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MIKE MASTERSON: Indefatigable Dorm

The hall of fame

Most of us know those who make our communities better in various ways. It only takes one person with unique passion and drive to spark changes and the resulting ripples that benefit so many.

In my Ozarks hometown of Harrison, population 13,000, there are a lot who fit this description.

And while I don't have space enough to name them all, there's one who used his abundant energies and ideas to make an enormous difference across the region.

I'm talking about the indefatigable Dorm Saylors, who turned 80 last month after building a highly successful community college athletic program at North Arkansas College quite literally from scratch.

Unfortunately, Dorm hasn't been in the best of health of late. He's still trying to play golf with us seniors. But he tires easily nowadays and becomes frustrated when he can't play as well as he once did. A congenial man with a continual gleam in his eye, Dorm even has a playing technique named in his honor at the Harrison Country Club. While moving one's ball a club's length is allowed to improve one's lie, playing with Dorm has led to what's affectionately known as "Dormonizing." That's when a club's length isn't sufficient and one opts for a "clubhouse" length.

James Stockton, former vice president for institutional advancement when he, too, retired from Northark, came to understand and appreciate Dorm better than most.

"Dorm served as athletic director between 1974 and 1999 at what is now North Arkansas College (originally North Arkansas Community College). When the late Dr. Bill Baker hired Dorm, the college didn't have any coaches, athletes, facilities, camps or tournaments. The man amazingly built it all from scratch and thousands of high school graduates came to play there in the ensuing years."

Under Dorm, the two-year college developed an athletic program that flourished. And he did it the right way, using primarily students from Northark's six-county service area.

"When Dorm began building, the teams played and practiced in high school gyms. The college's Pioneer Pavilion wasn't completed until 1980," said Stockton. "Dorm hired coaches and developed schedules in men's and women's basketball, men's baseball, women's volleyball (later dropped and women's softball added) and even cheerleading. He also organized summer basketball camps and large high school invitational basketball tournaments."

At the height of success, the Northark high school boys' and girls' tournaments attracted as many as 32 teams from across northern Arkansas, making them the largest high school tourneys by far in the region. During the 1980s and 1990s, Dorm made sure Northark hosted several state high school basketball tournaments, and some area schools won state titles at Pioneer Pavilion.

Stockton, also the Lady Pioneers basketball coach for 11 years, told me about the incredible mount of work involved in hosting a state tournament. "The financial benefits to the college were negligible, but Dorm did it because it was the right thing to do--a theme that repeated itself time after time during his quarter of a century leading the athletic department.

Under Dorm's guiding hand, Northark consistently fielded a highly competitive athletic program, Stockton said. "One year, our men's basketball team won 19 games and had five players receive NCAA Division I athletic scholarships. Our Lady Pioneers averaged nearly 23 wins a year from 1977-88, were ranked nationally in Division 1 of the National Junior College Athletic Association, won three Arkansas Junior College State Tournament titles, and made three overseas trips."

The baseball team, as with the Pioneers' and Lady Pioneers' basketball teams, sent several players to NCAA Division I universities. "Tim Sherrill of Valley Springs went to the St. Louis Cardinals (via the Arkansas Razorbacks). I'll never forget listening on the radio as Tim, pitching in relief, came into the game and struck out Darryl Strawberry at Shea Stadium with the bases loaded," Stockton said.

Dorm Saylors has proven how one person with determination as vast as their heart can indeed build an entire college athletic program from only an idea. "It's served the people of northern Arkansas wonderfully well," Stockton continued. "Hundreds if not thousands of students have been given an opportunity to compete in athletics after graduating from high school because of the program Dorm and his coaches built."

And he did it all for practically nothing. As division chairman of math, health, science and physical education, Dorm earned a good salary. However, he received not much more than $1,000 a year for fulfilling his labor love as Northark's athletic director, Stockton said. "He did it for the good of the college, the area students and fans."

It's only fitting such sustained and productive dedication never go overlooked. So Northark's trustees this year voted to designate a room honoring Dorm and the outstanding athletes of Northark to be called the "Dorm Saylors Hall of Fame." The dedication is set for Oct. 1 at 2 p.m. No doubt many whose lives Dorm has greatly influenced will be there to offer respect and appreciation, along with a bevy of senior golfing Dormonizers.

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Mike Masterson is a longtime Arkansas journalist. Email him at mmasterson@arkansasonline.com.

Editorial on 09/12/2017

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