RIO GRANDE, Ohio — The University of Rio Grande and Rio Grande Community College takes pride in honoring veterans who have served and are continuing to serve the United States.
As part of this endeavor, Rio has created the “Jim Marshall Veteran of the Year Award” to recognize veterans who have gone above and beyond the call of duty. Athletic Director Jeff Lanham said this award is a reflection of Rio’s efforts to be a veteran-friendly campus.
“Rio is dedicated to making sure all veterans receive the recognition and respect they deserve when they are visiting our campus,” Lanham said. “This award is one small way we can give back to our veterans and thank them for their service. We are proud of Jim and his dedication to his country and community.”
The inaugural award was presented to Jim Marshall this past Friday. Marshall was a valued member of the Rio Grande Men’s Basketball Team where his character, attitude, performance, and leadership served to create lifelong relationships with and inspire his teammates. He left Rio to serve his country in the US Military during the Vietnam War as 1st Sergeant, Kilo-Battery—4th Battalion—13th Marines. He was injured in combat and awarded the Purple Heart. He joined the 684th Army National Guard in 1974. Former Rio Athletic Director and Men’s Basketball Coach Art Lanham said Marshall’s determination to return to the court after an injury overseas is only a small part of why he is deserving of this award.
“We were all saddened when Jim was drafted into the Marines, and prayed for his safe return to Rio Grande. That prayer was answered but a shell that exploded very close to Jim during a combat mission in Vietnam caused a complete loss of hearing in one ear and other injuries. After many months of rehab, Jim returned to Rio. During Jim’s rehab he received a special guest, General Westmoreland, who penned a purple heart to his pillow,” Lanham said. “It is my firm belief that the greatest casualty is to be forgotten. This award ensures Jim and his family will never be forgotten here at Rio.”
Marshall’s teammate and longtime friend, Frank Bullock helped recruit Jim for the 1964 basketball season. He said Marshall was a true teammate and leader.
“I’ve known Jim since sixth grade when we were both the leading scorers at our respective schools, so we were competitors back then. Once we were on the same team in middle school, we became good friends,” Bullock said. “Jim was always a dynamic basketball player. This is a man who could jump three feet into the air. He had a huge impact on this school because people would come from all over the tristate to watch him play. This is a great way to honor him, and I’m happy to have been on the committee for this award. I would like to see this continue to grow and be an even bigger event next year.”
Bob Leith had the unique experience to be both a teammate and professor to Marshall. He said Marshall has and still is very inspiring to those around him.
“He was a great ball player and people from all over the area knew his name. While he was overseas, I graduated and became a history professor. When he returned, he was one of my students. He worked very hard to overcome his hearing complications in my class. He’s always been the person who works to earn his way, and I have a lot of respect for his academic efforts,” Leith said. “Jim went to work before he became at Rio, so he was older than the rest of us when he started. He was someone we could look up to and count on for advice. He never held how great of a player he was over anyone. He was just one of the guys and always tried to help everyone better themselves.”
Marshall is known for a legacy of excellence, diligence, vigilance and insistence on excellence, and currently resides in Lancaster with his wife, Joan. He said he is honored by this award and proud to know it will continue to recognize men and women in the armed services for many years to come.
“This means the world to me. It’s an ongoing award and will become a legacy award for all the veterans Rio Grande honors. It’s a great honor to have this named after me,” Marshall said. “I appreciate Coach [Art] Lanham, President Johnston and all my teammates for their efforts to make this award possible. I’m overwhelmed by how nice the ceremony was and the turnout of the people I served with. We came in here as Rio Grande College Redmen and we’re leaving tonight as University of Rio Grande RedStorm.”
Another way Rio continues to honor veterans in the area is to offer free admission to all free entrance to all athletic events at Rio’s campus during the 2016-2017 year. Rio will present the second annual “Jim Marshall Veteran of the Year Award,” during its 2017-18 season.
Jessica Patterson is a communications specialist for the University of Rio Grande.