Dorothy Harmon spoke about herself for approximately five minutes Saturday, and some of the other inductees into the Wichita Sports Hall of Fame didn’t think that was enough.
Lafayette Norwood and Bob Long each acknowledged Harmon, a former administrative employee in Wichita State’s athletic office and the NCAA’s first female associate athletic director, during their speeches, and several other honorees rushed to Harmon for hugs after the ceremony at Hillside Christian Church.
Harmon developed close relationships with numerous athletes during more than a quarter century following her graduation from the University of Wichita in 1946, and helped the school through its darkest times following the 1970 plane crash involving the football team.
“I cannot tell you what it is like to have 100 sons,” Harmon said during her speech. “They have been a joy, a sorrow, but more than anything they have given me so much to be thankful for.”
In addition to Harmon, Norwood and Long, the inductees were Mark Bell, Steve Eck, Ed Henning, Bob Long and Gene Stephenson. Chris Wimmer’s induction was moved to 2015 because he was forced to miss Saturday’s ceremony due to a Detroit Tigers front office meeting.
The team award went to the 2011-12 men’s and women’s cross country and track teams at Friends, which swept eight KCAC championships. The Eagle’s Rick Plumlee was honored with the fourth annual Mal Elliot Award, named for the former Eagle sports editor. The organizational award was given to the Greater Wichita Officials Association.
Over the years, Harmon earned greater responsibility within the athletic office, working closely with student athletes and becoming a favorite of many. Long, who played basketball and football at WU and later won the first two Super Bowls with the Green Bay Packers, was intimidated by Shockers basketball coach Ralph Miller and was unable to approach him.
“Someone said, ‘You don’t have to go see Ralph Miller,’ ” Long said. “ ‘If you want something, go see Dorothy Harmon.’ ”
Norwood mentioned Harmon, along with his parents, his first grade teacher, and WSU legends Linwood Sexton, Cleo Littleton and Ev Wessel, as people with whom he wished to share Saturday’s honor. Harmon, Norwood said, left him and his friends basketball tickets during his days as a young basketball coach.
Norwood led Heights to an undefeated state championship in 1977.
Harmon served briefly as interim athletic director at WSU following the crash that counted players, crew and staff, including AD Albert Katzenmeyer, among 31 deaths. Harmon worked five more years for WSU and works now, at age 89, for Wichita Scotish Rite.
“Out of that great loss came a strength that was given to each survivor, to each member of the athletic administration,” she said.
Stephenson made a rare public appearance following his firing as WSU’s baseball coach last June. He sported a clean-shaven look while recounting his days as an assistant for Oklahoma and a recruiter for the football team. He took the job at WSU when he was promised football tickets, a perk he also received at OU.
“I took it because I knew how valuable they were at Oklahoma,” Stephenson said.
Stephenson, joined by former player and WSU assistant Jim Thomas, expressed a desire to coach again.
“I still have that passion,” Stephenson said. “Good God almighty I wish I was coaching.”