SECOND HALF

How important is the renovation of Angell Field? Absolutely indispensable, according to George Acker, a “liberal arts” coach in the truest sense of balance.

How about the following for liberal arts bona fides: 

George Acker served as a coach and professor at Kalamazoo College for 35 years (1958-93) and was inducted into the Kalamazoo College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1998. He coached men’s tennis teams to seven NCAA Division III championships while winning 35 consecutive MIAA championships. His tennis teams were 537-231 overall and an incredible 209-1 in conference play.

Acker was as true a “liberal arts coach” as they come. He served as head coach of the Hornet wrestling (1960-74) and cross-country (1985-88) teams. He also was line coach for the Hornet football team from 1959-69, helping guide Rolla Anderson’s squads to back-to-back MIAA championships in 1962 and 1963. He served as the College’s athletic trainer and director of intramurals at different times during his career.

Most of all, he loved teaching. “Nothing has given me as much pleasure as teaching the students in my theory and activities classes,” said Acker in 1985, when he accepted the Florence J. Lucasse Award for Excellence in Teaching, the faculty’s highest honor. “Teaching and coaching are very similar, so that I feel that when I’m coaching a sport it is an extension of my teaching.”

Acker believes athletics to be “the other half” of a complete education, and cited the importance of activities to “the development of a balanced individual.” Such activities include varsity and intramural sports as well as other co-curricular endeavors.

This belief helps explain Acker’s enthusiasm for the Angell Field project. “An excellent facility is one of the five fundamentals of a winning tradition,” he explains. “I’d like to see all 16 sports at ‘K’ achieve the success and respectability that men’s tennis and swimming enjoys. Excellent facilities attract great student athletes.” In his 1985 speech, Acker stated the indispensability of the soon-to-be-completed  Markin Indoor Tennis Center, and from that experience the former football coach knows how valuable will be the Angell Field renovation to the College’s program in football, soccer, baseball, and softball.

True to his liberal arts nature, Acker always enjoyed the study of multiple sports and was never shy about tapping the expertise of other “coach-professors.” For example, when he was coaching wrestling and cross-country he sought out his counterparts at Western Michigan University and spent hours learning from them. His goal: “to put myself in the best position to make good decisions on behalf of my players. I wanted my learning to make the learning experience better for every student.”
"Athletics is the other half of a balanced education."
And so he always kept at it. At age 82 Acker, a former student athlete himself, continues to find life rich and rewarding because of the persistence of the “student” half of that compound noun.

But he also values “the other half,” and mustered a pretty impressive academic ally to bolster the contention of his 1985 acceptance speech—none other than Plato. Acker paraphrased Greek philosopher as follows: “A person who is only an athlete is too crude, too vulgar, too much a savage. A person who is a scholar only is too soft, too effeminate. The ideal citizen is the scholar athlete, the person of thought and action.”

And thus his excitement over the Angell Field renovation project, which will break ground this spring. “I think President Wilson-Oyelaran said it best when she cited the College’s long tradition of great academics and then added that our athletic facilities must ‘reflect the same excellence found in our classrooms,’ says Acker.  “For me, the football field, the wrestling room, the cross-country course, and the tennis court were my classrooms.”

Picture 1
Gridiron line coach in 1963
Picture 2
With 1978 NCAA Division III National Tennis Champions (l-r): Chris Bussert, Jim Hosner, Dan Thomson, and Mike Herndoblen
Picture 3
The “liberal arts” coach in 2011



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51 RESPONSES TO SECOND HALF
STEVEN ADAMS '76 on May 20, 2011 at 3:49 pm
Having participated in various organized sports for some 30 years, in the 3 years I wrestled for Coach Acker he established himself as my all time favorite coach and the one I search out when I return for homecoming (35 years this fall). God bless him and his wonderful family.
Bob Foxworthy '69 on May 20, 2011 at 11:55 pm
George (and K) had a winning streak unbeaten by any college team in any sport, I've been told. My P.E. Tennis and badminton classes with him taught me the basics by a master
Uwe H. Burghardt 1983 on May 22, 2011 at 8:26 am
I just had two terms of tennis lessons in my life and those were with George Acker in 1983 and 1983, while I was at K as a German foreigen student on exchange from Münster University. He is the greatest coach I have ever met and even though I never played again, I will always remember his gentle and professional way of teaching ! He and Dr. Nielsen and Dr. Stauffer as well as Joe Fugate are always on my mind, when I think of Kalamazoo and its College. Great experience and great people ! Thanks for your friendship! Always yours Uwe H. Burghardt in Odenthal, Germany
Rick Knoechel - Class of 1978 on May 23, 2011 at 12:12 pm
I had the pleasure of knowing the Acker family from my early days at Westwood Elementary in Kalamazaoo all the way throuhg my graduation from K-College in 1978. I swam with the Acker girls in YMCA and club swimming programs and Played tennis at Kalamazaoo Central with two of the 4 Acker daughters. Coach Acker has always been a class act and his record of tennis success at K as well as guiding successful student athletes is something to be celebrated! Congratualtions Coach
Jim Heath 1978 on May 23, 2011 at 3:37 pm
One of the finest people I have known at Kalamazoo College during my seven years there--4 as a student/athlete and 3 as a coach. Not only was Coach Acker the consumate coach--a tremendous winner, developer of athletes and legacy builder-- was/is a great human being and a role model.
george lambert 66 on May 23, 2011 at 10:26 pm
Despite never playing any sports at K, other than intramural, I continue to remember his professional attitude and very genuine personal interest in the rest of us as well, during p.e. classes and around the quad. A great man measured by his record - and everyday when off the record as well. I'll kick in $1k if you build a project in his honor.
george lambert 66 on May 23, 2011 at 11:04 pm
PS Although i didn't fully appreciate it at the time, despite how important winning is for college coaches, Coach Acker did indeed live the liberal arts vision by leaving plenty of his spirit for all of us. An ace on and off the court.
Don A.Lenox, 1966 on May 23, 2011 at 11:30 pm
I had the good fortune to play for the 1962 and 1963 football teams - good fortune in learning what it takes to win a championship (in anything!), good fortune to learn how to truly coach a sport, and especially good fortune to learn under George and Rolla. I have utilized those lessons well in my coaching youth sports (football, basketball, baseball, soccer, and co-ed softball), for George and Rolla were my role models, and there have been times when in following their examples, the teams I have coached have won championships, too. I also remember well how hard George worked us to be in tip top shape for playing on Saturday afternoons (one reason the team won championships), and at one reunion of our team, I shared with him how that also taught me that one cannot succeed in anything if one is not fit for the activity and does not have the toughness it takes to succeed (include in that mental, emotional, and spiritual fitness as well as physical), and he responded that if you're not properly trained and prepared, you are not going to make the grade in anything. I agree that he has been a "class act" all of his life, and that his teaching has had an enormous effect on many people he does not even know - the recipients of the wisdom and teaching that he gave us and we have passed on to them. Thank you George!!
Ken Elzinga, 1963 on June 3, 2011 at 12:42 pm
Tennis was my entry point into Kalamazoo College. I had the privilege of being on the tennis team my first two years and played under Coach Acker at that time. Over the years my admiration for Coach Acker has grown. He contributed a great deal to the Kalamazoo College community. His major contribution to me was was not pressuring me to remain on the tennis team when, at the start of my junior year, I realized that I probably could not play varsity tennis, continue my part time job (I was a townie, living at home), and do excellent work in the classroom. Something had to give. Deciding to drop varsity tennis was a big deal for me at the time. Having made that choice, Coach Acker never put me down as a quitter, but instead respected my decision. Hindsight revealed my decision to be a wise one. My grades shot up in my junior and senior years and I was off to graduate school on a full ride. Had I pursued tennis, I don't think I would have been off to Wimbledon! Thanks, coach, for being a liberal arts coach.
Anne McIlree Noble 1982 on July 20, 2011 at 4:36 pm
I was/am so non-athletic, but Coach Acker was patient with me when I took his tennis classes to meet my physical ed requirements. I was blessed to see him several weeks ago on campus - first time I had seen him since I graduated. Rest in peace, Coach. Prayers, comfort and peace to his family.
Steve Gorno, Hope College Men's Tennis Coach on July 20, 2011 at 4:45 pm
As a former tennis player at Holland High School, receiving a recruiting letter from Coach Acker remains one of the highlights of my playing career. I don't know if I would have been talented enought to make the varsity lineup, but the fact that Coach Acker thought I had the potential to play at Kalamazoo was a huge honor for me as a player. I chose to attend the University of Michigan instead but have often looked back and wished I could have had the opportunity to play for and learn from Coach Acker for four years. As a young coach at Hope College, I had the opportunity to compete against Coach Acker and some of his great tennis teams of the early 90's. Although Kalamazoo resoundingly defeated us each time we played, Coach was always humble and uplifting in his interactions with me before, during, and after these matches. He was never cocky or arrogant no matter how great his team was and his players were true reflections of both his humility and his quiet, confident sense of purpose. He was, unwittingly, one of my biggest mentors as a young coach as I watched him coach his teams, interact with his players, and handle himself with other coaches. He was the epitome of a servant leader, always placing the needs of others in front of his own. But the one thing that I found most inspiring about him was the fact that he truly and deeply loved his players - not a platonic love that you feel for others but a paternal love that you would feel deep in your soul for your own child. What an amazing gift to share with these young men, and all they while he was teaching them to be champions both on the court and in their lives. I always had the deepest respect and admiration for Coach Acker and believe that he is one of those once in a lifetime role models that blessed the lives of anyone who was priveleged enough to meet him. He lived his values every day - living and loving in such a pure and simple way. He was an icon - a legend who had accomplished more in life than most of us dare to dream - but in meeting him, you wouldn't be able to distinguish him from any other ordinary man. That was his way and I believe that the way he lived is an even greater legacy than his unbelieveable accomplishments as a teacher and coach. The only other person I know of that lived on a par with Coach Acker would be John Wooden. The similarities in how they lived, how they loved their wives so deeply, how they loved their players, how they touched lives and taught indispensable life lessons while coaching a sport, are hard to overlook. I have been truly blessed to have known Coach Acker. I am a better coach, and probably more important to Coach Acker, a better person because I knew him.
Ed Walsh '92 on July 21, 2011 at 8:57 am
Although I never played for Coach, there was no way you could attend 'K and not be influenced by him. He was such a gracious and noble man who was kind to all athletes and students - no matter what sport you played (or did not play). His support of the college, in all areas, was strong and meaningful. He was present @ all kinds of events and mingled with everyone. He provided constant encouragement to many of us and I'm hopeful he knew how much it meant. We all admired and loved him - a legend who will remembered forever. Prayers and love to the entire Acker family!
Tessa Emenheiser K92 on July 21, 2011 at 9:32 am
I felt like my diploma from K would have lacked authenticity if I hadn't completed at least "Tennis 1" with Coach Acker. Turns out I learned a lot more than beginning tennis skills. The only thing Coach liked to talk about more than tennis was his family. He beamed with joy! Much love, gratitude and prayers to the Acker family.
Jim Peters - 1962 on July 21, 2011 at 7:02 pm
Although, from an athletic standpoint, I concentrated on basketball during my four years at K, I was actually recruited by Coach Acker to play tennis. However, when tennis practice started my freshman year, I quickly realized because of the many really good players we had, I would probably rank around #10 on the team. Coach and I sat down and had a long conversation about the situation, and I will always remember the candor, empathy, and understanding that George showed during that meeting. Although I ultimately chose to concentrate on basketball, and not tennis, that meeting was the foundation for a lifelong friendship right up to the last time I saw george at Homecoming a couple of years back. Whenever we would see each other he always had a smile, a twinkle in his eye, and a constant reminder of what a great tennis player I could have been if I had stayed under his tutelage. Like many others, I will miss George Acker for his kindness, his generosity, and mostly for his true friendship. Goodbye my friend, and you will always be in my thoughts. And one more thing, I still play tennis a couple of times a week. Jim Peters Class of 1962
Jane Woodworth Pettit - K79 on July 22, 2011 at 1:32 pm
From Coach Acker and K College, I learned to play my best tennis and love the game! Thank you, Coach, for making sports an important part of the K experience for me and so many other K students over many, many years. You've certainly left a legacy to admire. My sympathy to Coach Acker's family.
Chris Rito, '89 on July 22, 2011 at 1:44 pm
Coach Acker is easily one of the most influential men I have ever had in my life, and assuredly that of many other students and faculty at K. I had not even opened the email about his passing before the tears came to my eyes. I was fortunate enough to be on the XC team his only four years as coach, so he was the only XC coach I ever knew at K. He often said that he knew nothing of the sport when he took over....but it was obvious right from the start that he was a great coach because of his knowledge of people. I would have never achieved half of what I achieved as a Hornet without his influence. I have been truly blessed to have known Coach, and without a doubt I am a better person for having him. The Kalamazoo and the K College communities are simply better by his being a part of them for so many years. God bless you Coach and "Mrs Coach".
Dan Wort - K90 on July 22, 2011 at 1:52 pm
Coach Acker was our Cross-Country coach and I'll always have good memories of him. Everyone on the team coveted the backseat of his big checker-cab car after our meets as it allowed us plenty of room for tired legs. Even though he couldn't run with us, he'd be out there most days on his bike offering encouragement. While he gave us lots of advice, the most enjoyable and memorable advice came when he told us guys, in all seriousness, "Men...don't let your little head control your big head." God bless you coach. You were a great guy!
Vance L Kincaid II, 1976 on July 22, 2011 at 2:25 pm
George Acker was a rare and special human being. He truly was one-of-a-kind, the real deal. He touched so many lives. Now his new journey has just begun. George represents all those mentors that have come before and those yet to come. His spirit lives on in what K-College is all about. I am humbled and privileged to have known him.
Darrell C. Rogers K77 on July 22, 2011 at 2:33 pm
My Coach Acker story is a little different. It's about NOT playing for him - but it's a good story. When I was a freshman in 1973 the K wrestling team hosted a meet against another MIAA school for which two of my High School wrestling teammates competed. When these fellows arrived at K and discovered I was not on the wrestling team they approached Coach Acker and suggested that he recruit me to wrestle for K. Shortly after, I received a summons to the coach's office and, upon arriving, was told that he expected me to join the team. Coach Acker could be very persuasive! I took a breath and slowly explained that, although I had been a successful high school wrestler, my last year had been a miserable and degrading experience and that I had no desire to ever look at a wrestling mat again. He just looked at me for a LONG time without speaking. Finally he said, "Son, I respect your decision, thanks for coming over to see me." That represented the first time in my new "adult" life that I was treated with respect and dignity by an authority figure to whom I said "no." As trivial as this may sound, it was a watershed moment in my life - and it took only 10 minutes of his time!
Jin Cho, K79 on July 22, 2011 at 3:06 pm
I took a tennis class taught by Coach Acker in freshman year. I was just a beginner and not a very good player. I still remember him telling me that I had a good natural top spin forehand that I should never change it but needs some work on my backhand. It's been 35 years, but I still play tennis with a decent forehand and improved backhand. I credit his encouragement for me to continue playing tennis.
Carl Wilson -K88 on July 22, 2011 at 3:25 pm
Even those of us who weren't one of his students or team athletes had a great love and respect for 'coach' Acker because he was never 'above' any of us and he often shared a positive word when passing on the Quad or along Academy- seemingly when I, as a campus acquaintance only, needed it most. Now my son has been coached in high school tennis by a coach who instantly reminded my wife and me of coach Acker. This could only be because he too had been so positively affected by coach Acker in his professional tennis training over the years which included seminars led by him and by observing his coaching style and excellence at tennis tournaments over the years. His influence was great and he leaves a legacy for all of us. I'm privileged to have known coach Acker. Condolences and prayers from my family to the Acker family.
Rick Hobbs 71 on July 22, 2011 at 4:18 pm
I had Coach Acker for a badminton class which I took to fulfill the PE graduation requirement. Even though he was renowned across the country (and world no doubt) as a great tennis couch, he still showed a patient, caring and thoughtful approach to teaching a ragtag gaggle of regular, and mostly untalented and unmotivated, students the finer points of the game, as well as the accompanying sportsmanship. It was a privilege to have had him as a teacher.
Chris Steck, K90 on July 22, 2011 at 5:10 pm
Coach Acker is easily one the biggest influences in my life, more so than I even realized until I just read of his passing. While at K, I had the privilege of learning how to play and coach tennis from him and also managed the tennis center for him. He took a personal interest in me that really wasn't warranted by what I was giving back to him or the school at the time, and I’m forever grateful that he did. He was like a father in the way he truly cared about you, took an interest in your personal problems, and offered invaluable, attainable advice and encouragement. His patience, quiet leadership, humility and above all, integrity, provided an example that readily transcended from his expectations into your own personal aspirations. Many men can do this for a few people they are close to, and some coaches can even do this for most of their players. But George Acker had a positive influence on most everyone he ever met.
Mike Hoffhines, 80 on July 22, 2011 at 6:22 pm
I played for coach for a number of years at K and always admired his love of tennis and coaching. He was a wonderful, warm, and steady influence during my time at K and beyond. We stayed in touch through the years as he did with so many K alums. One of our favorite post-K moments occurred when he and "Mrs. Coach" visited us when we lived in HI. They were clearly excited to be there and it was a real treat to be able to host the Ackers whenever we had the pleasure of our paths crossing. Thank you, Coach. We will miss you.
george smillie on July 22, 2011 at 8:57 pm
I was recruited by and played tennis for George Acker from 1963-1966. As many have said he was one of the great influences in my life, a father figure in the best sense. Always expecting the best but not judgmental if you came up short. As a freshman I was having problems with my forehand and George got up every day at 6:00 am and helped me work through my problem. He was always there with all of us to help us become and grow form adolescence to manhood. An anachronism which unfortunately doesn't seem to exist in our world today. He will be greatly missed by all.
Sally Hanselman on July 23, 2011 at 8:39 am
Coach Acker was at every tennis match I ever attended at K, when we would go to see our son play the past two years. Even though my son did not play for him, I felt like he was guided by Coach Acker's steady presence and love of the game and K. He was always gracious to me. I think he made everyone feel special. I will really miss seeing him.
Rick Halpert '69 on July 23, 2011 at 11:08 am
The measure of a person is his/her devotion to others and to integrity. George reached the highest level of both. His "caring" extended to everyone: his family, his athletes, other students, faculty, ground keepers and strangers. Through a world-class coach, he was always humble. He never talked about himself--only you. And even when you failed, he corrected you in a way that said "you may have made a mistake--but that doesn't mean that you are one." When I worked for him on the work-study program cleaning the outdoor toilets at Stowe, he was gentle in his reminder that it was not ok to lock the doors to keep others from messing up "my" clean bathrooms. I will never forget when he consulted me as a lawyer because another person had borrowed and refused to return his tennis nets. The case was easy. The difficult part was helping him understand that people really DO things like that. Dishonesty was so foreign to him that he couldn't conceive that someone he helped would cheat him. Rest in Peace George, knowing that the world is a better place because you were here and enriched so many lives.
Van Beers, 1978 on July 23, 2011 at 12:05 pm
I am very thankful for having known, been taught and been able to learn from Coach Acker starting as a young teen. Most of what I learned was from watching his programs in action and knowing his family. There was a father figure at Stowe stadium and K that was tough, caring and hard working. If you played tennis in Kalamazoo, you were influenced in some way by Coach. Peace to the Acker family & all those close to him. Well done, Coach!
Steve Zuhl 1976 on July 23, 2011 at 2:06 pm
Along with my father (William Zuhl "K" 1952) in May of 1972 as an impressionable high school senior I made my one and only trip to visit colleges. I was trying to figure out how to be challenged in the classroom while also having the opportunity to wrestle in college. Coach Acker made it easy for us (my Dad and me) to conclude our search. Trusting what Coach Acker told me that day was one of the best decisions I've ever made. While it was clear that he genuinely cared for his student athletes and had an intense desire for competitive success, there was another aspect of Coach Acker that my teammates and I came to appreciate. We knew that the one thing that would always bring a smile to his face was the sight of or mention of his beloved wife or daughters. Coach Acker's example of keeping a balance for what is important in life is something I will never forget, and aspire to emulate. He will be missed.
Leonard s. Pasek on July 23, 2011 at 3:57 pm
R.I.P. Coach Acker from Atlanta's Best Photographer Len Pasek, K' College Class of 1979. http://www.atlantaphotographer4hire.com
Art Sleeman K'88 on July 23, 2011 at 5:13 pm
Coach Acker was a great teacher, as well as a kind and thoughtful man. I took tennis lessons from him during my time at K, and I will never forget his legendary axiom for serving: "Thumb to the thigh, thumb to the sky!" He always emphasized "follow-through," on a tennis serve, and in life. Obviously, he lived those ideals. I feel blessed to have known him, and will miss him.
Monica Nichols '90 on July 23, 2011 at 5:16 pm
My only interaction with Coach Acker was a quarter of tennis I to fulfill a PE credit, but it was a profound quarter. His attendance rules were strict, so I was worried when my Grandfather in Alaska passed away in the middle of the quarter. The following day I tried to explain to him that I didn't know any of the travel and funeral arrangements yet, but I would do my best not to miss class. Before I could finish my sentence he stopped me by saying, "I became a grandfather again last night. Don't worry about it." Since then, whenever I saw George Acker on campus and in the papers and magazines, I thought of my beloved Grandpa. The unexpected warmth and compassion to a student he hardly knew meant the world to me that day and has never been forgotten. Despite his reputation of tough expectations from his team, I always saw him as a big teddy bear after that day. That just increased my respect and admiration for the man. My deepest sympathies to those who were closest to him, especially his grandchildren.
Amusa Dere, class of 1982. on July 23, 2011 at 8:34 pm
R.I.P. Coach Acker from Amusa Dere, K' College Class of 1982. Men Soccer Team 1978-82. Nice Man.
Chuck Jager, K'83 on July 23, 2011 at 9:39 pm
Coach Acker was a great coach and even more, a wonderful human being. I got to know him by rooming with tennis players, and he also went on basketball trips as the trainer. He was one of the best of the "K" community.
Lisa Daleiden-Brugman K'93 on July 24, 2011 at 2:59 pm
Coach Acker was a true educator and obviously loved working with young people. I will always remember his kindness and patience and the twinkle in his eye when he sent me to the furthest court to practice with the ball machine.
Ginnie E. Oliver (Phillips)'63 on July 24, 2011 at 4:53 pm
George taught my coed beginning tennis class. I remember the day he had to tell us women that Trish had noticed that some of us did not have a blouse under our sweatshirts and would we please do so in the future. He was a bit embarassed to have to say that. That class instilled a love of tennis in me although I am not very good at it.
Marc Svendson '80 on July 24, 2011 at 5:08 pm
I had him for several coed classes and had a number of friends that were on the tennis team. He was great as a teacher and well respected by his players. When you see some people at their work you know they are doing what they were born to do…..always thought that of Coach Acker.
Teresa Stevens, K 82 on July 25, 2011 at 6:00 pm
As part of my work-study financial aid, I worked for George Acker in the K College Athletic Dept (those of you who know me understand this was as close to college sports as I was ever going to get). I started out providing general clerical support and one day while typing up a recruiting letter for Coach Acker, I fixed all the grammar and punctuation and did a little editing. Coach came in the office a few days later asking who had changed his letter. Not knowing "Coachie" well at the time, I was terrified. He then asked me to work directly for him rewriting all his letters and taking charge of his correspondence. When I signed up for his Beginning Tennis class, I assured him I was ready and even showed him my racket. It was one of those wooden ones that became extinct as soon as Head and others brought out the models with the extra-large striking area; it was probably older than I was, complete with a screw-down storage "press" and I am certain the original strings. Acker got a strange look on his face, but didn't say anything, just took it and brought it back the next day restrung with a new grip. He never would have done or said anything to make me feel less than awesome. On or off the court, he had a heart of gold as big as his Checker cab.
Peg Maass McAllister K73 on July 26, 2011 at 1:50 am
Even though I have taken a 20 year sabbatical from tennis, I recently returned to the court and found that the tennis "clock" is still in my muscle memory, thanks to Coach Acker. After taking Tennis 101 from Coach, he decided that I could improve if only I could keep score, so he asked me and several others to "call" the matches from the scorer's chair, he was patient, kind, encouraging and always teaching. He spent hours with the team, his family and cherished them all. He was a big part of K College for me and I always enjoyed reconnecting with him at Homecoming. He will be truly missed and I pass along God's peace to his family.
Marjorie Snyder '75 on July 26, 2011 at 11:43 am
I was fortunate to see Coach Acker recently and was so pleased to see the familiar twinkle in his eye and smile on his face. His was the first face I remember seeing at "K" when I visited with my parents my senior year in high school. He was sitting across the table from us in the dining hall with members of his family. I didn't have any idea who he was but it was clear that tennis was a big part of him since he was dressed in what I would come to know as his usual dapper orange and black tennis sweats. In between these memories are four years of playing tennis at K when I had the opportunity to observe his teaching and mentoring up close. He generously shared his wisdom -- tennis and otherwise -- with the women's tennis team. I used to love watching him coach/teach his daughters and was always so thrilled when he invited me to hit with one of them.Coach was a class act all the way, a winner who remained humble and giving throughout his life. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
Josh Williams '91 on July 27, 2011 at 1:31 am
I played tennis for Coach and remember, among other things, his humor. Upon returning from foreign study with long hair hidden under a ball cap, he came over to me, smiled, and then knocked that cap 20 feet off my head. I laughed, he laughed, and then he told me to get a haircut before the next practice. I also remember him storming around the courts in his warm up suit (in summer), barking at players, and smiling. Beyond his success, Coach Acker was immensely likeable, respected, and funny.
Paul Guenette '74 on July 27, 2011 at 12:29 pm
I was delighted to discover that I had Coach Acker for my tennis Phys Ed class and I still have the strong serve that he taught me. I recall his humble, warm personal approach despite being such a renowned figure on campus. For those moments, he was my coach too. He left a trail of goodness behind him and will be missed.
Kurt Roscow K'78 on July 27, 2011 at 4:18 pm
Coach Acker represented all the best the human spirit has to offer. He was a fierce and tender lion of a competitor, with an unquestionable love for his family. He encouraged the hightest standards in all people through his words and deeds. I had the privilege of wrestling on a K team for him, and also taking Tennis as a gym class. While running laps in the fieldhouse for wrestling practice or on a weekend, we could on occasion see Coach Acker working with his daughters, hitting countless shots back and forth, or adjusting a tennis ball machine for them. He encouraged the heart in remarkable ways. The world is a richer place because of his life and a lesser place because of his passing. May his family find his enduring love for them a comfort in this time of loss.
Ray Thurnes on July 27, 2011 at 4:21 pm
"Practice doesn't make perfect gentlemen, perfect practice makes perfect."
Steve Nasson on July 27, 2011 at 6:52 pm
I remember working for "the Griz" (I think Paul Bozyk gave him that nickname) and his lovely daughter Judy at his summer tennis camps, and seeing"Mrs. Coach" in the stands, cheering us on and baking us goodies for our van rides on southern trips. Although Coach retired from officially coaching as I enterred my freshman year, he was still very much a part of my development as a tennis player throughout 4 years. He was honest, tough-loving, and supportive with a quick sense of humor, and he always expected the best from his players. Coach Acker was a great guy and will be missed.
Karyl Kraushaar Ketchum on July 28, 2011 at 12:50 am
I played tennis for the Kalamazoo Intercity team and Coach Acker was a large influence on a very young athlete. Playing on the same team as two of his daughters, he showed hard love to all of us. He was a major inspiration to the many who picked up a tennis racquet and a great mentor. Thank you Coach Acker, you will live on through the many memories of all the lives you have touched.
Scott Schulz K'92 on July 28, 2011 at 3:04 pm
I had my first encounter with the icon during my work study at the Markin Tennis Center. Coach Acker was extremely supportive of me as a student athlete and encouraged me to pursue goals that seemed out of reach. I feel blessed to have worked an entire semester as his student manager of the Markin center where I interacted with him daily. Always warm, always supportive, but quick to give direction where necessary. When I think of my K experience, coach Acker will always be one of my highlights.
Bill Struck, '70 on July 29, 2011 at 12:41 pm
Numerous visits to colleges in the east and midwest during my junior and senior years of high school I left me confused. Then one day my high school tennis coach commented, “If you want a great school with a great tennis program, you should talk to Coach Acker at K College.” Once I met George Acker I instinctively knew what to do and never looked back. Coach Acker was remarkable in so many ways. Coach Acker was a star tennis and football leader. He captained his teams to many victories and championships. And he was a premiere coach and athletic trainer—aptly compared to John Wooden. But Coach Acker was even better than Wooden because he successfully coached many sports at many levels: varsity, intramural and beginning levels. On my first southern trip I recall hearing him ask an opposing coach, “How do you teach the drop shot?” I naively thought this query a sign of ignorance; but of course it was one of Coach’s strengths. With an open mind he always looked for new and better methods—Coach was a life-long learner. Coach Acker was an accomplished classroom teacher. Awards and numerous testimonials from former students make that abundantly clear. As a coach he had lofty expectations but knew that ultimately athletics took a back seat to academics and personal concerns. If I had a pressing make-up lab and had to miss practice, Coach always gave me permission without a hint of negative feelings. He often said that teaching gave him biggest sense of accomplishment. Coach Acker was a skillful administrator in many areas. He adeptly handled intramural sports—whatever he was asked to do. Whatever sport he was coaching, whatever class he taught, whatever tournament he refereed, one knew that his organizational expertise would produce first class results. Coach Acker’s strong traditional values were well known and he didn’t hesitate to express them. He would groan & grumble about long hair, hippies, etc. but always with some underlying humor. George Acker unquestionably respected the right of others to disagree. In the very best sense of the term, Coach was a true patriot. Coach Acker’s Kalamazoo duties demanded much time and energy yet he was still the consummate family man. His love, patience and devotion for Mrs. Coach, Judy, Cindy, Sherry and Gigi were boundless. My deepest sympathies go out to them during this difficult time. The truly amazing thing about George Acker was that he remarkable at everything he did and accomplished it with heart-warming humor. He touched all who knew him and made us better people. The passing of Coach Acker makes my heart ache. Yet I know his values and spirit live on in all who knew him and will endure forever. May Coach George Acker RIP.
Amy Kullenberg on August 3, 2011 at 5:40 pm
"The Road to Success is Always Under Construction." The Hon. Gerald E. Rosen quoting George Acker, during Judge Rosen's Evidence course at Wayne State University Law School, February 2004.
jim fowler 56 on August 8, 2011 at 7:48 pm
I played at K 52-57 under Dr Stowe. We did have 3 boys attend K and each was influenced by George. I never will gorget when our oldest was on the team, but done the line in terms of the lineup. I walked into Stowe and there was George out on the court working with a freshman who was not ever going to be one of his top player. I have known George since his first duties at K. He was just a great human being. We will miss you George, but you will not be forgotten, along with Ray, Sweed, and the long list of great K educators who are no longer with. us. Mrs. Coach, thanks for sharing yourself and George with my 3 boys...Jim Fowler "56"
Will Michael 66 on August 17, 2011 at 12:59 pm
George Acker was my line coach when I played on the undefeated, untied team of 1962. I'll always remember his smile and his focus on learning to play the game right and well. His energy and enthusiasm were great influences on our winning team and on each of us as we great into the men we are today. Thank you George for being a man amongst men and showing so many the way to success and happiness. Your legacy lives on in each athlete and student who was fortunate enough to come your way. Blessings to the Acker family. His love lives on in all of you I'm sure.
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