Tom Calvin’s football teams constituted a dynasty. He coached the Aggies to 17 winning seasons, 12 county championships four regional championships and two state titles. Before coming to Sylacauga, he played college football at the University of Alabama and professional football for the Pittsburgh Steelers.
Yet, winning was not his top priority.
His goal in coaching was to “make a boy be a better boy,” he said Tuesday. “I was hard on you, I wanted you to win, but I also wanted you to be a good person. An honest, good person.”
Lenette Calvin was an accomplished athlete in her own right. She was a cheerleader at the University of Alabama and a competitive diver who qualified for the 1948 Olympics trials. At Sylacauga High, she coached gymnastics, track, volleyball, tennis and cheerleading. She established gymnastics as a competitive sport in high schools across the state, and her gymnastics teams won more than 200 championships
What her students remembered most, though, was how she supported them.
“She was the type of coach you wanted to work hard for and you didn’t want to disappoint her, because she made you feel good about yourself,” said Rita Price Ingram, a former gymnastics student who now coaches Sylacauga’s volleyball team.
The Calvins have gained many honors and awards, but perhaps none so earnestly bestowed as the Tom and Lenette Calvin Chair presented Tuesday by the Sylacauga City Schools Foundation.
The foundation chairs — and they are real chairs; Tom Calvin sat in his for a newspaper photo Tuesday — recognize donations of $25,000. The donation, in this case, did not come from the Calvins, but from members of the community, including many former students, who wanted the Calvins to have this honor.
The donation on the Calvins’ behalf is an enormous gift. The dollar figure almost doubles the city’s entire population. Yet it represents only a quarter of the total the foundation awarded in grants to the city schools this year.
The Sylacauga City Schools have a reputation for excellence to be envied and emulated throughout the state. This tradition is the product not only of excellent and caring teachers such as the Calvins, but also of a community determined to do the best for its children.