Harry Stephenson ’46 is joined by the introducers and presenters at his 70th anniversary celebration, from left, Don Lane, Billy Reed ’66, Haley Riney ’07, C. M. Newton, Pat Deacon, Lee Rose ’58, Milly Rodes, Brian Lane ’90, Stephenson, Jack Ebel ’77, Cindy Jacobelli, and President Charles L. Shearer.
Stephenson honored for 58 years of service
Transylvania threw a party for Harry Stephenson ’46 in April that was truly a night to remember for this remarkable Transylvanian and the more than 250 people who showed up to honor him for his 90th birthday and 58 years of service to his alma mater.
The speeches ranged from heartfelt to humorous—often a little of both—as former and current students, faculty members, coaches, administrators, friends, and family celebrated Stephenson’s loyal service to Transylvania and the positive influence he continues to have on so many people.
“Tonight we honor the first athletics director west of the Allegheny Mountains,” quipped President Charles L. Shearer as he got the program rolling by relating Stephenson’s amazing tenure to Transylvania’s historic position as the first college founded west of the Alleghenies. Stephenson’s association with Transy began just over 70 years ago when he enrolled for classes in the fall of 1936. Since joining the faculty and staff in 1948, he has enjoyed an unbroken record of 58 years of service as teacher, administrator, and coach that may be unprecedented in the school’s history.
C. M. Newton, former Transylvania men’s basketball coach for 14 seasons and now a consultant to the Southeastern Conference, came back to honor the man who gave him his first coaching position in 1951.
“Harry mentored me as a young coach and has been a special part of my life ever since,” Newton said. “I always say that while my degrees are from UK, I got my education here at Transylvania. Harry, we love you, we appreciate you, and we’re going to see a whole lot more of you over the years.”
Milly Rodes was hired by Stephenson in 1952 and stayed at Transy for 39 years, teaching modern dance, tennis, and physical education while coaching tennis and basketball.
“I thought Harry came right after Rafinesque,” Rodes said with a smile, recalling Constantine Rafinesque, Transy’s legendary early 19th-century professor of natural sciences. “Harry has always been a tremendous mentor and friend to me and a very, very dear person. Anything I needed for our women’s teams, he would always get for me. He backed up our teams in every way he could, and I appreciate that. He will always be close to my heart.”
Stephenson also played a key role in bringing Lee Rose ’58 to Transylvania. Rose became one of Transy’s all-time best basketball players and went on to coach the Pioneers for eight seasons. He recently became the lead assistant coach with the NBA’s Charlotte Bobcats. It was a connection Stephenson had with the University of Cincinnati that helped Rose land a Division I assistant coaching position.
“Harry taught me a whole lot about how important it is to be confident in what you do and to work at your connections, because life is about choices,” Rose said. “The Cincinnati job was my springboard into Division I, and that helped me more in terms of professional advancement at that time than anything that ever happened to me, and it was all because of Harry. I want you to know, Harry, that you will always be in my hall of fame.”
Pat Deacon came to Transylvania in 1971 and was, at various times, a teacher, coach, and administrator for 29 years, most notably coaching women’s basketball and field hockey.
“Harry was always a great supporter of women’s athletics,” Deacon said. “He was also a great volunteer, keeping time for our basketball games and coaching the softball team.”
Billy Reed ’66, a well-known sportswriter who has written for the Lexington Herald-Leader, The Courier-Journal, and Sports Illustrated, caught the spirit of the evening when he remarked on Stephenson’s indomitable spirit.
“Harry is our Peter Pan,” Reed said. “He has remained young at heart. You can see it in his smile, hear it in his laughter, and feel it in his handshake. He is our all-time, much beloved Mr. Pioneer.”
The dinner benefited the Ronald F. Whitson Memorial Scholarship fund and was sponsored by the Orthopedics-Sports Medicine Center at Lexington Clinic.