“One of the greatest things about Wesleyan,” a coach told me recently, “is that you’re inspired to follow your bliss and go anywhere.”
The Middletown Press presents a new series called “Wesleyan Footprints,” bringing you daily profiles of influential Wesleyan alumni in the world of sports. It’s a chance to retrace the steps of Wesleyan graduates who have made an impact on modern sports.
Henri Salaun '49: France native overcame WWII obstacles, found squash fame
It’s a long and intriguing success story — one that begins with a harried departure from pre-war France, winds through the Wesleyan University campus in Middletown, climbs to the highest of highs in professional squash, then quietly settles down to a home in Needham, Mass.
This is the story of Henri Salaun.
He’s widely considered one of the world’s most influential squash players, and cut his teeth as a three-sport athlete at Wesleyan in the 1940s.
Salaun, 87, went on to win the inaugural U.S. Open of squash in 1954, earned a bevy of national championships and even adorned the cover of Sports Illustrated in 1958.
But like so many people of his era, Salaun’s life wasn’t shaped by sports. It was shaped by World War II.
Bill Rodgers '70: Marathoner's elite career forged at Wesleyan
Bill Rodgers was a good runner when he first came to Wesleyan in 1966. But he wasn’t great — not yet.
It was a combination of his own ambition and some inspired coaching that turned Rodgers into “Boston Billy,” one of America’s greatest and most recognizable distance runners of all time.
Rodgers won four Boston Marathons, four New York Marathons and set an American marathon record in the process. He was named world’s best marathoner three times in the 1970s by Track & Field News, and today is a member of the National Track & Field Hall of Fame and National Distance Running Hall of Fame.
Bill Belichick '75: Patriots coach keeps Wesleyan family in mind
“As the year’s go on, his contributions have never been stronger,” freshly retired athletic director John Biddiscombe said. "Just a really loyal guy. He’s an active recruiter for football, talks with [football coach and current AD Mike Whalen] and helps with fundraising.”
Houghton 'Buck' Freeman '43: Alum left indelible mark on campus
As a dynamic scorer and captain for the men’s soccer team, Houghton “Buck” Freeman had a splendid athletic career at Wesleyan.
Still, his athletic prowess pales in comparison to the impact he had on the university decades after graduation.
His name will forever be attached to the Freeman Athletic Center, toward which he donated $5 million in 1988. He later helped create the Freeman Asian Scholars Program, which provides full scholarships for native Asians to complete a degree program at Wesleyan.
One hundred years after Everett Bacon graduated from Wesleyan, the memories
have, sadly, begun to fade.
There’s the Bacon Field House at Wesleyan, named in his honor. There are a
few pictures scattered around campus. But they barely do justice to the two-time
All-American and pioneer of football’s forward pass.