ETHS dedicates fieldhouse to Olympian, Willie May


Litzy Segura

Norma May speaking at the ceremonial dedication of the Fieldhouse to Willie May.

Joey Eovaldi, Sports Editor

On a day when no other events occurred at Evanston Township High School, a snowstorm didn’t stop Willie May from getting his dedication.

On Friday Feb. 9, the fieldhouse at ETHS was officially dedicated and named after Silver-Medal Olympian, Willie May.

May inspired many in his over 40 years at ETHS, and the eight guest speakers at May’s dedication ceremony spoke to the truth of that.

May had many different roles in his life, including his numerous occupations at ETHS. Each guest speaker gave us a glimpse of the great man that May was for the Evanston community.

ETHS Athletic Director Chris Livatino began the ceremony and welcomed the crowd into the newly named, Willie May Fieldhouse. As AD, Livatino was a signifcant part in setting up the ceremony for May who also served as the Athletic Director for some time.

After Livatino began the ceremony, which happened to be running at the same time as the Winter Olympics Opening Ceremony,  ETHS Superintendent Eric Witherspoon spoke about May and his ETHS legacy.

After being called “The largest fan of ETHS sports” by Livatino, Witherspoon gave a heartwarming speech on how May not only affected, but positively changed, the culture in Evanston.

Witherspoon passed the baton to Olympic Gold Medalist Hayes Jones after telling Norma May, Willie’s wife, that he wished he got to know Willie on a more personal level. Willie passed away in late March, 2012.

Jones won the 110m high hurdles at the 1964 Olympics with a time of 13.67. But four years earlier, he lost to May, earning a Bronze Medal at the 1960 Olympic games in Rome.

That year, May earned a Silver Medal behind fellow American, Lee Calhoun, by one one-hundredth of a second in a very controversial finish.

Nonetheless, May was a Silver Medal Olympian in the 1960 Olympics. And his friend, competitor, and teammate, Hayes Jones, came to speak at his dedication ceremony of Friday night.

As Jones finished up, we were surprised by guest speaker, Mayor Steve Hagerty, who named Feb. 9, 2018, Willie May Day in Evanston.

Mayor Hagerty went on to thank School Board President, Pat Savage-Williams, and the rest of the School Board, for passing the naming of the fieldhouse, as he mentioned how rare that is in Evanston.

Then, the ceremony heard from Honorable Larry Axelrood, a Cook County Circuit Judge, who played football under Head Coach Willie May at ETHS.

Axelrood told great stories about another part of May’s life: football. May coached football at Evanston, along with Track and Field, and Axelrood played for him his freshman and sophomore year.

His freshman-A and sophomore football teams went 17-1 over two seasons and learned what it meant to be disciplined young men.

We then heard from the current Boys Track and Field Head Coach, Donald Michelin Sr.. Michelin had numerous connections to May, as he ran for him, coached for him, hired May as an assistant coach, and was a close friend.

Michelin emphasized that this ceremony wasn’t meant to be sad, but to celebrate the life of the great, Willie May.

Throughout Michelin’s speech, we learned how May was constantly setting his athletes up in Track and Field and in life.

As Michelin finished his lengthy speech, he left us with a valuable life lesson, one he originally learend from May: Take each opportunity in front you.

Shirley Nannini then came to speak on May and his career as an Athletic Director at ETHS, as she was Co-Athletic Directors with him.

Nannini talked about the huge progress that May and her made in women’s sports at ETHS today, and how he truly cared about the well-being of the student-athletes at Evanston.

To close the ceremony, Norma May came to speak on Willie’s role as a husband, a father and a grandfather at home.

May took the same dedication and determination into parenting as he had into competing and coaching.

Norma introduced his two grandchildren, as they helped reveal the brand new, Willie May Fieldhouse sign, on Friday night, in Willie’s ‘second home’.

Some learned of the many great accomplishments of May, while others reminisced on the great memories they had of him.

The ceremony was truly a great way to honor a man who changed so many lives in that very fieldhouse. Willie May’s life was encapsulated in the various perspectives of the different speakers.  However, his legacy will be carried on for years to come with his name forever engraved in ETHS sports.