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Dr. LeRoy T. Walker, a longtime supporter of East Carolina University, died April 23. (Contributed photo)

Friendship, integrity, fair play

April 25, 2012

By Mary Schulken
Executive Director of Communication, Public Affairs & Marketing

The late LeRoy T. Walker left a footprint of friendship and integrity at East Carolina University, said Glen Gilbert, dean of the College and Health and Human Performance, where Walker lent his time, support and name.

 “Despite growing up very poor and in an era of rampant discrimination, he judged all people by the content of their character and set an example for all of us,” Gilbert said. “Dr. Walker was one of the finest men I have ever met.”

Walker, the first African American to lead the U.S. Olympic Committee and the first black man to coach an American Olympic team, died Monday in Durham. He was 93.

His name is on ECU’s LeRoy T. Walker International Human Performance Center, which Walker helped bring to ECU as a private, non-profit corporation in 1997. The center was established to use technology to gauge international Olympic athletes’ performances, potentially leveling the playing field for small, poor countries whose athletes do not have access to those costly resources.

The grandson of slaves, Walker led the U.S. Olympic Committee from 1992 to 1996, shepherding the Summer Games staged in his native Atlanta and leading the group when the 2002 Winter Olympics were awarded to Salt Lake City.

Walker spoke frequently about the Olympic ideals, which he defined as fostering equality and friendly competition between countries in the interest of peace and cooperation.

“Dr. Walker believes in the Olympic ideals of fair play, and so do we,” Gilbert said when the Walker Center was dedicated.

Gilbert said ECU was fortunate that Walker adopted the College of Health and Human Performance because faculty, staff and students benefited from their association with him over the past 16 years. Walker served on the college’s advisory board and frequently spoke to students.

“He was always a teacher and relished any opportunity to share his great knowledge,” Gilbert said. “He spoke many times at ECU events and received many honors from ECU including one of his 18 honorary doctorates.”

Walker coached the U.S. National Track and Field Team and served as chancellor of N.C. Central University in Durham.

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