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Ort, celebrated LV coach, dies

When this picture of Roland Ortmayer was taken in 1984, he remarked, “Everyone knows you shouldn’t shoot straight up,” but he acted it out for the photographer who was a student in his class. Ort, who died Thursday morning, taught archery, along with many other sports, and coached ULV football for 43 years. / file photo by Christopher Brookhart

Roland “Ort” Ortmayer, called one of the most important figures at the University of La Verne during his 43 years as a professor, coach and athletic director, died yesterday morning of heart and kidney failure. He was 91.

Ortmayer was more than a football coach for La Verne.

He described himself best in a 1989 Sports Illustrated story as, “a husband, father, grandfather, friend, coach of many sports and teacher of many things.”

Indeed, he was all of this and more to all of his players, students and peers.

Many articles have documented Ortmayer’s historic career on the field, but it was off the field that he wanted to be remembered.

During his tenure, he was the face of the ULV athletic program and Ortmayer touched many lives.

Bob Dyer, a ULV alumnus who played basketball while Ort was coaching, commented on the legacy Ortmayer leaves behind.

“Ort changed my life. He related to all students not just athletes. He was a man of all seasons and was truly a class act.”

Don Morel, former La Verne head football coach from 1995-2006, played under Ortmayer and described him as a coach, mentor, counselor, teacher and guide.

“In a lifetime, we all dream of being part of a legend; a witness to a Lincoln speech, a fan at a Babe Ruth game,” Morel said. “As time goes by, those of us who knew and spent time with Ort come to grips with that in our lives; we were in the presence of a legend.”

More than a football coach, Ortmayer also served as the athletic director, head coach for baseball, basketball and track and field at La Verne.

Ortmayer’s legacy stretches for decades and beyond the ULV stadium that is named after him.

He was enthusiastic about the outdoors, especially Montana, where he was born in 1917, and liked to refer to himself as a kayaker, mountain climber, fly-fisherman and rafter in addition to his many other titles.

For more than 17 years, Ortmayer and his wife Corni taught a for-credit course called “When Lewis and Clark Met the Mountains.”

On these four week adventures, the couple would lead a four-week outdoor camping expedition that focused on kayaking the rivers explored by Lewis and Clark.

Ortmayer’s personal impact on those who knew him was expressed by Charles Bentley, director of public relations.

“In your life you’ll meet people who influence your life, people who make you change your life, and people who, just being around them, change your life. Coach Ortmayer was all three. He influenced all who knew him, including faculty members, students, players, peers and even rival coaches. All are better people because they knew him.”

“Ort’s legacy is in the lives of those he touched,” said Rex Huigens. Huigens, played quarterback for Ortmayer, was a student of his and coached alongside him for 25 years before being named head coach upon Ort’s retirement.

“He coached a lot of sports at La Verne, but I think that was just a mode he used to be able to help people. He genuinely cared about people and treated everyone with respect no matter how talented or not talented they were.”

Ortmayer started coaching at La Verne in 1948 and did much to help build the image of the University. He was known for painting the lines on the football field, while his wife would handle the weekly washing and sewing of players’ uniforms. Ort and Corni also served as dorm parents in Woody Hall, then a men’s dorm. A plaque at building front honors the death of Ort’s dog.

At the time of his retirement from coaching in 1991, his 43 consecutive years were a national record. Ort was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1979. His football career record was 182-193-8.

A full account of Roland Ortmayer’s life will appear next week in the Campus Times.

Richard Lugo can be reached at richard.lugo@laverne.edu.

Journalism operations manager at the University of La Verne. Production manager and business manager of the Campus Times.

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