As students, Hazen and Dambacher (Class of 1941) were at the top of their tennis games, leading Whitman to victories over a number of much larger schools. "In those days we used to beat everyone but the University of Washington," remembered Dambacher.
This summer, as alumni awaiting their 50th reunion, Hazen and Dambacher found a different way to support Whitman tennis. As their reunion gift to the College, they picked up the check to have the courts resurfaced and a new lighting system installed.
Hazen heard about the proposed project last year and recruited Dambacher as a co- sponsor. "We knew we'd have to do something grand for our 50th reunion," said Hazen. "You've got to give something back to the school," agreed Dambacher. "This is something we really wanted to do."
At a total cost of about $95,000, the project was a major one. After surface cracks were repaired and sealed late in the summer, new asphalt was added and topped with a state- of-the-art outdoor surfacing material.
To help prevent future cracking during hot and cold times of the year, workers made expansion-contraction cuts at key spots in the new surface. They also extended the playing surface six feet to the west, so that 12-foot buffer zones now separate all courts. New net standards have a ratchet-style tightening system.
Six new light towers, scheduled for installation in November, support 40 1,000-watt metal halide lamps. The result? More uniform lighting and a three-fold boost in overall brightness.
Hazen chose to champion the tennis court project for a simple reason. "Whitman has good tennis teams and we need to provide adequate facilities. We compete against California schools that practice year-around and have good facilities."
Hazen has first-hand recollections of limited facilities. The courts were clay in his day, and after spending his freshman year as a tennis team alternate, he honed his skills one winter in the school gym. The practice paid off, however. As a sophomore, Hazen shared his team's No. 1 singles ranking with Dambacher.
While Hazen transferred to William & Mary the next year, Dambacher continued to anchor Whitman's tennis fortunes. He teamed with Jack Ballard to win the Northwest doubles title as a junior and then captured the regional singles crown as a senior. Dambacher also was part of a student fund-raising campaign that helped finance the 1940 installation of the first two concrete courts at Whitman.
Dambacher, who now lives in Honolulu, continues to play competitively. He and his current doubles partners have been winning their age-group championship for more than a dozen years.
Both Hazen and Dambacher are firm believers in the value of physical fitness, and they were pleased to see the courts in constant use when they visited Whitman in September. "It was just wonderful the way the courts were being used, and it just wasn't the tennis teams," said Dambacher. "It was everyone at the College."
Dambacher played a doubles match on a Saturday night, and "there were people waiting for our court when we finished," he said. "We're talking about 9:30 at night. That's marvelous."
As a 50th class reunion gift, former Whitman College tennis players George Dambacher (left) and Bob Hazen (second from left), both Class of 1941, paid for major improvements to the outdoor tennis courts. On campus in September 1990, Dambacher and Hazen tried out the courts and traded banter with students Chris Roe (far right), Kristin Turner (center) and Christie Lindquest (foreground).