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“We had a truly great backcourt tandem [in the early ‘60s] in Bill Jones ’65 and Gary Spengler ’65. Bill was a blond, slender six-footer. Natural ball-handler with good driving and jump-shot skills. Gary, his partner, was quite different. Shorter and stockier, he was maybe 5'9" or so, and left-handed. While also a fine floor player, his claim to fame was his jumper. Launched from about the tennis courts, he shot with a twist of his arm, and it was very deadly. Both were superb scorers. I remember the night Temple came to town - yes, perennial NCAA tourney team Temple was still playing us! We were broadcasting the game [for WMUH], and it was a barn-burner! It went right down to the wire before Temple squeaked out the victory. Jones was excellent ... but Spengler hit for about 40 points. And at the conclusion of the game Harry Litwack, the Owls' revered coach, came over to the bench and shook Gary's hand.” – Rich Reinhart ’63



Groundbreaking for Memorial Hall, May 31, 1952.
L-R Martin Kleckner, George Lawson, Gerorge Balmer, Don Miller, Bill Hudders

Ron Czajkowski ’71, who had volunteered to introduce Ali, remembers the few minutes before going onstage with him. “I was alone with the champ,” Ron says. “He became serious, articulate and focused. He asked me if I was nervous. It must have been evident. He put his arm around my shoulder and said: ‘Son, when you walk out there tonight with me, you’ll be side by side with the 'Champeeeeeen' of the world. You ain’t got nothin’ to be nervous about.’ With that, he feigned a couple of punches, and we strolled into the gym.”

Ali’s message packed a powerful punch, according to Jean Willis ’73, who names it among her favorite Muhlenberg memories. “So much was happening with protests against the war in Vietnam, the civil rights and women’s rights movements,” she says. “Muhammad Ali, a compelling speaker and natural performer, was deeply concerned about civil rights...I certainly remember his talk more clearly than any others and found that he caused me to think about and reconsider many current issues in a different light.”

Over the years, Memorial Hall has been a central campus location for social events, but many alumni also remember it as a space for some fairly stressful exams. “The worst experience was taking one of those d*** Dr. Smart organic chemistry finals and – as a chemistry major – remembering that it was the eighth page of a 13-page final before I thought I finally got one question right,” says Chris Accetta ’80. And during dreaded hours of filling in blue book after blue book, Kathleen C. Werrell ’76 remembers, “rows and rows” of students wrote feverishly to complete final exams for Dr. Mortimer’s Modern European History classes.

Exams aren’t the only painful events that former students remember. Former athletes and phys ed students alike may still feel an ache in their legs thinking about “running steps” and “step up/down exercises” along the first row of the bleacher seats.

A place for beginnings, Memorial Hall is now one of the first campus locations that newly accepted students visit during the annual April “Through the Red Doors” day, as they are introduced to campus organizations and current students. For many years, Memorial Hall was where new students stood in line for their physical examination and later registered for their courses. “I felt part of quite a crowd at freshman registration, check up and check in,” says Ralph Grimes ’68. “Memorial Hall was a large, awesome place that day, as I remember…as it was the day I graduated.” Many a Muhlenberg grad has accepted his or her diploma in Mem Hall during commencement ceremonies moved indoors due to rain.

Bill Shick ’53 notes that Mem Hall wasn’t around when he graduated, but his most vivid memory is still one of an indoor commencement ceremony. “Thirty-five years after my graduation, I attended a commencement in Memorial Hall which included my daughter Jennifer (Shick) Burak ’88,” he remembers proudly. Others will remember that year’s commencement address by Coretta Scott King, and the excessive heat in Memorial Hall!

The athletic facilities at Muhlenberg have seen a lot of change in the last 50 years, with the 1982 addition of the Dietrich Field House, the Levering Tyson wing and the Alumni Pool. Now, major renovations are again underway to provide increased space for coaches’ offices, a new health and counseling center and expanded weight and fitness rooms. Memorial Hall itself, however, has remained the same since its construction in 1953-54, and there are no plans to change anything about the hallowed gymnasium. It is central to the facility. “This arena has stood the test of time,” says Beidleman. “It is still one of the best Division III arenas in the country. I know it can never be pushed aside. It is the basis of what we do.”

And he should know. Though all alumni and students seem to feel a certain familiar attachment to Memorial Hall, Beidleman, who has been an active member of the Muhlenberg community for more than 40 years – first as a student-athlete, then as a coach, business manager and now athletic director – perhaps knows Memorial Hall more intimately than anyone else.

“It’s a home away from home,” he says. “I can walk around in the dark, find the light switches, find the electrical outlets. It’s like walking around my house, where I can get out of bed in the middle of the night and find my way to the kitchen. I can do the same thing here. It has been a second home.”


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