Dr. Owen Sweatt was a student-athlete at Lipscomb, but he received more than a degree, He has heartfelt memories of his experiences, both in athletics and in the classroom, but most of all he has a a deep appreciation for the students and faculty he interacted with and what the school has meant to him throughout his life. He was kind enough to reflect on his life and Lipscomb for Lipscombsports.com.
What sport did you play at Lipscomb? What years? Who were your coaches?
"I had the pleasure of playing basketball from 1965-69. My first year was played under the direction of Coach Tiger Morris. Bailey Heflin was our freshman coach and I worked with him some in track. Coach Guy Phipps coached a season and a half, and I really appreciated him, and Coach Ken Dugan finished the last season and a half, with Mike Harkness (I played with Mike during '65-'66) helping as his assistant. And let's not forget the trainers and managers that tried to help us play at our best. Who can forget Dave Adams? I could still tape an ankle if I had to."
What is your fondest athletic memory at Lipscomb?
"The people! Being able to play in front of such supportive fans, students and faculty, in such a wonderful environment, and being able to play, room, work, and travel with such first class people.
"I still maintain some contact with two of my roommates, Merl Smith and Stacy Myers. Obviously, winning some big games (Belmont, UT-Chattanooga, Transylvania, and several more) was memorable, but we had plenty of those other results that gave us balance."
Who had the biggest influence on you during your athletic career at Lipscomb? How?
"Coach Tiger Morris was unquestionably the best coach that I ever played for. He was so organized and thorough, we had notebooks, and we approached basketball from an academic standpoint.
"I coached some in my early teaching career and used some of the same material from his notebook. I also bet that if you used certain terms in front of his players, they could instantly either execute the maneuver or tell you what it was.
"He was consistent and passionate in coaching. I don't think I ever felt that he was particularly close to me, partly because I was a freshman, but he had an uncanny way of talking to us and pushing us and making us believe that he thought we had something to contribute to our team.
"The freshmen, Jimmy Beller and Merl Smith, were better than I was, and during his speeches he would really be talking to them. But when we came out of the classroom after the speech, I would knock the door down trying to get on the floor, thinking I was going to start the next game. I doubt I ever had any special standing in his mind, but I never knew it. I would have loved to have played with him more than one season.
"I can't leave this paragraph without mentioning 'Fessor Boyce. Who could ever have emulated the qualities of a Christian man more than he could? I have tears welling up in my eyes as I write this, which pretty much describes his influence and my feelings. Being a physical education major, and a ball player, I had the privilege of seeing him and being around him often. There could be no greater compliment than, `you remind me of 'Fessor'."
What is your fondest non-athletic memory from your time at Lipscomb?
"The people: students, faculty and staff. From Arnold Underwood (he let me borrow his convertible to take Lana home one weekend), to Jonesy, to secretaries, to meal time, to dorm supervisors, to administration, to teachers, to the many people that became more than friends.
"I regret that I am not in closer proximity or have been able to stay in closer contact with many of those friends. I often think of the people and experiences at Lipscomb with the fondest of thoughts.
"I learned about public relations. I had my heart broken for the first time, and eventually, met my wife-to-be. I bought Lana an engagement ring from Draper's. I gave it to the coaches to carry on our Christmas basketball trip so I could go visit her after our big win at Samford, and gave her the ring while visiting her family during Christmas. I've got to stop reminiscing."
What is the most valuable thing you gained or learned from your time at Lipscomb?
"The Army has a motto of `Be, Know, and Do'. That has lots of application for me as I think of my experiences at Lipscomb. We learned about being; who we were, and how to be the person we wanted to be under the watchful eye and tutelage of some wonderful human beings, away from the overprotective environment we grew up in.
"We had a safe stage on which to do; to actually put in practice what we had learned. And we leaned these things from classes with caring teachers, from chapel, from devotionals (Dean Mack Wayne Craig), from extracurricular activities, from daily interactions with fellow students, and from the tribulations and trials we experienced while attempting to successfully complete our college degrees."
Who was your favorite professor? Why?
"I must mention Dr. Willis Owens. He said, "Owen, you need to choose biology or basketball." The rest is history! Dean Craig was a wonderful person, mentor, and teacher to many of us. Dr. Batsell Baxter was the epitome of a Christian man and teacher, as was 'Fessor Boyce, through their teaching and their actions.
"But I have to include professors that didn't teach me, who were special people that inspired me, like Dr. Robert Hooper, Dr. Ralph Samples, and Bro. Willard Collins, because they were interested in what you did (the doing I mentioned earlier), and they spent their time encouraging us and being an example for us."
Where do you live now?
"I moved to Hammond, La., in 1969 to complete a master's degree, married Lana Berry in December after she finished Lipscomb, and moved to her hometown of Fayette, Ala., to join the Alabama National Guard in 1970. Been there ever since."
Who is your employer? What is your occupation? What does your position entail?
"Lana and I worked as teachers in the Fayette County School System for a number of years. I taught science (biology, Dr. Owens, and I was a good one!), coached for a few years, taught vocational education and was an administrator.
"She retired after 38 years as an elementary school teacher, and I retired after 27 1/2 to pursue military duty and a Ph.D. I taught in the business school at the University of Alabama as an adjunct professor for almost 10 years, and retired after 32 years as a Colonel in the Guard and Reserves."
Tell us about your family.
"I have always maintained that the measure of a person's success is his/her family. That is the part of which I am most proud. WE raised two wonderful boys (for the most part) in the small town of Fayette.
"David, the older is 37 and lives in Florence, Ala., with his wife, Flori, and two sons, Samuel Owen (6), and Eli Keith (4). He has a successful Physical Therapy business and we are counting on his ability to keep me moving through these later years. Flori was the women's basketball coach at University of North Alabama for several years and now raises boys and works as a personal trainer and teacher at the local Y. The boys will attend Mars Hill Bible School.
"Brian will be 36 this week and is a pharmacist in Tuscaloosa/Northport. He and his wife, Brandy, who is a pharmacist also, have just opened two stores of their own in Tuscaloosa (Tuscaloosa Drug Company). They are parents of Alaina Preston (4) and Kale Daniel (1).
"Lana now spends three days a week keeping Brian's kids (we are about 30 minutes away). Very full time. I have moved my dad to assisted living in Fayette and get to visit with him every morning. I also have a farming operation and raise about 160 acres of corn and 15 acres of hay each year. I still love to hunt and fish when I can. Arnelle, my sister, works in Brentwood, Tenn."
My e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.