For 50 years, one faithful Emory alum has returned to the campus each spring for a visit. For Russell Bridges '33C, the annual ritual has been to bestow a trophy bearing his name to the school's outstanding all-around varsity athlete.
The Bridges Award was created in 1946 by Russell and his late brother, Ralph Bridges '40C, to replace the school's previous all-around athlete award, which had been discontinued during World War II. Both Bridges brothers were honored as the best all-around athletes during their respective undergraduate years and both were later inducted in the school's Sports Hall of Fame.
Russell Bridges is credited as the first Emory student to letter in five sports: football, basketball, tennis, golf and wrestling. And it could have been six. "I was kind of upset that I didn't get a varsity letter in baseball," he said, "but apparently the coach didn't think I played enough games." One reason was that Bridges was also busy playing tennis and golf in the spring.
"One Saturday, I played a golf match against University of Georgia in the morning at Druid Hills golf club," Bridges recalled. "In the afternoon, I played in a tennis match against the University of Alabama. In between my singles and doubles matches, I played four innings at first base in a baseball game."
This spring, Russell Bridges and some past Bridges award winners were on hand at the Athletics and Recreation banquet as the Bridges Award was presented to Emory junior Troy Thompson (male winner), and seniors Amy Smith and Rosemary Thom (female co-winners). To date, there have been 64 winners, nine of whom are members of the Emory Sports Hall of Fame.
Bridges, who celebrates his 85th birthday this August, has made plans in his will to provide continued financial support for the trophy. That will ensure that the name Bridges will remain synonymous with the best all-around athletes at Emory.
-- John Arenberg