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.
That philosophy led him to encourage a wiry runner at Catonsville High School, Leah Bennett, Class of 1961. Manley, who formed a track club for his female runners, encouraged Bennett, taking her and another girl to the Olympic Trials.
Bennett didn't qualify for the U.S. Olympic Team, but her running in national and international meets attracted the attention of the coach at the University of Hawaii. After running track for the school, Bennett stayed in Hawaii and organized the Honolulu Marathon in 1972, which is still run every December.
Manley sent the college's women's teams to national tournaments, same as the men. They got uniforms, travel funds and support, which not all women's teams did in those days.
He recalled a basketball tournament where the Cardinals were to play the University of Maryland and University of Delaware. "They were the only one with uniforms," he said. Even the Maryland women wore the mesh tank tops called "pin-nies" instead.
Manley recruited coaching staff who could teach. He wanted them to be in the classroom, present to students beyond practice time. He credits those teacher-coaches with continually raising the reputation of the college's sports program.
"You never do anything on your own," he said. "The things I did I would never have been able to do without their help."
He and team doctor Ramsey Thomas returned from a college sports conference excited about a nonhospital rehabilitation program for heart patients that was the beginning of Prescribed Active Cardiac Exercises, a program Manley ran for eight years.
It was a crucial development in helping cardiac patients get well, recalled St. Agnes Hospital cardiologist Dr. Raymond Bahr.
Bahr recalled how cardiac patients needed a rehabilitation.
"The PACE program was a tremendous asset for cardiac patients in the community," said Dr. Bahr, now retired.
Working with Dr. Bahr and Dr. Michael Kelemen, a cardiologist named as the PACE medical director, the program started with 15 people. All of them had been urged by their doctors to start exercising after a heart attack or diagnosis of heart disease. "These people had to go back to work," he said.
They tested 40 people and got them into weight training. A program for spouses offered support and information on topics such as diet.
The program took off, at one time enrolling about 200 people. It was the topic of articles in medical journals in the U.S. and Great Britain.
"It became the standard for Maryland in terms of other hospitals working with their community colleges as well," said Dr. Bahr, co-chair with Beverly Vanzant of the college's fundraising committee, Jack Manley 500 Club. "It was a fantastic program for a long period of time."
Manley retired in 1984. And though he's more likely to be at his grandson's lacrosse game at Catonsville High than at a CCBC game, he has continued to stay active with the college. He has served on the Catonsville Foundation and is part of the fundraising committee raising funds to restore Hilton Mansion on the Catonsville campus.
That committee, led by Beverly Vinzant, organized the Jack Manley 500 Club Committee to honor the retired athletic director.
Chaired by Bahr and Sarajane Quinn, the committee helped raise $250,000, half the amount required to honor Manley by naming the gym in his honor.
Manley called this extra effort "a wonderful surprise."
Kurtinitis said she hopes to see continued efforts to raise funds, and honor donors and those who have played a special role on campus.
"This [committee to raise funds for Hilton Mansion] decided this could be a good initiative to attract more support for the mansion as well as the athletic programs," said Kenneth Westary, vice president for institutional advancement at CCBC.
In addition to mansion restoration, about a quarter will go toward scholarships, Westary said.
The 1917 mansion, a recognized historic landmark, will be restored for use by the college and community with office and seminar space, Kurtinitis said.
They plan to restore its elegance while making it handicapped accessible. Kurtinitis said the hope is to begin work in the fall of 2015 or 2016, depending on the other capital needs of the college.
The ceremony on May 15, which begins at 4 p.m. on the plaza behind the CCBC-Catonsville Library, is open to the public. Those wishing to attend are asked to R.S.V.P. to Beverly Stoewer at 443-840-3129 or firstname.lastname@example.org.Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun