Comments shared at the Memorial Service for Coach Ara Parseghian (’49)

August 6, 2017
Greg and Renate Crawford

Greg Crawford:
When I told Coach Ara about the opportunity to become president of Miami University last year, he responded: “I guess there’s only one place I’d let you go.” He had often told me about Miami in the years we worked together in the fight against Niemann-Pick disease Type-C (NPC). It’s where he met Katie, Class of 1950 – we call such marriages a Miami Merger. He played football at Miami, he earned a bachelor’s and a master’s in education, he became head football coach, he served on the board of trustees. More than that, he was a living example of Miami’s deepest virtues and values extolled in our alma mater, our motto, and our legendary greeting.

Our alma mater at Miami says our alumni are “sturdy hearted, pure of soul.” That’s Coach.

Our motto is Prodesse Quam Conspici, a Latin phrase that means “to achieve without becoming conspicuous.” That’s Coach.

Our deepest values are expressed in the phrase “Love and Honor.” That’s Coach.

Coach was sturdy in his determination to defeat NPC, unwavering even after his grandchildren succumbed to the disease, with the pure motive to help NPC children and families. When he was autographing a football, Coach would often sign “Best wish” – not wishes plural, but just one – because it’s the best one. I know that his best wish was a cure for NPC.

Coach achieved without being conspicuous, never calling attention to himself. Like every other boy growing up in Ohio in the 1970s, I dreamed of playing for Ara Parseghian. He was larger than life. When I wound up on his team fighting NPC, I marveled at his humility and magnanimity. You would never guess that this was the legendary coach with two national championships. He was a man who devoted his attention as well as his achievements to the service of others. When he was being honored by the March of Dimes soon after his grandchildren received their NPC diagnosis, he said, “My greatest achievement, I like to think, is maybe ahead of me.”

Coach demonstrated his Love and Honor with intense loyalty to his family – he was Katie’s husband; Mike and Karan and Kristan’s dad; a grandfather and a great-grandfather. He was loyal to his players, his alma mater, his friends, and the families suffering with NPC who needed his support. His famous lesson about unity and loyalty, reflecting Love and Honor, is my favorite quote: “You know what it takes to win. Just look at my fist. When I make a fist, it’s strong and you can’t tear it apart. As long as there’s unity, there’s strength.”

Love and Honor were shown to him. I will never forget that day last October when he and Katie landed in the little old Oxford airport on RedHawk One. Sixty years after Coach left, he was still a legend at Miami, and the student-athletes – not just football players – all lined up along the taxiway to welcome him with Love and Honor.

When I was here at Notre Dame, I visited Coach’s statue near the stadium countless times for inspiration when I was facing a difficult challenge – I found comfort passing by that famous statue. Fortunately for me, we have a statue of Ara in our Cradle of Coaches at Miami – kneeling down, that fist is open in what looks like a peace sign, catching a moment when he was calling a play from the sidelines.

One of my first acts at Miami University was to award the President’s Medal. As I read through the high standards – someone who truly exemplified Love and Honor – there was no doubt who would receive my first one. There is no greater model than Coach Ara of living Miami’s values for our students, our faculty, our staff, and our alumni. Or for me.

Renate Crawford:
On our daily runs, Greg and I often run the bleachers at Yager Stadium, passing the Cradle of Coaches where Ara’s statue proudly stands. We are glad he will forever be watching over our Miami family.

Being at Miami, we have seen the campus culture of Love and Honor that helps explain Coach’s remarkable life, his virtuous character, and his extraordinary service. All of us can look to his example for a model and inspiration of how to express Love and Honor in our family, our career, and our life to make a positive impact on others.

Coach is Greg’s favorite; always was and always will be. He is mine, too. Even if I had trouble following his football analogies, one thing is clear – what he has done for all of those mothers whose children suffer from NPC. He gave them courage, he gave them hope, he gave them optimism. He gave researchers the confidence to persevere. You are our hero, Coach, and the hero of all those NPC families and children. Watch over us from above, and call that last play that gets your NPC team over the goal line to the championship of a cure – a play call that will surely be a sign of healing and peace. We are your grateful legacy.

On behalf of a grateful Miami University, on behalf of our athletic director David Sayler, head football coach Chuck Martin, board chair Mark Ridenour, and the entire Miami family, I say thank you, Coach. We will miss you dearly. You will forever be our coach. You will forever be my coach.