Roanoke College

Legendary Roanoke College Coach Homer Bast passes away

  • Legendary Roanoke College Coach Homer Bast passes away

  • 05/20/13
  • Updated with funeral information

    C. Homer Bast, a legend at Roanoke for his work in the classroom and on the track, passed away May 20, 2013 at his home in Salem, Va. He was 98 years old.

    The funeral will be held Saturday, May 25 at 11 a.m. at St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Salem. There will be no visitation prior to the funeral but a reception will be held afterwards in the Colket Center Wortmann Ballroom. In lieu of flowers, the family suggests memorials to St. Paul's Episcopal Church in Salem or to Roanoke College (for the Cregger Center.) The graveside services will be private. John M. Oakey & Son in Salem is assisting the Bast family.

    Bast's words of wisdom inspired throngs of Roanoke College cross country and track athletes. Many still recite Coach C. Homer Bast's encouraging words today.

    "The real champ is the one who can come back no matter what the cost. Run through the tape!"

    "I am a salesman of self-confidence, self-discipline and respect for hard work. These are things to follow not only on the track but in the Battle of Life. For life's battles do not always go to the stronger or faster man but soon or late the man who wins is the man who thinks he can."

    Bast held many positions at Roanoke from 1946 to 1979: coach, registrar, history professor, director of admissions, director of the summer program and director of the evening program. His Roanoke College career began as an assistant history professor and he was named associate professor in 1949. He was recalled to active duty by the Navy, and later returned to the College as associate professor until 1959. He served simultaneously as director of admissions (1950), and registrar from 1954 until his retirement.

    Bast became coach of Roanoke College's track & field team in 1947 and is credited with reviving and building the College's track and cross country programs into national powerhouses. He rebuilt the College's rarely used track and trained numerous exceptional athletes during his 25 years as a coach, including U.S. Olympian Dick Emberger '60, who competed in the decathlon in the 1964 Olympic Games in Tokyo. Emberger was the first Roanoke College graduate to be an Olympian.

    Larry Arrington '63, a former Roanoke track athlete and head coach of Cross Country and Track, and Dean of Men, wrote "The Bast Boys" several years ago, a book that chronicles Bast's teams and his coaching influence. The book could make a great movie, Arrington has said.

    Though Bast graduated from the University of Virginia, he embraced Roanoke as his own. He was inducted into Roanoke College's Athletic Hall of Fame in 1971. In 1978, Bast was named an "honorary alumnus" by the College's Alumni Association. Upon his retirement in 1979, he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters.

    The C. Homer Bast Physical Education and Recreation Center was named in his honor in 1982. Roanoke's track was named for the storied coach in 2006.

    Bast was not one to focus just on athletics. A Rhodes Scholar himself, Bast was involved in Roanoke College's first application to the prestigious Phi Beta Kappa honor society. When Roanoke's Nu of Virginia chapter of Phi Beta Kappa was installed in 2004, Bast was named a foundation member of the chapter.

    Bast received several degrees at UVA (B.S., History, 1936; M.A., History and Political Science, 1938), where he also pursued doctoral studies. He taught economics and English history at UVA from 1938 to 1940. He also taught history and coached track at Staunton Military Academy from 1940 to 1941. A decorated Navy veteran of both World War II and the Korean conflict, he left the service at the rank of lieutenant commander.

    Bast is survived by his two sons; Steve and Rebecca Bast, of Roanoke, and Mike and Joanne Bast, of Edgewater, Md.; two grandsons, Chris Bast, and his wife, Caitlin, of Seattle, and John Bast, of Roanoke; a brother, Robert Bast, of Peachtree City, Ga., and his extended family.

    Steve and Rebecca Bast are both members of Roanoke's class of 1975 and Mike Bast is a member of the class of 1972.

    At this time, the funeral arrangements are incomplete but we will post updates as more information is available. We also plan to add video and additional photos in the coming days.


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