball. After a couple of successful basketball coaching stints at the high school and collegiate levels, Gayer returned to Mac College as an assistant coach for the Bulldog women. He served in that capacity for two years and then another year as an interim head coach. A decade later, he returned to the Bulldog family, this time as an assistant for the men’s program. In addition to coaching, Gayer has been leader in the McPherson community, serving faithfully in the local Kiwanis Club.
Coach Gayer’s presenter was legendary Bulldog men’s basketball coach, and fellow hall of famer, Roger Trimmell. Coach Trimmell said he first met Gayer when they both coached at rival high schools, Gayer at Buhler High School, and Trimmell at Haven High. Later their paths would cross again, and Gayer would join Trimmell’s staff at McPherson for the 1998-1999 season as an assistant coach.
True to his nature, of not seeking the lime light, and wanting others to get the credit, after being presented his award, he humbly returned to his seat, prompting Swenson to say “Coach Gayer is a man few words”, getting a chuckle from the crowd because they knew it to be true of who Coach Gayer is.
To wrap up the event, Swenson welcomed Andrew Ehling, the Bulldog Director of Athletics, to the podium. Ehling congratulated the inductees and thanked everyone for being there to celebrate with those entering the hall of fame. He echoed the sentiments of President Schneider that it is truly a great time in the life of the college. He specifically mentioned the uptick in fundraising that the athletic department has experienced this current year. He mentioned that there were just over 600 donations to the athletic department all of last year, but already this year, that number is closing in on 900.
In all it was a fitting start to the 2018 homecoming festivities, a celebration of past achievements, of faith and character, and with hope for the futures. In the words of Coach Trimmell, “It’s a great day to be a Bulldog.”