Feature

Marv Kay
Mines' biggest fan in the stands
Silver and blue are the only fan threads Marv Kay ever imagined flaunting. The legendary Oredigger football coach and athletics director was practically born on campus. His father was a junior at the time, and they lived across the street from the President’s House. Growing up playing sports among the mining towns on Colorado’s Western Slope, the man who would devote most of his life to Colorado School of Mines, never saw himself headed anywhere else. “I think I was destined. It was something I had always dreamed of,” he says.

Respect and admiration for Kay was palpable on October 3 when he was honored as the sole inductee into the 13th annual class of the Colorado School of Mines Athletics Hall of Fame. Held in the Lockridge Arena, the event was attended by more than 330 members of the Mines community and included remarks by President Scoggins and several of those who have worked closest to Kay over the years.

As a student at Mines, Kay lettered in wrestling and football, earning himself All American recognition and a free agent contract with the Denver Broncos. After he graduated in 1963 with a bachelor’s degree in mining engineering, he spent two years as a first lieutenant in the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Fritz Brennecke, his former football coach and the Mines athletics director at the time, then offered him the opportunity to work as assistant football and head swimming coach, “to pass the time while I figured out what to do with the rest of my life,” Kay says. “One year turned into a life. Probably Coach Brennecke saw something in me I didn’t see in myself.”

Three years later Kay became head football coach, a position he held for 24 years. This was followed by a nine-year tenure as Mines athletic director, overseeing not only varsity NCAA intercollegiate athletics, but recreational sports, the school’s mandatory physical education courses and athletic facility development. Kay concurrently served the community of Golden, serving as mayor for eight years and sitting on Golden’s city council for 12. The awards he’s received for his civic, philanthropic and athletic accomplishments are too numerous to list, but when pressed, he’ll admit that the three he is proudest of are his Mines Medal awarded in 2003, being named Distinguished Faculty Lecturer by Mines’ Faculty Senate in 2005 and having Marvin the Miner named in his honor.

“Marv does not have blue blood. He has blue and silver blood,” says former Mines athletic director Bruce Allison. He describes Marv as a caring coach who “knew his players intimately and looked out for their best interests then and probably still does for a few of them.”

Though Coach Kay always enjoyed winning, it was the success of his athletes that gave him the greatest satisfaction over the years—on the field and in the classroom. As he explains it, his dream has always been to see the school’s academic excellence reflected by comparable achievements in athletics—and this vision is becoming a reality. “We’ve evolved into a program that’s reaching the top levels of Division II athletics,” Kay says with pride. “We’re saying it’s okay to stress athletic excellence. It’s proven that the two go together.” But it’s taken many years to make that case; Kay recalls a time when financial support for athletics was a much lower priority. Helping to change that is part of his legacy.

“We wanted to present to the world upon graduation a well-rounded student,” Kay says. “Historically we weren’t always able to do that. It’s been a process, to bring all this to the forefront.” One of the keys to this evolution was moving the entire responsibility for athletics from the President’s Office and the Office of Academic Affairs to Student Life, where it doesn’t compete with academic departments for funding. Kay stresses that it couldn’t have happened without the vision and support of John Trefny, president emeritus, and Harold Cheuvront, the school’s vice president for student life.

“Over the years, I developed a deep respect for Marv’s understanding of both sides of the equation,” Trefny says. “I do believe it was revolutionary as well as spectacularly successful,” he adds, crediting Kay and Cheuvront for much of the plan’s accomplishment. “It has obviously led to notable success by our varsity teams, including the first undefeated football team in 65 years. Just as satisfying has been the success of our club teams and the phenomenal student participation in intramural sports and recreational activities.” In addition, the new administrative structure set the stage for Student Life to spearhead several major initiatives, including construction of the new Student Recreation Center, the addition of the new intramural and recreational fields, and the current improvements to the creek side playing fields.

“We are only now seeing the full impact. These new facilities have transformed the quality of student life. Participation in intramural and club sports is at an all-time high, and they are having an impact on the recruitment and retention of students,” says Cheuvront, who points to Marv’s “student-first attitude” as a source of inspiration throughout the whole process.


Tom Spicer, director of athletics (left), and Bill Engel ’60 (right) pose with Marv. Bill, a lifelong friend, teammate and classmate, presented the award to Marv.

Reflecting back on his own career at Mines—as a student, an athlete, a coach, a teacher and an administrator—Kay is immensely grateful: “It was the fulfillment of a lifetime of dreams. I couldn’t ask for anything more.”

Since retiring as a member of the faculty in 2003, Kay has turned to part-time fundraising for Mines. “After being in the program almost 30 years as a player and a faculty member, I felt I had some strong desires and some dreams about the direction the programs could and should go,” he says. As leader of the fundraising program, he’s had the opportunity to make some of those dreams a reality. He’s brought millions of dollars to the school for new facilities, including support for the recently completed Student Recreation Center and the soon-to-be-completed outdoor facilities. But he hesitates to quantify this, deferring to the teamwork of faculty, administration,
alumni and students involved in making it all happen.

When he’s not fundraising, he’s often cheering on the Orediggers. “I seldom miss a contest in any of the sports. I love to see the young men and women at Mines compete. It’s very rewarding,” says Kay, who admits he misses the daily interaction and hustle-bustle of his students.

As for his induction into the Athletics Hall of Fame, Kay says he can’t think of anything nicer that has ever happened to him. “I’m overwhelmed with the honor. And I’m looking forward to the football game on Saturday."