“Coach” James (Jim) Robeson Potter Jr. died on June 9 from congestive heart failure. He was 86. Potter served as Trinity's director of intramurals for 33 years, retiring in 2000. He was also an associate professor in Physical Education and Athletics.
After graduating high school in 1954, Potter knew that his only chance to attend college relied on receiving a basketball scholarship. He worked at Sun Oil during the day and played in night and weekend leagues in Philadelphia for four years before being discovered by Leslie Robinson, Trinity’s head basketball coach at the time, who offered him a full scholarship. An outstanding student-athlete at Trinity, Potter played basketball for four years and led the Tigers in scoring in 1962. He was also an exemplary baseball player for three years and served in the ROTC program. Potter met his wife, Mary Alice Koewing ’62, at freshman orientation.
After earning his Bachelor of Science from Trinity in 1963, Potter served his armed services commitment in the Army at Fort Hood in Texas, for four years where he was a player and coach of the base’s baseball team, achieving the rank of lieutenant.
Potter returned to Trinity to earn a Master of Education in 1967, when he also accepted the director of intramurals position. Potter built Trinity's intramural program into one of the finest in the nation. Each year, he assembled a team of students to help administer the IM program and provided them with a nurturing leadership style that allowed the program to thrive and grow.
"He expected us to make decisions using critical thinking, an egalitarian outlook, and respect for the team, those we served, and the staff working together," said George Brown '82, a former IM staff leader and now assistant vice provost and director of recreation and wellness at the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities.
During his tenure and retirement, former IM staff expressed their admiration for his kind, empathic management style with a healthy dose of humor and sincere connection and love for Trinity students. He even inspired some of his staff leaders to go into his profession.
"The environment that he created by putting students at the center of the work is still a principle I use in my work today," said Dion Wade '02, former director of university recreation at Seattle University. "The care for students and the ability to let them lead made many people better at any of their chosen professions."
Under Potter's leadership, the University established the Trinity Outdoor Recreation program that provides students with camping, hiking, backpacking, and other adventure opportunities. "As an outdoor girl from Idaho, Coach Potter gave me a home at Trinity," said Erin Rausch '01, former O-Rec student leader. "As a student he trusted me and let me make mistakes. It is in those experiences that I learned the most."
Potter received National Service Awards from the National Intramural-Recreational Sports Association (NIRSA) in 1984, 1989, 1992, and 2002. Potter was the NIRSA Texas State Director in 1975-76 and the regional vice president in 1977-78. He was also the editor of Flag and Touch Football Rules and Officials Manual from 1983-98.
A veteran football official, Potter was a member of the Southwest Football Officials Association. He officiated the Southwest Conference (now Big 12 Conference) and Lone Star Conference games for 16 years. Potter also was the timer for the Alamo Bowl football game in San Antonio for many years. He traveled to Germany for eight years and conducted officials clinics for the U.S. Army. Additionally, he worked on the statistician crew for the San Antonio Spurs for more than two decades.
The University honored Potter as an Outstanding Professor in 1971, and the Alumni Association presented him with the "Spirit of Trinity Award" in 2007 for his years of exceptional service to the University and the community. Potter was inducted into the Trinity University Athletic Hall of Fame in 2003. In 2017, Trinity named its intramural field after Potter. In the same year, the University also established the Jim Potter Endowed Scholarship Fund thanks to the leadership of and significant gift from David Prichard ’75 as well as support from the many alumni and friends who loved Potter.
"I can think of no one more deserving," said John Collins '79, a former student IM leader. "Like so many of us lucky enough to have had him touch our lives, we consider Coach Potter family. His decades on campus contributed immeasurably to Trinity's unique fiber and campus spirit still seen today."
Potter enjoyed a retirement full of activities with grandchildren, trips to Rockport, Texas, and Trinity baseball games coached by his son in law, Tim Scannell.
Potter is survived by his wife of 60 years, Mary Alice Koewing Potter ’62, son James (Rob) Robeson Potter III, daughter Christa Potter Scannell ’90, grandchildren Matthew Scannell, TJ Scannell, James Scannell, Lily Potter, and Mary Potter, sister Joan Potter Campbell, and brother Frank Potter.
Visitation will be Thursday, June 30, 5-7 p.m. at Porter Loring Mortuary North, 2102 North Loop 1604 East, San Antonio, Texas 78232. In lieu of flowers, the family asks to please direct donations to the Jim Potter Endowed Scholarship at C/O Trinity University, Box 49, One Trinity Place, San Antonio, Texas 78212 or online (include “Jim Potter gift” in the details box).
Special thanks to James Hill ’76 and Jim Potter’s family for their significant contributions to this obituary.