Richard Paige — A medal earned, some tough love, and a connection through sports brought Indiana basketball legends Tom and Dick Van Arsdale to campus to celebrate the accomplishments of a Wabash Man.
This visit wasn’t about basketball, or even themselves. The twins were on campus to honor their father, Raymond ’23. It turns out that the man Tom and Dick knew as Dad—a math teacher and track and football coach—was also a standout athlete himself.
The elder Van Arsdale was one of this College’s first great track stars, finishing second at the 1923 NCAA Track & Field Championships at Stagg Field in Chicago, where he jumped 23 feet, 6 inches, a mark that easily would have qualified him for the 2015 NCAA DIII Championships. He helped the Little Giants finish in 11th place nationally long before the NCAA meet was separated into divisions.
To say he was fast is an understatement. Raymond once posted a time of 10.1 seconds for the 100-yard dash, only a half second off the world record at the time.
“Dad never talked about himself,” said Tom. “We knew he was fast, but he never talked about himself. We hardly knew about his athletic career except that he ran track and played football.”
Raymond was inducted into the Wabash Athletics Hall of Fame in 1984.
“He also ran in the Drake Relays back then,” said Dick. “He was good. He might have made the 1924 Olympics if he hadn’t gotten hurt playing football.”
Sometimes when you meet people, you wonder what made them successful. Suddenly, it all made sense when thinking of Tom and Dick. Not only did they inherit great natural ability from Raymond and their mother, Hilda, but the right kind of push as well. The kind that only another great athlete knows.
These two legends were here to pay homage to their father, their first coach. The guy who was tough on them, always in their ear with a piece of constructive criticism, and pushing them a little further. Their successes have ties to Wabash College. Now they were giving something back.
They delivered to the College Raymond’s runner-up medal from that 1923 NCAA meet, a letterman’s award from 1921, and a photo. After more than 90 years in the Van Arsdales’ possession, it would become a part of our trophy case.
“We had that for so many years, we thought, what are we going to do with it,” said Tom. “Dick has a son and I have a son, so we got them together and said, ‘Guys, we’re not going to give this to you because you’ll fight over it.’ We’re going to give it to Wabash College.”
“That’s good for Wabash, anyway,” said Dick, laughing. “The boys were happy about it, too.”
The Van Arsdales are living embodiments of Hoosier Hysteria. The duo led Indianapolis Manual High School to a second-place finish in the 1961 state tournament, shared both the Trester Award and Mr. Basketball honors as high school seniors, and went on to earn all-Big Ten, All-America, and Academic All-America honors for Indiana University before graduating in 1965.
They enjoyed stellar NBA careers, each playing 12 seasons, each making three All-Star Game appearances, and combining to score more than 29,000 professional points. In fact, Dick was the first-ever draft choice of the Phoenix Suns.
As they wandered through the halls of the Allen Center on a chilly winter morning, you could tell they were happy to be here, basking in the glow of their father’s greatness.
“It does mean a lot to us. We didn’t care too much about it when we were young,” Dick said before Tom picked up the thought.
“We’re very excited to do this now for Dad. He would be very happy about this. As we get older, it means more to us. We appreciate these moments so much more.”