Occidental Recalls Proud Olympic History

With the 2008 Olympic Games underway in Beijing, Occidental College proudly remembers its own Olympic athletes--including gold medalist Dr. Sammy Lee '43, who is marking 60 years since he first placed in diving in 1948.

Twenty-three students and alumni have competed in the Games, starting with Alphonzo E. Bell ’95 (that’s 1895), who won a silver medal in men’s doubles tennis at the 1904 St. Louis Games. J. Percival Hagerman ’06 (1906) placed sixth in the long jump during the same Games.

Occidental has a current connection to the Games as well--newly hired women's basketball coach Heidi Vanderveer is in Beijing working as a basketball scout for Team USA. She is blogging about her experiences in China at http://oxyhoops.livejournal.com.

In all, Oxy students and alumni have won two golds, three silvers, and four bronze medals, participating in Games all over the world, including Paris (1924), Melbourne (1956), Mexico City (1968), and Munich (1972). They contended in events  from the long jump to the high hurdles to diving, gymnastics, volleyball, yachting, and fencing. Most recently, David Wilson ’00 competed in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics, running the 200-meter dash for Guam.

The most famous Oxy Olympian is Lee, who won two gold medals in platform diving, at the 1948 London Games and the 1952 Helsinki Games. He also won a bronze in springboard diving in the ’48 Games. He was one of two alumni to participate in two Games, the other being George Roubanis—in ’56 and ’60, competing in the pole vault (for Greece). He won a bronze in the 1956 Melbourne Games.

Maxine McMasters Mitchell ’45 participated in three Games—in ’52, ’56 and ’60—in fencing.

The College’s two other silver medalists were Robert McMillen ’53 for the 1500-meter run at the ’52 Olympics, and Robert Gutowski ’58, who won for the pole vault at the 1956 Melbourne Games.

Bronze winners besides Lee and Roubanis were Craig K. Dixon ’48 for the high hurdles at the ’48 Games and Richard Deaver ’52 in Dragon Class yachting at the 1964 Helsinki Games.