Catonsville Community College had no athletic facilities of its own in its early years after the school opened in the fall of 1957, so its first athletic director had to innovate.
Jack Manley found all kinds of places to hold classes: The bowling lanes of the Colts' Johnny Unitas a few miles away; an ice rink on Route 40; classrooms above an old gym near St. Timothy's Church. Manley even held basketball practice from 10 p.m. to midnight in the gym at Catonsville High School.
Manley hired coaches as teachers and offered the college's female athletes the same opportunities as the men, in an era when coaching from the sidelines was considered a foul in a women's basketball game and only two women were allowed to cross the half-court line and play at both ends of the floor.
Manley believed the community should be welcomed onto the college's campus. He and two local cardiologists instituted a fitness program for those recovering from heart attacks or who had been diagnosed with heart disease. Those were the days, Manley said, when heart attack victims were warned against simply raising their arms.
He devised a program for recreation, health and physical education compatible with four-year programs at then-Towson State College and the University of Maryland, and designed a gym that set a new standard for facilities.
On Thursday, May 15, that building will named the Jack Manley Wellness and Athletics Center, the first building on what is now the Catonsville campus of the Community College of Baltimore County to be so named.
"It's a wonderful acknowledgment for a wonderful man," said Sandra Kurtinitis, president of CCBC. "He's positively impacted the lives of hundreds of students."
Manley was a teacher and coach at Catonsville High School when he was asked to lead the athletic program at the fledgling community college in 1959.
Once the Rolling Road campus opened in 1962, there still was no gym. A health class of 100 met in a parking garage and physical education classes were held in The Barn on the South Rolling Road campus.
Manley spent a summer visiting junior college gyms all over the country, finding most were like high school facilities, with room for only one basketball court.
"We really wanted a bigger one to have an indoor track," he said.
With the support of CCC's first president, Oliver Laine, Manely got a gym almost as big as he wanted, with three basketball courts, an indoor track and, a few years later, a pool. "Nobody had what we had at the time," Manley said. "We were way ahead as far as facilities and programs went."
CCBC-Catonsville's current athletic director, Brian Farrell, credits Manley with a legacy that has endured. "The sense of teamwork and camaraderie he founded at CCBC-Catonsville still permeates the athletic programs to this day," Farrell said.
Manley, now 87, gives a lot of the credit for the development of CCC's athletics and wellness programs to its presidents, first Lane and then Robert Barringer, and the school's first business manager, Joe Murray. They listened to him, and gave him time and funds to create the programs and the fieldhouse, he said. "These guys were unbelievable."
In addition to intercollegiate success, the facilities have hosted a number of international visitors. A team from England came to CCC to play the men's soccer team. Japanese Olympic volleyball champions played the women's team. The women's basketball team tipped off against a Chinese airline team.
The Baltimore Bays professional soccer team, practiced here and welcomed teams from abroad.
Manley recalls Russian players fascinated by American football equipment. They all had to try on the uniforms and pads. "The Russians really loved it," he said.
Manley believed from the first that women and men should have equal opportunities when it came to sports — just as he had in high school.
"I really felt they should have the same opportunities men have," said Manley, who has lived in Catonsville with his wife, Berchie, since 1964.