Billed as "The Varsity Sport of the Mind," the GE College Bowl was the site of three major TCU victories in 1961 -- and the subject of a very fat scrapbook.
By Claire Galloway,
Mary Couts Burnett Library
History Professor Marguerite Potter wasn't subtle as she sent her team of four collegians to a CBS sound stage in New York City for the popular GE College Bowl television show in 1961: "I tell you just like the Spartan mothers told their sons entering battle, ‘When you return, come back in victory or on your shield.' "
For three consecutive weekends, the studious Horned Frogs did return in victory before succumbing in a close match to Pomona College of Claremont, Calif., on Oct. 15.
The team's success, which one reporter said placed TCU "on par with Stanford University," was especially notable because they earned the best record of any team west of the Mississippi since the College Bowl began in 1953. Moderator Allen Luden praised them as the first Texas team to win three consecutive victories, which earned the university $5,000 in scholarship grants.
We know this because when the adventure was over, Potter pasted every letter, every article, every photo, every ticket stub and anything else she could find related to the four weekend events into a huge book -- which she incongruously compiled in a cast-off greeting card sample book. Today that scrapbook is one of 66 housed in the library's Special Collections (see associated story on page 56), and available to anyone interested.
Choosing TCU's team and faculty coach for the award-winning show fell to Amos Melton, assistant to the chancellor and director of public relations. Students were nominated in the spring of 1961 and then selected for the team in a series of eliminations. Randie Guenther, Joseph Lake, Richard Bond and team captain James Dunkly, as well as alternates Patricia Potter and Frederick Kemp, made the cut.
Each team member had different strengths. Guenther, a sophomore (and daughter of music Professor Ralph Guenther), focused on music, art and Shakespeare. Lake, a senior, specialized in international affairs, current events, government, American history and geography. Bond, a sophomore, concentrated on American, European and English literature. Dunkly, a junior, covered all topics, filling in the gaps left by everyone else.
Potter coached the six through training sessions to prepare for the competition. Team members attended twice-weekly practice meetings together in her office. Other faculty helped too, including history Professor Ben Proctor, who tutored team members in special subjects and assisted in the practice quiz sessions. Dunkly once came into one of the practice sessions panting and declared, "I've just learned the history of the world!" after being drilled by George Reeves.
The physics department assembled practice panel boards made of buzzers wired to buttons on pieces of plywood in Dave Reed Hall. Potter called out questions to them from index cards so the students could hone up on their response time. Reference librarian Emily Garnett provided a list of books for the team members to study.
Then for seven days before the first show, the team lived on campus and devoted all of their time to an especially intense training period.
For the next four weeks, Potter and the team flew to New York on Friday and checked in at the Biltmore Hotel. On Saturday they saw plays, visited museums, attended concerts and ate at fancy restaurants. On Sundays, per CBS instructions, they donned pastel colored shirts and headed for a rehearsal with the the opposing team. Then the competition began.
The team tromped Chicago's DePaul University on their debut show -- beating the opponents 190 to 45. Their second triumph was even more impressive: a 210 to 80 trouncing of the University of Buffalo team. After their victory, Potter shouted to a reporter, "We're flying!", followed by Dunkly's, "We're on Cloud 9 Express!"
Their third appearance brought them down off the cloud when they barely beat New Jersey's Upsala College, 145 to 140.
Their incredible success garnered praise from many sources, among them journalists. After their second victory, a writer for the Boston Chronicle noted that "TCU rolled over DePaul." TCU publicized each phase of the competition and encouraged instructors to help the team members catch up on any missed school work, saying that "For the great good they're doing the University, we know everyone will help on this." Each victory earned the university $1,500 in scholarship money.
Potter's scrapbook bulges with news clippings, photos, an article written about the team in TV Guide, congratulatory letters from all levels within the TCU administration and other interesting items that flesh out this wonderful story.
From this record, it is quite evident that the team members took to heart the order issued by Potter, and the university community appreciated it. A writer for the TCU Faculty Bulletin may have said it best: "To say Marguerite Potter and her brilliant crew have done a top job would be the understatement of the year."
For information: www.collegebowl.com
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Where are they now
Joseph E. Lake '62 (MA '67) A Foreign Service Officer for 35 year, Lake is the former U.S. Ambassador to Albania and Mongolia, and served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for Information Management, and acting Assistant Secretary of State for Administration. After retirement from the Foreign Service in 1997, Lake served as Director of International Affairs for the City of Dallas until 2002 and currently is the chair of the Department of State's Management Reform Committees.
James Dunkly '63 (MD '69) Following graduation, Dunkly earned a degree from Brite Divinity School and a PhD from Vanderbilt. He has worked as a theological librarian for many years and currently is the theology librarian and teaches New Testament at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tenn.
Richard "Dickie" Bond '63 We have been unable to locate Bond. Anyone with information, please contact the magazine.
Sidlinger '62 After many years in corporate communication, including 10 years at Microsoft as manager of employee relations, Sidlinger returned to music. She currently teaches chamber orchestra and music history at The Overlake School in Redmond, Wash., is the associate concertmaster of the Bellevue Philharmonic Orchestra and is a member of the Auburn Symphony Orchestra. In addition to teaching violin and viola privately, she has been a coach for 23 years for the Seattle Youth Symphony.
Pat Potter Vary '63 (MS '65) is a emeritus distinguished research professor in biology at Northern Illinois University in Dekalb, Ill. She has two children, one is a lawyer, the other an MD/PhD in his second year of residency.
Fred Kemp '63 is a psychologist in private practice in Olympia, Wash. He and wife Virginia, who is also a psychologist, work with families with children with special needs.