Long-time Cardinal, Hamilton, honored with gymnasium dedication

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In 1969, newly-hired admissions counselor, athletic director and head basketball coach Eugene “Gene” Hamilton led the Cardinals of Saginaw Valley College to a 13-5 record. This was an impressive result for a relatively new school and athletics program.

However, this accomplishment would go on to be heavily overshadowed by dozens of other accolades that Hamilton received in his near half-century with the University.

Monday, June 27, 2016, more than 47 years after the inaugural basketball season, Hamilton had his name permanently engraved on SVSU’s campus, as the former Cardinal Gymnasium was dedicated in his honor. It will now be known as Hamilton Gymnasium.

“It’s a great honor, but it’s also very humbling,” Hamilton, who is in the process of retiring from SVSU, said. “I never anticipated that something like this would happen.”

On Monday, June 13, the Board of Control unanimously approved renaming the gymnasium in Hamilton’s honor, and the dedication ceremony was scheduled.

Past and present University presidents and administration were in attendance Monday, along with alumni, faculty members, staff members, local legislators, Hamilton’s family and others.

“Anytime we name something after someone it is because they’ve made tremendous contributions to our university,” current SVSU President Donald Bachand said.

Some of Hamilton’s tremendous contributions include working with all four of SVSU’s presidents, serving in more than a dozen different administrative roles and lobbying for $150 million of construction on the University’s campus since 1991.

“A lot of things I did at the University were really just because someone asked me to something and I said yes,” Hamilton said. “There were just a lot of things that needed to be done as the university was changing, growing and evolving. A lot people had things they could do to help and they were asked to do them and they did.”

The ceremony began with opening remarks from Executive Director of Communication and External Relations Linda Sims. Next came a presentation from Bachand, where he expanded on many of Hamilton’s accomplishments and discussed the respect he had for him, even admitting that in their travels together, more people knew Hamilton than the president himself.

“To thousands of people in the state of Michigan, SVSU is Gene Hamilton,” Bachand said.

Following the presentation, Bachand and Hamilton exchanged laughs as they joked about how to go about unveiling the plaque in Hamilton’s honor. The two pulled a black curtain off the plaque together, which was followed by a large ovation from all in attendance.

Next came a series of remarks from a variety of people with whom Hamilton worked closely during his time at SVSU.

State Senator Ken Horn was the first to speak, followed by former SVSU Dean of Student Affairs and current University Ombudsman Dick Thompson. Due to the lengthiness of both Hamilton’s and Thompson’s tenure at SVSU, the two worked closely for many years.

“Gene and I go back a long way,” Thompson said. ” He never thought the glass wasn’t half full, it was never half empty.”

After Thompson, SVSU’s longest-serving president Eric Gilbertson spoke before the final remarks were given by Gene’s two sons, Jeff and John Hamilton.

John recalled growing up with his father, telling stories of how excited he was to tell his classmates what his dad did for a living. He remembered having foreign professors stay in their home for periods of time while Gene was Dean of International Programs.

“He truly changed the world,” John said.

After this, Gene was a given a chance to speak, in which he talked about three clichés that came true for him at SVSU: everything happens for a reason, time flies when you’re having fun and your life can change in a blink of an eye.

Gene came to SVSU in what he calls “an unusual fashion,” due to the friendship he had with Saginaw Valley College’s first president, Sam Marble.

“Sam Marble told me in 1969 that this would be a big, big university someday, and I’m so glad I decided to join him,” Hamilton said.

Forty-seven years of dedicated work and second-to-none accomplishments have made Hamilton a pioneer, one of the most influential names in SVSU’s history.

There is now a way to commemorate those years of work and countless accomplishments: the Hamilton Gymnasium.

“Gene is as much a part of the ‪SVSU family as anyone,” Bachand said. “(He’s) simply one of a kind.”

For photo coverage of the event, see “Hamilton Gymnasium dedicated” photo slideshow:

Hamilton Gymnasium dedicated