CHARLESTON — For years, Dave Kidwell served as the long-time administrator for the Eastern Illinois Athletic Hall of Fame, so he was partly responsible for who entered the EIU Hall of Fame class year-after-year.
As Kidwell's time on the Hall of Fame board started to come to a close, Charleston native and Eastern Illinois graduate Ken Baker, who is also on the board, started to nominate Kidwell for the EIU Hall of Fame. Kidwell kept declining the nomination because he was still on the Hall of Fame board.
"I kept saying 'Ken, I am still working part-time and administrating the organization,'" Kidwell said. "While I appreciated his support, I felt like I had to be totally away from it before I would be eligible."
It didn't take long for Kidwell to step down for his name to be brought up again for nomination. Kidwell retired as the Assistant Athletic Director for Special Projects in 2016. In May, the EIU Hall of Fame class was announced, and Dave Kidwell was part of the 2017 Hall of Fame class as an Athletic Administrator.
"Now that I am totally retired, I guess I don't feel quite so awkward to accept this honor," Kidwell joked. "It's one of those things when you get old enough, they finally have to give you an award."
Kidwell was one of the longest-tenured athletic employees in EIU history. Kidwell began working as the school's sports information director and later as the assistant athletic director from 1972 until 2006 when he took his first retirement. During that time, he served as the media contact for numerous post-season appearances for football, men's basketball, women's basketball and baseball, including the 1978 NCAA Division II football national championship team.
The department also won several publication awards through CoSIDA and Kidwell helped run the IHSA State Track and Field Meet, which is currently held at EIU's O'Brien Field, for more than 40 years.
Kidwell's first retirement didn't last long, as he returned to serve as the assistant AD for Special Projects in 2006 through 2016. Kidwell then retired for the second time and will be officially inducted into the EIU Hall of Fame during Saturday's home football game against Tennessee Tech.
"When you start out, you never think about being in the Hall of Fame. Like everyone, you want to do your job the best you can without anybody patting you on the back or getting honored down the road," Kidwell said. "When it does happen, you look back and see somebody appreciated what you did. There's no question that it's a capstone on a career. It's a distinct honor, you are humbled. You don't take it for granted and you appreciate that someone appreciated your contribution for a longtime service to a great university."
For Kidwell, there are many memories to reflect on. It took him a bit to cycle through the memories to come up with his favorite ones.
"It's hard to narrow that down to one or two. I think probably of things, the 1978 national championship football team. In 1977, we won one game, and in 1978, we went 12-2 and won the national championship. That's an incredible turnaround," Kidwell said. "Then probably the two NCAA basketball tournament teams. It's so special that you enjoy that two weeks once you qualify. You are on such a great high that it's hard to explain. It's so much fun for the athletes and the students."
After retirement, Kidwell and his wife chose to stay in Charleston.
"It's a wonderful community. It's been a great community to live and work and raise our children," Kidwell said. "Everybody here does it the right way and they don't take shortcuts. The community has the right core values that we have been able to pass to our children. I can't say what a great experience it has been to work at EIU and to work here."
Staying in Charleston keeps him close to EIU, too, and he will always have an emotional attachment to the university and the athletic programs.
"I still bleed Panther blue and love the W's. But it's nice to be able to mow my yard and not look at the clock and wonder about the work schedule," Kidwell said. "Even though the W's are important, what makes it so special are the people. That's what makes Eastern such a great place, the relationships, the friendships and the people."