Westmont Magazine A Cardiologist Honors His Coach
The name Bill Cockerham ’67 is well known in Southern California running circles — and at Fresno Pacific where a new track and field complex has been named for him. The $1.2 million Bill Cockerham all-weather track and field facility, part of a $2.1 million athletic complex, should be ready for the 2000 track season.
Bill has been a coach and teacher at Fresno Pacific since 1971. After graduating from Westmont with a biology degree, he did graduate work at Cal State Los Angeles while he ran with the Santa Monica Track Club. When Jim Klein, then Westmont’s track coach, went on leave for two years, he invited Bill to teach physical education and fill in as track and field coach.
“I got the taste for coaching and liked it,” Bill explained. So when Klein returned, Bill got his teaching credential from Cal State Hayward and began work on a master’s in biology.
He started as an assistant coach at Fresno Pacific, but took over two years later when the head coach resigned due to illness.
Since then, he has touched the lives of hundreds of students. During 11 track and field and 13 cross country seasons, he has coached many All Americans and several national champions. He has received awards from the Amateur Athletic Union and the Athletic Congress, and was a 1995 winner of the President’s Distinguished Service Award at Fresno Pacific.
In 1971, he also started a publication called the Valley Track & Field Newsletter, which became California Track and Running News, one of the leading publications of its kind. Bill and his wife, Judy, published the magazine for 24 years before selling it in 1998.
Don Gregory, one of Bill’s former students who placed sixth in the 1975 NAIA marathon, is now a cardiologist and top master runner in Fresno. He pledged the initial $500,000 toward the new track and field complex at Fresno Pacific — provided it was named for Bill. He told Bill that the discipline and other values he learned from track helped him get through medical school.
“We just don’t know the impact we have,” Bill says.
Westmont Professor Stewart Ensign and Coach Klein had a tremendous impact on Bill’s life. “They built up my confidence, my sense of worth, academically and athletically, and spiritually, too. They prodded and pushed, but were there to hold me.”
Though retired from coaching now, Bill still teaches biology at Fresno Pacific, and is in the second year of a three-year doctoral program at Pepperdine University. With his wife, Judy, the fine arts department secretary at Fresno Pacific, he has two daughters, Allison, 17, and Amanda, 13.