Longtime football coach and health and physical education department chair, Al Jacks (1963-96), was philosophical about his Distinguished Service Award quoting Henry David Thoreau, who said a wild sparrow alighting on his shoulder was a distinguished event and nothing else that ever happens could be as rewarding.
"It is the small things in life we need to appreciate," says Jacks. "I recall my interview for the head coaching position with President James Gemmell and Waldo Tippin. Mr. Tippin asked me if I went to church. I stretched it a little and told him yes, which is true. Eventually, he learned that I was a Presbyterian. That was one of the smartest things I did, but I didn't know it at that time, because Mr. Tippin was a staunch Presbyterian.
"I met Walter Hart, Dana Still, James Moore, Bill Page, all beautiful people, during my interview and decided then if I had an opportunity to come here I would do it."
The stay lasted 33 years, including 19 years as head football coach and 17 years as chair of the health and physical education department. He coached the Golden Eagle football team to an overall 128-46-5 record, still the highest winning percentage among Clarion football coaches, three Pennsylvania Conference Championships, and six Pennsylvania Conference Western Division titles, all while maintaining a full teaching load. In addition to teaching and coaching Jacks served on numerous campus wide committees examining such items as sabbaticals and tenure, and served on the administrative council.
"I came to Clarion because I heard they had money to spend on athletics. I told Mr. Tippin, that it would be good to have a spring practice for the football team. He told me to go ahead and I commuted daily for three and one-half weeks from Slippery Rock to hold practice. At the end of that time he paid me $50."
Jacks earning both a B.S. and M.S. degrees in health and physical education at Penn State University, where he played quarterback for the Nittany Lions under legendary coach Rip Engle. He served as an assistant coach at Penn State and Slippery Rock before joining Clarion.
But it didn't take long for Clarion to begin fund raising efforts. Through weekly meetings at the Modern Diner, the beginnings of the Clarion athletic scholarship program became a reality. In 1966 the football team won the state championship and athletic director Frank Lignelli started the Century Club with a $100 membership fee enabling Clarion to offer partial financial aid to perspective football players and eventually expanded to provide scholarships to other sports.
Jacks and his wife, Karen, have three sons and four grandchildren. Craig is employed by Georgia Pacific in Atlanta, GA; Glenn works for Manheim Auto Auction in Pittsburgh; and Dean is currently working on a Ph.D. degree at the University of Toledo.
Al Jacks accepts his Distinguished Service Award from Tony Linnan ('89).