Alum writes book about Marion coach
Dan Kellams ’58, a former Ram athlete, has published a book about a legendary Iowa high school coach known turning out winning teams for an adoring town—but lost his job when times changed and he didn’t.
“A Coach’s Life: Les Hipple and the Marion Indians” is a 380-page biography of a man who was renowned during the 1940s and 1950s for his winning teams and his stern rules. He was head coach of five boys’ sports at Marion. He did not allow his athletes to drink, smoke, curse, go steady with girls, drive cars or stay up past 10 p.m. on weeknights. He is a member of the Iowa coaching halls of fame for both football and basketball.
Marion athletes became known as “Hipplemen,” denoting not only a Marion player, but a boy forged by the coach’s stern rules. Hipple’s rules were considered to be the toughest in the state, and he used them to mold championship teams that delighted the townspeople for many years. Eventually, as times and attitudes changed, Hipple’s athletic career ended in a bitter controversy. Yet years later, the high school athletic fields were named in his honor.
Kellams is scheduled to speak at the Marion library on Saturday, Aug. 28 at 1:00 p.m. He is also on the program for Marion’s Old Settlers’ Day brunch on Sept. 17 at 11:30 a.m.
“Les Hipple coached at Marion for 20 years and had a tremendous impact on the lives of hundreds of boys, most of whom are grateful today for the lessons he taught,” said Kellams, who graduated from Marion High School in 1954 and played four sports under Hipple. “A combination of factors and personalities led to his dismissal. It was a tragedy. He was hired in 1945 to bring discipline to the program and fired in 1965 for being too strict.”
Kellams is a New York-based freelance writer and editorial consultant. He worked on “A Coach’s Life” over a 10-year period, advancing the project during breaks in his corporate assignments. In 2009, he began devoting full time to the project. “I was running out of years and readers,” said Kellams, 74.
Hipple still holds Marion coaching records for most WaMaC championships in basketball (12), football (seven) and track (five). His basketball and football teams won more games than any other Marion coach. His cross-country teams won nine state championships.
Several Hipple-coached athletes continued their careers at Cornell and three are in the Cornell Athletic Hall of Fame. Lloyd Olmstead ’53 was a three-time all-conference basketball player who set several scoring records (now broken). Ron Altenberg ’61 was a Little All-American basketball guard who still holds Cornell scoring records and who won nine Midwest Conference track titles in the sprints, hurdles and broad jump. Steve Miller ’65 was twice named to the all-conference football team and also starred in basketball and baseball. He later coached several sports at Cornell, most notably football, and served the college as athletic director and a development officer.After his coaching years, Hipple remained at Marion teaching math until his retirement in 1978, when the athletic fields were named in his honor.
Kellams conducted scores of interviews with former players, teachers, Hipple contemporaries and family members. He studied newspapers issued in Marion, Cedar Rapids and other towns, examined minutes of Marion Board of Education meetings and studied Hipple’s personnel file and private papers.
The book includes several chapters that recall small-town life at mid-20th century and includes profiles of outstanding athletes from the Hipple era.
“A Coach’s Life” was designated Editors’ Choice by its publisher, iUniverse, signifying a book of high quality. It is available in hardcover, paperback and digital form. It may be purchased from Amazon.com, BarnesandNoble.com, iUniverse.com, Borders.com and other bookselling web sites. For more information: www.acoachslife.com.