'65 hoops team embodies Rio spirit

RIO GRANDE, Ohio – In 1965 then Rio Grande College produced a men’s basketball team that would set the standard for all those to come.

The team finished 18-7 and produced a pair of Rio Grande Athletic Hall of Famers – Paul Dillon (’73) and Jim Marshall (’75). Their accolades were enough for the 1965 Grandion to proclaim it the “most successful season since the Bevo Francis era a decade ago.”

But it wasn’t so much their work on the court that continues to earn them praise.

Each member of the ’65 team – player, manager, statistician and even the cheerleaders – have gone on to enjoy resounding success, both professionally and personally. Their impact ranges from all levels of education to the computer software industry, politics, athletics and everything in between.

“The special thing about the ’65 boys is that during the time they spent at Rio Grande they established a friendship unlike any other,” legendry Rio head coach Art Lanham, 81, said. “They have a special love for each other.”

That bond resulted in an annual reunion, which celebrated its eighth installment on June 22 in Ashland, Ky. Each year a different member of the team serves as host, with the reunion growing into an open-door policy for all Rio alumni.

Each year the stories get told, laughs are had and a resounding love for Rio Grande takes center stage.

“They looked at Rio Grande as their opportunity for something better, and Rio Grande delivered on that,” said RedStorm Athletics Director Jeff Lanham, Art’s son and a virtual nephew to the members of the ’65 team.

Jeff Lanham said the members of the ’65 team embody the very spirit of Rio Grande – past, present and future.

“When we bring recruits on campus, we always talk about the family atmosphere,” he said. “We joke around about it being the place where everybody knows your name. But it’s true.”

And it lasts for a lifetime.

Dillon and Marshall are joined in the Hall of Fame by team statistician Mike Burcham, who earned his place as a standout baseball player for the then Redmen.

Teammates Steve Gilmore and Bob Leith also have been honored by Rio Grande as Distinguished Alumnus in 2012 and 1995, respectively, for their many accomplishments and continued support.

Gilmore, formerly mayor of Ashland, currently serves as superintendent of Ashland Independent Schools. Leith spent 30 years as a student, teacher and coach at Rio Grande before ultimately retiring as a History Professor with Ohio University.

“For this little school in southeastern Ohio, we had a lot of outstanding athletes and people,” Leith said. “We love Rio Grande; there is nothing we wouldn’t do for Rio Grande.”

Frank Bullock was honored in 2009 with the Atwood Achievement Award. Nicknamed “The General” during his playing days for his days in the United States Army, Bullock is now famous as one of the more preeminent William T. Sherman impersonators working out of The Sherman House in Lancaster.

Fellow teammates Don Trainer, Phil Trout, Don Marks, Sharon Gregory, Rudy Shively, Charlie Templeton, team manager Bill Morgan and Burcham all enjoyed very successful careers in public education. Several also became championship caliber coaches in various sports.

Teammate Bill Young is one of the few yet to retire. Residing in Redmond, Washington, Young works in the computer software industry.

“We got together the first night and we became instant friends. I don’t ever remember an argument or any hard feelings,” Gilmore said. “It was the greatest small college anyone can ever go to; it still is.”