Sarah Van Buskirk
Legendary University of La Verne baseball and soccer coach Owen Wright died on Jan. 30 after an 11 year battle with lung cancer in his Oregon home with the love and support of his wife, Patricia Wright, and three of his six children by his side. Wright was 89 years old.
“Even within the family he was always a coach, teacher or mentor,” Wright’s grandson, Justin Wright said. “He gave the best life possible to his children and grandchildren and wanted nothing but the best.”
In 1995, Wright along with the baseball team secured the NCAA Division III Championship which is the one of two that the University holds. Wright has won 347 baseball games and led his pack to six Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships, proved four NCAA West Regional performances, and gained two West Regional titles while he spent his time at Ben Hines Field.
While ruling the pitch at Ortmayer Stadium, Wright won 105 soccer games and two SCIAC Championships.
“He would always stop in and say hello and was the kind of guy that would say ‘hey, I don’t know if I could help but if I can let me know’ and then we became friends from our shared connection with La Verne,” head coach of the University of La Verne baseball team, Scott Winterburn said.
Wright was born in Ottobine, Virginia on March 29, 1933 to Wilbur S. Wright and Mary Myers Wright. He has three brothers, Dennis Wright, Charles Wright, and Bruce Wright.
Wright grew up on a farm in Virginia where he would learn the ways of agriculture as well as the dynamic of pasture baseball. He graduated from Bridgewater College in 1958 and was a student-athlete where he played baseball for four years before he left with his degree in physical education.
In 1961, Wright received a master’s in physical education from the University of Illinois and went on to earn his Ph.D in physical education from the University of Oregon in 1971.
During the Korean War, Wright was enlisted into the Coast Guard and was stationed in Chincoteague, Virginia where he could still remain close to home and play baseball during his off time.
After he was discharged, he stuck to his roots and returned to his alma mater Bridgewater College where he met his wife and eventually moved to Fairbanks, Arkansas where they kick started their teaching and coaching careers. Wright also made a coaching career at Elizabethtown College in Pennsylvania before embarking on a trip to California.
Wright came aboard to the ULV in 1983 as the head coach of both soccer and baseball programs. Ever since then, “Coach O’’ has impacted the University with his determination and competitive drive as he found himself inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame in 2005.
“He modeled how a La Verne person should act,” Paul Alvarez, professor of kinesiology said. “He created this notion of being a part of a community that was far bigger than the athletic training room.”
Wright is survived by his wife, six children and eight grandchildren.
Sarah Van Buskirk can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.