For Richard McNally ’53, returning to the Marietta College campus after more than 60 years was an occasion both special and profound.
“I loved it here,” says Dick, who is 90. “This is where I had some of the best times of my life, and when it was time to graduate, I really didn’t want to leave.”
Dick grew up in Oakmont, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Pittsburgh, and worked in a steel mill right out of high school before joining the Army for an 18-month stint. He went to Marietta on the G.I. Bill in the fall 1949 semester. He admits to being just a “fair” Business student, but he had an athletic scholarship and was devoted to Pioneers football, playing for Marietta for three years as a receiver and end. He is still proud that his teammates elected him captain for the 1952 season.
Marietta is all the more special because it’s where he met Joan Walter ’53, the woman he married during their sophomore year. The young couple eloped one weekend to Elkton, Maryland, where they could get a no-fuss marriage license, then returned to campus to start the life together that they both knew was “right.”
It was a love that lasted — they celebrated their 67th anniversary in 2018, just a month before Jo passed away at age 86. “She would have loved this,” he says during a campus tour. “I don’t know why we never came back here while she was still with us.”
The visit happened this past fall as football season settled in, when Dick, now living in eastern Pennsylvania, asked his daughter and son-in-law if they’d take a road trip with him. After reading the latest issue of Marietta Magazine, he had a hankering to see the Pioneers play in Don Drumm Stadium again and to visit his old stomping grounds.
With only three home games left in the season, plans quickly were made to return for the November 9th game against Otterbein University. The weather was getting wintry, so Dick’s daughter contacted Erica Starr ’05, Assistant Director of Alumni Relations & Volunteer Programs, about getting her father a seat in the Steinhagen Suite. Soon, Tara Meagle, Coordinator of Development Events in the Office of the President, whirled into action to make Dick’s weekend in Marietta special.
It started when he checked into the Lafayette Hotel and received a goodie bag containing two Marietta shirts and a travel mug, plus a large envelope of more than 100 pages of articles and photographs from Dick’s college days, including programs and write-ups from his games.
The special treatment continued on Saturday — game day — as Tara picked up the family in the president’s golf cart and provided a personal campus tour that included Dorothy Webster Hall, where Dick courted Jo on the front porch, and Ban Johnson Arena, where Dick studied the trophy cases and Hall of Fame plaques, commenting on the teams and people of his era. The World War II-era barracks, where Dick and Jo lived as a married couple, were long gone, but Tara had found an old map and was able to pinpoint their location between Legacy Library and Gilman Student Center. The Alpha Tau Omega house has moved since Dick was active.
But Dick’s day as a “Big Man on Campus” was just beginning. After arriving at the stadium and marveling at the two-toned gray turf, he was asked to toss the coin to start the game. A high school football referee for more than 30 years, he found himself standing on the 50-yard line once again, chatting with the officials and the players.
One more surprise was in store for Dick. At the end of the game — which the Pioneers won, 21-10 — President William Ruud presented him with a game ball signed by the team.
“Wow,” Dick says on the ride home with his daughter and son-in-law. “How did you like my little school? Weren’t you impressed? What wonderful people. And they just couldn’t have been nicer.”
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Mail: Editor, Marietta Magazine, Office of Communication and Brand Management, 215 Fifth St., Marietta, OH 45750