If Lee Richter wasn’t home when he was a young boy growing up in LaGrange in the 1960s, he normally could be found dribbling a basketball in the gym of the Callaway Educational Association building.
“From the time I was 10 until around 16, my parents would drop me off there on Saturday mornings, Sunday afternoons and in the summer, and we’d play all day,” Richter said.
It was a ritual of sorts for him and his friends: Get there in the morning around 9 a.m., play ball, trudge up the hill to Smith’s Hillside Pharmacy at lunch for a burger and lemonade, play more ball until 5 p.m., and then go home and start the routine again the next day.
He never imagined back then that one day LaGrange College-which received the building in 1992 from Callaway Foundation, Inc.-would be naming that same gym in his honor. The college dedicated the gym last week in a ceremony attended by Richter’s family, friends, colleagues, fellow coaches and his Panther golf team.
The bronze plaque that will hang in the building reads: “Lee Richter Gymnasium. In recognition of his philanthropy and twenty years of service to LaGrange College. Lee Richter spent his childhood playing basketball in this gym. In 1993, he resurrected the LaGrange College golf program and has served as the Head Coach ever since.”
The Panthers finished the 2012-13 season ranked 17th in the NCAA Division III Golfstat rankings. Sophomore Cory Howard earned All-American status as well as All-Region and USA South All-Conference honors for the Panthers in 2012-13.
In 2012, Richter led the Panthers to their first Great South Conference Tournament Championship and was named the conference’s Coach of the Year.
Richter also guided the Panthers to their sixth NCAA Division III Championship Tournament appearance and fifth in the past six years. The Panthers also reached the NCAA Division III Championship Tournament in 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2010. In 2009, the Panthers finished 18th in the national championship, their best NCAA finish.
Richter led the Panthers to the 2003 USCAA national title. The Panthers also made back-to-back national tournament appearances in the 2000 and 2001 NAIA National Championships.
Richter has coached eight All-Americans with three of those being Academic All-Americans, which he is the most proud of. LaGrange College’s first freshman NCAA All-American in the school’s history came from the golf team in 2007 when Bo Tiller earned the honor. Hudson Keener became the program’s first three-time NCAA All-American in 2012.
In addition to his coaching, Richter has made other significant contributions to LaGrange College, President Dan McAlexander said at the dedication ceremony.
“His devotion to his team and this college, and his family’s devotion to this college, are very evident,” McAlexander said. “It is an honor to finally find a meaningful way to thank him for what he has done through his years here.”
Richter and his brother, Pope Richter, and sister, Ellen Richter Griffin, established an endowed scholarship fund two years ago in memory of their parents, the late Horace and Dorothy Richter. Pope Richter graduated from the college in 1982, and Dorothy Richter earned her degree there in 1941.
Richter also has made contributions to marketing efforts to advance the LaGrange College Athletic Department.
“Lee has embraced the golf program, the athletic program and the entire campus, and he means the world to me,” Athletic Director Jennifer Claybrook said. “He has an attitude of ‘What can I do to help?’ He not only steps forward, but he also steps forward first. Everything he has done has helped us grow and thrive, and we love him and thank him so much for that.”