Bill Arce: Our Coach of Coaches

CMC President Hiram Chodosh on the legacy of the College's founding athletic director

Thank you for the moving honor to speak today at the memorial of one of my heroes, Bill Arce. This is a sad, inspiring moment. Sad in our loss, and inspiring in the many lessons of Coach Arce’s life and work.

Like many of you here today, I played many sports as a kid. Of all, baseball seared the most lasting memories and associations. We all know that Yogi Berra said that he didn’t really say most of the things he said, but he did point out that baseball was 90% mental and the other half physical.

To me, the whole is larger than 100% because the physical and mental experiences of baseball are so inseparable.

Watch: Full video of the memorial service for Bill Arce

I can still feel the thrill at age 9 of riding my banana seat bike on my own to the park; or the chill in the air of the first spring practice.

I can still smell the fresh-cut grass and mixture of chalk and sand at the plate; and feel the sting from the way my first grounder popped up to bust my upper lip.

I still remember the humiliating failure of the nine strikeouts in my first 10 at-bats, and the tears of accomplishment running down my face after my very first hit.

And through all of that, what I remember most is my coach, how he stuck with me, how he believed in me when I doubted myself.

Atul Gawande observed that, “coaching done well may be the most effective intervention designed for human performance.”

Bill Arce accomplished and contributed so much for our country and our Claremont community – from Battle of the Bulge to the singular success of our athletic programs to his global championships.

Through all of this, I see Bill’s most powerful legacy as our founding coach.

Bill saw himself as an educator. Yet, as educators, we are at our very best, when we are Coach. Not teacher, not professor, not dean, not athletic director, not diplomat, not even parent or president, but Coach.

Bill transcended discipline or department. He was a great philosopher and practitioner of probability theory.

When I first had lunch with Bill, he explained that the key to his coaching success was teaching the art of anticipation: the visualization by players of the alternative scenarios that might play out on the field.

Bill was mathematician. Show me the world’s great statisticians and I’ll show you a number of baseball enthusiasts.

Bill was physicist. He could watch a hitter hit a few pop-ups and know exactly what was wrong with the arc of their swing.

Bill was diplomat, as he brought nations together and improved the image of the United States in foreign lands through our national pastime of baseball.

Bill was student dean. He focused on those students he perceived might be a bit lost when they arrived on the campus. He reached out to them. He didn’t let go, and often played the role of in loco parentis and father figure, giving them a family away from their own.

Bill was our Wizard of Oz.

No, he didn’t hide in a far-away palace or hide his booming voice behind a curtain. Instead, he brought his voice to the diamond.

Bill brought out the smarts in our scarecrows. He helped our tin men find their heart. He let our lions discover their own courage, and he gave our Dorothy’s a sense of direction home.

This weekend, we did not welcome alumni back to College, to school, to campus; we welcomed everyone home, for it is that sense of home and community that gives us the inner courage to surmount our greatest challenges, to seize our most exciting opportunities.

That’s what coaches do: they create the confidence of home within. And from that core, they challenge us to make the most of what we have.

They help us find the inner strength, tap the innate talent we thought we lacked.

That’s why we’re all here, crying, smiling, hugging, as we reminisce. Bill played all of these roles for us as Coach, the quintessential coach for CMC, for CMS, for all of us.

Whether we are professor or dean or alum or player or student or parent or friend or president, to honor and sustain Bill’s legacy, we must find and nourish within each of us all we have learned from our coach, Bill Arce, our coach of coaches.

To honor his incalculable legacy, to fill the empty hearts of all who miss him so much, to thank the Arce family for their many sacrifices and gifts, especially Nancy, Judy, Jim, and Jeff for all of Bill’s time and hard work, our charge today is not just to remember Bill, but forever to commit to and reach for his inspired example.

Bill put the educator into his coaching.

And today, we commit as teachers, scholars, alumni, parents, and friends, to put the best of Coach in ourselves.

CMC President Hiram Chodosh spoke during a memorial service for Bill Arce on May 1, 2016.