(Editor’s Note: The GAA’s Distinguished Service Medal citations, such as this one, are read to the audience at the Annual Alumni Luncheon and then presented as a keepsake to the recipients.)
Distinguished Service Medal Citation
Richard Allen Baddour ’66
Once upon a time, things were just about perfect. In a perfectly glorious town sat an institution which, if it wasn’t perfect, at least it was close enough to be called the University of National Champions.
One day the perfect job came open. The person who gave up the perfect job had performed so well at it that his successor surely would have little to do but kick back in the office and watch as an incredibly efficient machine hummed along. As fortune would have it, the perfect candidate was in waiting. He’d honed his skills as an administrator throughout the campus, and he’d been at the right hand of his predecessor for a decade, and this was his time.
These are among the perfectly beautiful things he was told when he accepted the job: Dean Smith will be here, at the very least, another three years; Mack Brown has us in the top ten, and we’re building that wonderful new football center he wanted—he’s a Tar Heel for life.
Dick Baddour, this, of course, is not your life. Things turned out a little differently than anyone had planned. Seldom in the history of this place has any one person been exposed to such high-profile pressure in so short a time span.
He prepared well for it. Dick took his diploma and went directly into the business of running Carolina’s affairs. He was assistant dean of men in the late 1960s, perhaps the most interesting time to be a young member of the establishment working with students. As assistant director of undergraduate admissions, he was in touch with all the academic disciplines, and as a traveling representative of Carolina he received an intimate look at North Carolina. At the law school Dick learned the role of a chief operating officer.
If this sounds like a full plate, remember that he gave the National Guard 31 years, and retired a colonel. He co-chaired the bond drive to build the Chapel Hill Public Library. He was vice president of the Parks and Recreation Commission; chair of the Orange County Heart Association; Cub Scout master and Little League coach. Dick was volunteer of the year in the public school system in 1996, and successfully managed a Chapel Hill mayoral campaign.
He is a model blend of town and gown.
John Swofford ’71 spotted Dick at a time in which the role of the athletics administrator was changing. No longer was it enough to promote a coach to the front office—Carolina demanded a seasoned administrator. Says John, “Professionally he has given himself to the University. His love of the University, his loyalty and his lifetime commitment are what stand out about Dicky.”
He took over as athletics director in a time when professional sports were beginning to take hold in the state. No longer would collegiate sports have a lock on the fan’s interest, and he knew the front office would have to be faster on its feet. What he didn’t know was that within very short months, the basketball coach and the football coach would be gone.
Harsh critics came calling on Dick Baddour. He reasoned with them, and when reason failed he stared and wouldn’t blink. He approached the various coaching crises always from the strong standpoint of this University’s tradition of excellence and its reputation for doing right by people. He bore in mind that while a respected academic foundation was uppermost at this University, sports often served as the front door to the house.
While often our peer institutions leap to hire marketing and financial wizards as athletics directors, it was revealing and reassuring that Carolina turned to an educator and administrator with 30 years of distinguished experience in student affairs, admissions, and athletics to lead Carolina athletics into the 21st Century.
There is a story that Dick Cashwell ’59, former director of admissions, tells about Dick’s brief flirtation with a side business—he became convinced there was a fortune to be made in these little umbrellas that could be worn on the head. For anyone who’s interested, he apparently still has a portion of his first order of cranial umbrellas.
Maybe he didn’t sell them all so that he’d always have one. Because when it’s raining all around, the consummate Carolina administrator is always dry and smiling, and looking on the sunny side.