Eagles mourn the loss of former basketball and track & field standout, as well as the deaths of two other members of the Eastern family
Eastern Washington University Athletics Hall of Fame member Pat Whitehill passed away Saturday (Feb. 25) after a long battle with Parkinson’s disease. The 1951 Eastern graduate was a standout in men's basketball and track and field for Eastern, then spent 30 years as a member of EWU’s physical education department.
No funeral arrangements have been set yet for Whitehill, who is the third person with a close association to the athletic department to pass away in February. Former Eastern assistant football coach Cal Murphy, a nine-time Grey Cup champion and member of the Canadian Football Hall of Fame, died on Feb. 18 at the age of 79. And quarterback Eli Marsh, who played in four football games for Eastern after graduating in 1998 from Newport (Wash.) High School, died in Hawaii on Feb. 3 from a stroke at the age of 31.
In 2001, Whitehill was selected as an individual member of the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame. Ten years later, in 2011, the 1949-50 Eastern basketball team he played on was also inducted into the Hall of Fame. Earlier, he became a member of the Inland Empire Basketball Officials Hall of Fame in honor of his 16-year career.
After a highly-successful collegiate career in basketball and track and field at Eastern, Whitehill coached track for two seasons at Eastern in the 1960's, with Eastern finishing as high as fifth in the NAIA Championships. He served as a professor of physical education at Eastern for 30 years after receiving four college degrees. He served as Eastern faculty president and chairman of the academic senate, and later became president of the school's retired faculty organization.
Since 1955, Pat and his wife, Altamae, have been avid supporters of Eastern's athletic department and members of the Eagle Athletic Association, with Pat serving as chairman of the committee that dedicated the Reese Room and Reese Court in honor of his former coach. Pat has also served on the Eastern Athletics Hall of Fame selection committee since its inception in 1996, and has served as a “player” in numerous EAA annual fund drives.
Pat came to Eastern from Goldendale, Wash., and was a basketball player and track and field standout. He played basketball for Red Reese for four years from 1948-51, during which Eastern teams won 77 games and lost just 35. He averaged 9.3 points and 8.9 rebounds as a senior when Eastern repeated as Evergreen Conference champions.
Whitehill was a member of the Red Reese All-Time Team, representing the top 13 players Reese coached in 31 seasons at the helm. Whitehill played on Eastern's squad in 1949-50 that finished 23-7 and was regarded by Reese as his best team.
In track, Whitehill won Evergreen Conference pole vault and high jump titles, and at one time held the school's high jump record. Pat received his undergraduate degree from Eastern in 1951, a master's in education from Eastern in 1956, a master's in science from Oregon in 1961 and his doctorate degree from Oregon in 1963.
Pat and Altamae were married on March 31, 1951, in Okanogan, Wash. They raised three sons – Barry, Terry and David, and currently have eight grandchildren. Apart from their sons, Pat and Altamae had many exchange students living with them, including children from China, Germany, England, Sweden and South Africa.
Both remained active physically after they graduated from Eastern, and became avid backpackers. In the summer of 1984 they climbed Mount Rainier, with Altamae reaching the 12,400-foot level and Pat climbing all the way to the top of the 14,411-foot peak. They also had a five-week backpacking trip in Alaska and made an 80-mile canoe trip on Boron Lake in British Columbia.
From 1974-90, Pat played in five national racquetball tournaments, winning three individual championships and four doubles titles. He helped bring the 1974 World Racquetball Championships to Eastern in conjunction with the World's Fair in Spokane.
They retired in 1993 to warmer weather in Clarkston, Wash., for fly-fishing and golf. In 2011, they celebrated their 60th anniversary. Sadly, Pat’s health from Parkinson’s Disease deteriorated to the point where, since Dec. 18, 2011, he has been in the hospital, a rehabilitation center and then spent his final days in a care center.
Murphy was a graduate assistant and full-time assistant football coach at Eastern before embarking upon a highly-successful Hall of Fame coaching career in the Canadian Football League. After spending two seasons as a graduate assistant, he became a full-time coach in 1967 under legendary Eastern head coach Dave Holmes. That team finished 11-1 and finished as the runner-up in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). He coached under Holmes at the University of Hawaii before embarking upon his career in the CFL.
He was inducted into the Canadian Football Hall of Fame in 2004. He won nine Grey Cup titles as head coach for the B.C. Lions (1975-76), Winnipeg Blue Bombers (1983-86, 1993-96) and the Saskatchewan Roughriders (1999). He had a career record of 86-51-1.
He also served as the Bombers general manager during his 14-year stint with the club and also spent time as an assistant coach with Edmonton, Montreal and Saskatchewan. He has been a scout for the Indianapolis Colts since 2000.
In 1992, Murphy underwent a heart transplant but returned as the Bombers coach/GM in 1993. Later that year, he received the Commemorative Medal for the 125th Anniversary of the Confederation for Canada in recognition of significant contribution to compatriots, community and Canada.
His funeral service took place Feb. 24 in Regina, Saskatchewan.
Marsh was born April 6, 1980, in Monroe, Wash., to Timmy and George Pittman. He graduated from Newport High School in 1998 and from Eastern Washington University in 2003 with a bachelor’s degree in management information systems.
He was in Eastern’s football program from 1998-2001 and played in four games, but did not letter. He completed 3-of-4 passes for 17 yards in EWU’s 35-17 upset victory at Connecticut on Sept. 8, 2001. In 1999, he played in three games and completed 11-of-27 passes for 137 yards, two interceptions and a touchdown pass (versus Boise State on Oct. 9, 1999).
He most recently worked at the Wailea Golf Resort on Maui. He was also an excellent photographer and accomplished guitarist.
Survivors include his parents, sisters Caitlin Pittman of Newport, Elle Marsh of Austin, Texas, and Brittanee Marsh of Spokane Valley; Daron and Kim Marsh of the Virgin Islands; aunts, uncle, cousins and countless friends. He was preceded in death by uncle Jimmy Henry, grandparents Tim and Fred Henry and Hugh and Joanne Marsh.
Services were held Saturday, Feb. 25 in Newport.