2009 McGill Sports Hall of Fame inductees announced

Vic Obeck served as Director of Athletics at McGill from 1950 to 1954. Photo courtesy McGill Athletics and Recreation

Four athletes and a builder will headline a new cast of inductees to the McGill Sports Hall of Fame, bringing the list of honoured members to 95 since the pantheon opened in 1996.

The induction luncheon, scheduled for Thursday, Oct. 15, 2009, officially kicks off the University’s Homecoming Week celebrations. Tickets for the event are $65 and can be reserved by contacting Kathryn Weaver at kathryn.weaver@mcgill.ca or 514-398-7002.

The Hall of Fame selection committee, chaired by John Cleghorn, was composed of a group representing students, administrative staff, university officials and alumni, including Prof. David Covo, Tom Thompson, Dr. Alan Mann, Mike Nelson, Dawson Tilley, Sally McDougall, Gael Eakin, Bob Winsor, Robert Watt, Stephen Lloyd, Ryan Tomicic, Anthony Lukca, Drew Love (secretary), Kathryn Weaver (recording secretary) and Earl Zukerman (research coordinator).

Submissions for future McGill inductions can be made by obtaining a nomination brochure from the department of athletics. Biographies of new and previous inductees can be found online at www.mcgill.ca/athletics/varsitysports/athletes/hof

The late Vic Obeck, who will be inducted posthumously, as a builder, played for the old Chicago Cardinals of the National Football League, served as general manager of the Montreal Alouettes in the mid-1950s and was a publicist for the 1976 Montreal Olympics. Originally from Audubon, N.J., he coached the football Redmen from 1947 to 1953 and served as director of athletics at McGill from 1950 to 1954. He also promoted and developed the Redmen football program significantly, including the introduction of the concept of an open huddle to the Canadian university game.

2009 McGill Sports Hall of Fame Inductees

Dr. Eric Walter (B.Sc. ’66), raised in Baie d’Urfé, Que., was a two-time all-star running back and defensive back from 1961 to 1965. An Omega trophy recipient as league MVP in 1964, he established a school record with 18 touchdowns in 24 career games, a mark which stood for more than a decade and was named to the OUA Football Legends Hall of Fame in 1996.

Tom Barbeau (B.Ed. ’78, M.Ed. ’81), a team captain and three-time all-star running back originally from the NDG district of Montreal, won the Forbes trophy as McGill’s athlete of the year in 1977-78. He scored 25 TDs over four seasons (1975-78) to break Walter’s school record and was drafted in 1978 by the Ottawa Rough Riders. He later served as a coach with the Canadian Olympic ski team at Calgary in 1988 and also coached the South African ski team at the 1998 Olympics in Nagano and the 2002 Games in Salt Lake City.

Pierre Gendron (B.Ed. ’97) of Montreal North, played centre with the hockey Redmen from 1994 to 1997 and ranks fourth among McGill’s all-time scoring leaders with 221 points, including 96 goals, in 109 games overall. He established a McGill single-season points record with 40-54-94 in 38 games, skated for Canada the 1997 world university hockey championship and had a playing stint in the American Hockey League with the Hamilton Bulldogs.

Anne Gildenhuys (B.Eng. ’98), a native of Ottawa who now resides in Calgary, was a three-time all-star forward in basketball from 1993 to 1998 who earned league MVP and all-Canadian honours. A decade after graduating with an engineering degree, she still ranks as the second-highest scorer in McGill history with 2,199 points in 131 games overall for a career average of 16.8 points per game.

Victor Francis Joseph Obeck was born on Mar. 28, 1917 in Audubon, N.J. He was educated at Audubon high school and then earned a bachelor of science degree in physical education from Massachusetts’ Springfield College in 1940, where he competed in football, track, lacrosse, wrestling and boxing. During the war, he served for 3.5 years in the U.S. Navy.

After playing stints with the National Football League’s Chicago Cardinals (1945) and the American Atlantic Football Conference’s Brooklyn Dodgers (1946), the 6-foot, 225-pound guard was appointed head football coach at McGill in 1947 with much fanfare. He coached the Redmen from 1947 to 1953, posted a 23-22-2 record and introduced the concept of an open huddle to football in Canada.

Obeck also developed a cheerleading team and pep rallies on campus and was appointed as McGill’s director of athletics in 1950. He led an initiative to build the Molson Stadium south-side stands, expanded the north-side section and initiated the Churchill trophy game for charity, which later became the Churchill Bowl national semifinal. He encouraged development of the Martlet Foundation to support athletics at the University, raised awareness of McGill football with a weekly radio program “The Touchdown Club” and in 1954, initiated the Vic Obeck’s Parade of Sports, a CBC production which aired directly from the Currie Gym and was one of the first sports television shows in Canada.

Obeck convinced the Montreal Alouettes to move to Molson Stadium and in 1954, was appointed general manager of the Alouettes, which posted a 20-6-0 regular-season record and two Grey Cup appearances over his two-year term. He then served as general manager of the Westchester Bulls, a minor league football team. From 1957 to 1967, he coached and served as director of athletics at New York University and pioneered a revolutionary form of training in the U.S., resulting in his 1965 book: “How to Exercise Without Moving a Muscle, Isometrics for Everyone.

Employed as a publicist during the 1976 Summer Olympics in Montreal, Obeck had been considering an offer to work in a similar capacity at the 1980 Los Angeles Olympics when he suffered a heart attack and died in New York at the age of 62 on April 21, 1979.

During the 1960s, he had a weekly high school game of the week broadcast on WPIX television with sportscaster Marty Glickman. “His life was sports,” said Glickman to the New York Times. “Either he played it, supported it or promoted it. He will always be best known for developing the athletic program at NYU.”

The Obeck trophy has been presented annually since 1949 to the most improved player on the McGill football team.