Dick Lewis, a 30-year athletics employee who eased the physical and mental aches of thousands of UC Davis student-athletes, began his long campus tenure in 1949 and held a number of jobs, including equipment manager and team bus driver.
In the 1950's, George Stromgren, a teacher and coach in the department, asked Lewis to become the athletic trainer. To prepare himself, Lewis worked with trainers from UC Berkeley and UCLA during spring practice and took classes and seminars. His work as athletic trainer is what made him an Aggie institution. Lewis ministered care to student-athletes in all the major sports: football, basketball, track and field and baseball during the academic year. Then in the summer, he worked with the Optimist All Stars; a team composed of just-graduated high school football players, in preparation for the annual playoff between Sacramento and All Star players from other teams in Northern California.
Perhaps the most dramatic incident in which Lewis' easy-going temperament and skill with injuries shone occurred in 1967 when he and UC Davis team physician Dr. Thomas Y. Cooper averted two tragedies within minutes of each other. A referee fell onto the field after experiencing a heart attack. Minutes later an Aggie defensive back suffered a heart stoppage after swallowing his mouthpiece. Both men completely recovered. The student-athlete went on to a coaching career, including 22 years with the National Football League. The referee later established a scholarship in Lewis' name at Cosumnes River College.
Lewis was so valued by the 1969 men's basketball team, the Far Western Conference champions that year, that the student-athletes voted him their most valuable player. In 1974, he was the UC Davis Picnic Day parade grand marshall -- the first staff member to be honored with that role. Among other professional accolades, he was inducted into the Cal Aggie Athletic Hall of Fame in 1985 and in 1997, the athletic training room in Hickey Gym was renamed “The Dick Lewis Athletic Training Room” in his honor.
But we, at UC Davis, may never have had the opportunity to work with him and be helped by him if it weren't for a love story. While in the navy and visiting his sister in Davis, he met a local girl -- the love of his life -- Betty Finlay. They married in 1946 and Davis became his home, too.
We now honor Betty -- and further honor Dick -- by adding her name to this endowment. He would always say, if it weren't for her, he would not have been able to do his job as well. She was his supportive, partner, both in his work and with their family, and was often in attendance at the many games he worked each year. Both Dick and Betty formed enduring bonds with many Aggie student-athletes who became lifelong friends.
Athletics Development Office