Vernard B. Hickey was an influential campus and community figure. He left his coaching job at Santa Rosa Junior College and joined the Aggie football and baseball coaching staff in 1937. He later served on the City Council from 4/20/1947 to 4/20/1960 and was Mayor from 1954 to 1959. Hickey Gym is named in honor of Vern Hickey.
(excerpt from UC Davis Magazine, Spring 2005, by Kathleen Holder)
Vern Hickey (1900-1987)
Namesake: Hickey Gym
One of the first things people noticed about Vern Hickey was his big, strong hands. A former college football star, Aggie coach and Davis mayor, Hickey left a lasting impression with just a handshake.
"The first time I shook hands with him, his hands enfolded my whole arm. He took pride in that," said retired coach Herb Schmalenberger, who likened Hickey's hands to those of Rodin's sculpture The Thinker.
But Hickey's legacy was a coaching philosophy that put students first, said Schmalenberger and a succession of other coaches who followed in Hickey's footsteps. "He developed a philosophy of the student-athlete that is still with us today," said Schmalenberger.
Hickey, a native of Everett, Wash., had been a two-time all-coast selection at halfback at Washington State University and played in the first East/West Shrine football game in 1925. He joined UC Davis in 1937, where he coached football and golf— and in addition, during the early years, baseball, basketball, water polo and swimming. He also served as athletic director from 1961 until his retirement in 1967.
Off campus, he was a member of the Davis City Council from 1947 to 1960, serving as mayor in 1954-1959. He also chaired the planning and recreation commissions, served as police commissioner and chaired the Davis Chamber of Commerce board of directors. He was named 1953 Davis Citizen of the Year and was inducted posthumously to the UC Davis Athletic Hall of Fame.
Hickey once told a newspaper reporter that the most important lesson athletics teaches students is how to work with others.
"He gave me one bit of advice when I started coaching: 'A pat on the back goes further than two on the butt,'" said his son, Bill, a retired Sacramento City College Hall of Fame wrestling coach. "He always tried to find something good in anything bad and build off that. I've tried to follow that."