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Muhlenberg College

Friday, January 23, 2009

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Special Feature
a family affair

Many students visited Muhlenberg long before it was time for them to pick a college. They came with their alumni parents, who roamed the campus and said, “This wasn’t here when I was here.”

Many of these parents put on a uniform and took the fields and courts for the Mules. Now their kids are following in their footsteps, representing the same school their parents did more than 30 years ago.

And you’ll find not much has changed, including a deep love of Muhlenberg, playing in the Pennsylvania cold and Muhlenberg sports guru Sam Beidleman.

The Williams Sisters - and Parents, and Uncles

Brittany Williams
Brittany Williams led the Mules with 41 service aces last season and was second on the team with 254 digs.
“I’m waiting for a building to be named after me,” says Brittany Williams. The junior volleyball player is just one of six family members to attend Muhlenberg. Her great uncle, uncle, mom, dad and older sister all studied here under the watchful eye of General Pete. Her parents were married in the chapel. And her father and sister took the track and the volleyball court for the Mules.

Alan Williams came to Muhlenberg in 1974 expecting to run long distance for the track team.

“When I first spoke with [the coach] he advised me that because of my height he wanted me to run the hurdles. It was something I had never done before. I was the only high hurdler at Muhlenberg College from 1974 to 1978.”

Perhaps it was this rare skill that attracted his future wife, Janice. The two were married in Muhlenberg’s own Egner Chapel and created a whole new generation of Mules. Brittany and her sister Courtney Williams have been wearing Muhlenberg clothing since they were born, receiving at least one Muhlenberg item every Christmas.

But the idea that they should attend their parents’ alma mater was never pushed on the two and they were taken on several college visits so they could make their choice. Muhlenberg was one of the colleges they visited and Brittany recalled what happened on the campus tour.

“My mom started saying things like, ‘when I was here, this was a bowling alley.’ She ended up in the front, being the tour guide and I stayed in the back, so humiliated.”

Despite the humiliation, both Brittany and Courtney decided Muhlenberg was the place for them.

“I would come to see my sister’s games and come to camps here so I was familiar with the campus and I just felt really comfortable at Muhlenberg,” Brittany said.

Alan Williams
The 1974 cross country team. Alan Williams is in the top row, second from the left.
“People think I am crazy when I say my mom, dad, uncle, great uncle and sister all went to Muhlenberg,” said Courtney. “They laugh and say ‘I guess you had no choice.’ However, Muhlenberg was my choice. I applied early decision and had an amazing four years.”

Courtney graduated in 2007, competing in volleyball and track during her time at ’Berg. Brittany entered her freshman year when Courtney was a senior and both spent time at outside hitter. When Courtney left, her younger sister took over.

“It was almost as though I was retiring my spot to her,” said Courtney. “She is a great athlete and I was honored to have her replace me.”

“I was honored to watch both my girls compete at Muhlenberg,” said Alan “Throughout their athletic careers I made it a point to make it to as many games as possible. I love watching them play and am very proud of their athletic accomplishments. And I’m proud that both my daughters are (and were) captains like their dad.”

Brittany feels a stronger bond to the school, knowing her family has gone through similar experiences. “I have a lot of history here and it’s not just my own. I’m proud to be here because of the school itself, but also because my family and extended family were here before me. I wouldn’t change it for the world.”

The Football Recruit Turned Slugger

John Kalis
John Kalis finished the 2008 season with a .290 batting average, 30 runs scored and a team-leading 13 stolen bases. His dad also led the Mules in steals as a junior.
John Kalis, a senior outfielder on the Muhlenberg baseball team, is following in his father’s footsteps. Ed Kalis, a ’74 grad, played center field for the Mules.

But his dad was surprised when John picked Muhlenberg.

“I thought he was going to St Joe’s in Philadelphia to play Division I baseball. I give credit to coach Corey Goff for recruiting him initially for football and selling Muhlenberg as a great academic school where student athletes can play two sports. Ironically Coach Goff became his baseball coach after his freshman year when John stopped playing football.

“Looking back I feel John made the right decision,” continued Ed. “I believe Sam Beidleman was the first person I contacted to tell him that another Kalis was coming to play baseball.”

That’s because Beidleman, currently Muhlenberg’s athletic director, was Ed’s coach.

Ed was the baseball team’s co-captain his senior year; he was also a member of Phi Kappa Tau and the owner of the frat’s mascot dog Ralph, a beagle that freely roamed Muhlenberg’s campus after Ed’s dad retired him from hunting. The baseball field used to be on campus and Ralph would come to the games, chase Ed into the outfield and run around the bases. The umpires had to stop the game numerous times to get him off the field.

“The March cold weather in Allentown brings back chilling memories when I played,” said Ed. “The only difference is Sam Beidleman and I can jump in a heated car whenever we want now. Many college fields have changed but the barn at Swarthmore College is still standing near their baseball field and brings back many memories today.”

Ed knows that last year’s win over Johns Hopkins was huge and believes it means great things for the 2009 team.

“I enjoy watching the Mules baseball team play and I am extremely proud of my son’s accomplishments,” said Ed. “John is a completely different hitter than I was and can drive the
Ed Kalis
The 1973 baseball team. Ed Kalis is in the bottom row, second from the left.
ball to all fields. Sometimes while watching the games I get too excited and Sam Beidleman has to calm me down. To me it was easier playing and less nerve racking than watching now as a parent.”

Ed isn’t just John’s nervous parent; he’s coached John most of his life.

“We not only have a father/son relationship, but I grew up with him coaching,” said John. “I think no matter where I played, we’d have that connection, that relationship through sports.”

But that connection is strengthened by the fact that John is in the same position his father was over 30 years ago.

“I’m walking around the same college campus by dad did,” said John. “It’s the same Academic Row. I’ve seen pictures of him in his senior year on the baseball team. And now I’m in that same position. It’s really cool.”

The fact that John is a student athlete is something that both he and his father are very proud of.

“When I played we did 10 jumping jacks, took 10 swings and were ready to start the season with wood bats,” said Ed. “Today the baseball players are more committed. They hit and train through most of the year. They are better athletes and work harder in the weight room.”

“It’s something not many can take on and it’s a privilege to do that,” said John.

The Mover and Shaker

Debra Crockett
Debra Crockett holds the school record in the indoor shot put (37-10 3/4) and ranks second on the all-time list in the outdoor shot put (39-1/4). She ranks third all-time in the discus with a throw of 117-4.
Junior track athlete Debra Crockett says she wants to be a mover and a shaker. The shot putter and discus thrower also plays rugby. She studied abroad for a semester and did an internship in Washington, D.C. And she is editor of the school yearbook.

“I was happy she decided to come to Muhlenberg,” said her father, Tom Crockett, a ’72 graduate of Muhlenberg. “Debra likes to be involved with a lot of activities and I knew there would be a lot of opportunities for her here. You’re not just a number and for a small school, it offers a lot.”

“My dad never pushed me to go here; it just felt like home,” said Debra. “I became involved in a lot of things and I have a lot going on, which I like. My dad knew it would be a good fit for me in that sense.”

Debra is taking after her father, who shook things up as a defensive lineman on the football team.

“My most memorable moment was scoring the winning touchdown against Widener College when I was a junior,” said Tom Crockett. “It was a big deal because they had a fellow that went onto the NFL.”

His coach? Sam Beidleman.

“Yeah, I’m ancient,” said Tom. “And you can tell Sam I said that.”

Tom coached Debra growing up, and he couldn’t let a rugby game go by without some words of advice: “Go over and just knock the girl out.”

Tom Crockett
The 1969 football team. Tom Crockett is in the fourth row, on the far left.
“He had no idea what was going on,” said Debra. “Rugby is hard to follow at first because it’s not that common over here.”

The Crocketts rarely miss a track meet and Debra is very grateful.

“They’re so supportive; they drive at least 3 1/2 hours to meets. I’m just really thankful they come and watch. I’m my toughest critic, so they keep me calm.

“I admire my dad and I know the school helped him become who he is,” continued Debra. “I’ve seen what college sports are like and that what you put into it, you get out of it. I understand now how much he put into it.”

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