By Donna Parker
Jim Potter always knew he wouldn’t follow his dad into the steel industry. He also understood that if he ever went to college, it wouldn’t be on his dime. So, when scholarship money came knocking in the form of basketball coach Leslie Robinson, Jim Potter jumped at the chance to join the Trinity ball club.
“I knew basketball was my ticket to college because the only way I could afford to go was to get a scholarship. As the oldest son, I supported my family for several years after high school, so when I arrived on campus in 1958 I was more mature.”
He graduated in 1963, wisecracking, “I had to cram four years into five,” and made good on his two-year ROTC commitment at Fort Hood. When he returned to campus to pursue a graduate assistantship under his former mentor, Jim discovered Coach Robinson had called it quits.
It was a stroke of luck that the Physical Education Department Chairman Jess MacLeay honored Jim’s assistantship.
“That was the huge turning point in my life. If Coach Robinson hadn’t resigned and Dr. MacLeay hadn’t gone to bat for me, my life would’ve have been nearly as much fun!”
Jim developed the on-campus intramural sports league, founding the co-ed program – a groundbreaking move for a still-conservative 1965.
“This provided the kids with something to do after classes. They could exercise, socialize and compete on campus with their friends,” says this positive-minded coach.
“I loved what I did every day. We lived a few blocks from school and my kids used the pool and tennis courts. We literally raised our kids on campus.”
Now, the torch has passed – Jim’s son-in-law Tim Scannell is Trinity’s baseball coach. Jim and wife Mary Alice, also an alumna, spend time watching Tim’s and daughter Christa’s three young kids, volunteering for Habitat for Humanity and enjoying their “little slice of heaven” in Rockport.
This month, Jim will be honored with the Spirit of Trinity Award for 33 years of dedicated service, but it’s his infectious love of life and continuing respect for Trinity that set him apart from the run of the mill – not bad for a steel worker’s kid from Pennsylvania.