Celebrating a legendary career


John BaxterWhen the event is described as the largest Homecoming gathering in Emporia State University’s history, you know it has to be in recognition of a special achievement. The crowd that filled the Memorial Union’s Webb Hall after a Saturday football game was there to honor John Baxter, Emporia State’s head athletic trainer, on the occasion of his retirement.

“One of the most remarkable things about John Baxter is that his message resonates across generations,” said Kent Weiser, director of athletics. “In the audience here, I see people who played years ago, and yet kids of today still respect what he does and what he stands for.”

Baxter came to Kansas State Teachers College in 1966 after teaching and coaching in the Albuquerque, N.M. public school system. “For me, the most rewarding part of athletic training has always been the athlete who has an injury, struggles to heal and rehabilitate and comes back to play at the same level prior to the injury,” Baxter noted in an August 2012 ESU Bulletin interview.

But a throng of former athletes, coaches and friends told a different story.

“He’s touched the lives of countless athletes over the years,” said Lonnie Clark (BSE 1971), Birmingham, Ala. “He had a vision of a world-class training room to treat the athletes the way they should be treated, and to train students the way they should be trained,” said Clark, who retired in 2008 from a career with HealthSouth Corp.

“I’m the guy replacing Baxter,” said Blaise Kriley (BS 2009, MS 2012). “And I have to replace a legend.” Sharing athletic training responsibilities with Leslie Kenney, Kriley is a product of Baxter’s program.

“ESU has athletic training alumni at the collegiate level, in professional sports, the NFL and major league baseball, high schools across the country, and in clinical settings,” Kriley noted.

“His passion for kids and dedication to both academics and athletics is extraordinary,” said Dr. Michael D. Shonrock, president. “I’m pleased to announce that our athletic training facility will now and forever be officially renamed the John Baxter Sports Medicine Center.”

long with honoring his career, the event served a fund-raising function for both the sports medicine center and a scholarship in Baxter’s honor. “Our goal was to try to get you to become productive citizens,” Baxter told the crowd.  “And if we did that, we did our job. And if, in the process we taught you how to make money at it, good.”

“And if we taught you something that made you a lot of money, give it to the John Baxter Athletic Training Scholarship,” Baxter exhorted, as the audience laughed and rose to its feet to applaud and honor their friend and mentor.

 The Emporia State University Foundation is encouraging gifts to the Baxter scholarship and the sports medicine center renovation project. For more information, call 620-341-5440.

Baxter and trainers