COLLEGE PLACE — I remember taking a phone call from the athletic director at then-Walla Walla College 13-some years ago, shortly after starting in the sports department at the Union-Bulletin.
After a few minutes of frenetic typing, I hung up the phone and looked at one of my sports colleagues.
“That guy has a lot of energy!” I said with a raised brow.
And that pretty much sums up Tim Windemuth — energetic.
The now-Walla Walla University’s athletic department has Windemuth and his enthusiasm to thank for its progress over the years.
After 30 years as the school’s first — and only — AD, Windemuth is calling it a career this summer. He and his wife, Cheri, will soon move into a brand new house on Silver Lake, near Spokane.
“When I came here 30 years ago, there were no varsity athletics at all,” Windemuth said Tuesday. “We wanted to have a chance for our kids to compete a little bit and use athletics as a platform to witness, since we’re a Christian school.”
“The Lord has really blessed us,” he said, looking back on the Seventh-Day Adventist school’s athletics transformation over the years. “What we have now is one of the best facilities among Adventist schools.”
And Windemuth is going out with a bang.
When he took over as AD in 1983, the college had intramural sports for students to participate in.
Shortly after Windemuth’s arrival, the school had varsity men’s and women’s basketball teams as well as a flag-football squad, playing in the Fellowship of Christian Athletes.
The Wolves have seen sports programs come and go since then. Walla Walla University now plays varsity men’s soccer, women’s volleyball, men’s and women’s basketball and women’s softball, as well as fielding club teams in other sports.
Walla Walla University constructed a new soccer complex in 2008, a new softball field in 2010, and the gymnasium is undergoing a renovation this summer which includes a new court and bleachers to go with new lockerrooms. And the soccer field is unveiling its new 85-foot lights on Saturday.
The Wolves competed in the Pacific Northwest College Conference from 1994-2000, joined the National Christian College Athletic Association from 1997-2008, and has been in the United States Collegiate Athletic Association (USCAA) in 2004 and the National Association of Interscholastic Athletics (NAIA) in 2008.
They’ve had teams play in national championship tournaments, with the men’s volleyball team finishing as high as second at the NCCAA 1998 and 2000 tourneys, the men’s soccer team third at the USCAA tourney in 2008, and the men’s basketball team third at the NAIA conference championships in 2009, among other achievements.
But it’s not those trophies that come to Windemuth’s mind when he looks back on 30 years in College Place.
“I’ll remember the people the most,” he said. “I’ve been blessed working with some great people here at the university. And, of course, the student-athletes.”
Windemuth has played a part in the recruiting process for WWU’s teams, getting to know the high school students that would eventually play for the Wolves.
“I worked with the coaches on those recruits, and those kids become pretty close to me,” he said. “I know them well.”
Windemuth said the recent upgrades to the WWU lockerrooms, and renovation of the gymnasium, will only help recruiting.
“It’ll make it easier to recruit kids for volleyball and basketball now,” he said. “And with the new bleachers, it’ll be a nice place for people to watch.”
Windemuth aided the search for his replacement, providing a list of names for university officials to narrow down. The Wolves’ new AD is expected to be named soon.
And while retiring from WWU, Windemuth isn’t planning on sitting on the couch, opting to move to Silver Lake largely for its recreational opportunities.
“I’m 63 years old, but I’ve still got a little bit of energy!” Windemuth said, as Silver Lake offers him the water skiing, wake boarding and standup paddle boarding, not to mention cross country and downhill skiing, he enjoys.
“We’ve got new grandkids, and spending more time with family is my priorty now,” he said, noting that Silver Lake is 20 minutes from the Spokane airport and direct flights to Seattle, where the Windemuths’ son lives, and Tulsa, Okla., where their daughter lives.
“They can get to my house very easily,” he said. “It’s a great location to see our kids and family.”
But we haven’t seen the last of Tim Windemuth in the Walla Walla Valley.
“I’ve worked my tail off for 30 years, but I don’t want to be hanging around behind the next guy (WWU athletic director),” he said. “But I’ll be back (in College Place) to watch some games and see people.
“The Lord’s blessed me with 30 great years at Walla Walla, and I want to see the program move forward. I think we’ve made a lot of headway in our program.”