Barbourville, KY – April 25, 2023
On April 19, Union College faculty, students, staff, and family gathered in the historic Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Gymnasium to celebrate Dr. Larry Inkster’s retirement. Slideshow images featured Inkster wearing his baseball jersey, speaking at a lectern, posing with fellow alumni, getting pied in the face for a fundraiser, golfing, and carrying the ceremonial mace at graduation.
“Union’s loss is Kathy’s gain,” Inkster joked, referring to his wife, Kathy Inkster, who retired from Union herself last year.
During his 50 years working for Union, Inkster has filled many roles, including Professor of Health and Physical Education, Head Coach of both baseball and golf, and interim Vice President for Academic Affairs. A beloved fixture of the college and community, Inkster is known for his dedication to academics and athletics, his playful personality, and his distinctive New Jersey accent.
At the party, Executive Vice President and Provost Dr. Marisa Greer commended him as a “true scholar and a true academic” who helped shape policy and procedure.
She said when Inkster would ask her hard questions about a proposal or point out what was missing, he would often add, “That’s why I’m the fly in the ointment, the ants at the picnic, and the guy who walks behind the elephants in the parade.”
Greer also recalled Inkster’s camaraderie during the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. “He had been in my shoes, he knew tough decisions had to be made,” she said. His encouragement helped her through that difficult time, “knowing that somebody knew what it was like and could see the other side.”
Dr. Fidelis Achenjang said Inkster showed similar support when he was appointed Dean of the School of Natural Sciences. “May you know that you have made an indelible mark.” Achenjang told Inkster.
Achenjang also said Inkster’s “unwavering commitment to academic excellence and his passion for teaching” have inspired generations of students.
One of those students, Chris Gibson, is now Union’s Assistant Professor of Health & Wellness. His proudest moment was when he realized he would be teaching in the same room Inkster taught him in, Robsion 205. Gibson considers it a high honor to follow in Inkster’s footsteps and said, “He was, without a doubt, my favorite professor.”
Like Gibson, Inkster began at Union as an undergraduate student, found an influential mentor, and went on to become a professor. Soon after completing his bachelor’s and master’s at Union, Inkster’s baseball coach Dr. Pete Moore offered him a chance to teach and coach alongside him. Inkster accepted the offer and has given it his all ever since, going on to receive an additional master’s from EKU, a PhD from UK, and many honors and awards.
Inkster used his farewell address as an opportunity to uphold a treasured Union tradition – the CIRCLES ceremony. He explained that the letters of the word CIRCLES represent the school’s core values.
“C stands for celebration, I stands for Inkster,” Inkster began. After the laughter settled a bit, he continued with the rest of the letters, including that L stands for Larry. “Or something like that,” he added, grinning.
In the traditional ceremony, graduating seniors name the person they feel best represented those values and positively impacted them during their time at Union. They then give that person the CIRCLES medallion they themselves received when they began as freshmen.
“We didn't have that ceremony when I graduated in 1972,” Inkster said. “If we had, mom, I would have given my medallion to you. It's 51 years late, but I'm giving you one now to thank you for everything you have done for me and thank you for being here today.”
Inkster’s mother, Cassie Jansen, received the medallion around her neck and later said, “I’m proud of my son.”
Many members of the Union community expressed gratitude for Inkster’s service and friendship and shared stories of his lively antics.
Assistant Professor of Recreation Management Andy Messer has worked in the same office suite with Inkster for decades and told him that he is “the best thing about coming to work.” Inkster later told the audience that he would miss Messer the most.
Tim Curry, Executive Director of Athletics, told Inkster, “You were one of the reasons why people like me who came to Union stayed. Thank you. I love you, my friend.”
Inkster’s brother, David Inkster, made a surprise visit from New Jersey for the party. “I’m just so impressed by how loved he is,” David said of his brother.
“Thank you, Union College, for all you have done for me,” Inkster said. “Every one of you have made an impact on my life in some way, and I'll always remember you. Union College is such a special place to so many people.”
After his heartfelt thanks and farewells, Inkster concluded with a joke. He held his laptop up to the microphone and played Johnny Paycheck’s “Take This Job and Shove It” into the sound system. He then went into the crowd to visit guests and thank everyone once again.
A Short List of Dr. Inkster’s Accomplishments
Awards Named After Him
· 2023: Union College Distinguished Athletic Service Award renamed the Dr. Larry Inkster Distinguished Athletic Service Award
· 2021: Appalachian Athletic Conference Faculty Representative of the Year Award renamed the Dr. Larry Inkster Faculty Athletic Director Award
· Union’s 2022 Distinguished Alumni Award for outstanding leadership and service
· Union’s Athletic Hall of Fame – multiple categories
· Appalachian Athletic Conference Faculty Representative of the Year – multiple years
· NAIA Coach of the Year – multiple years
· KIAC Coach of the Year
Service Positions Held
· Appalachian Athletic Conference Faculty Representative
· President of the NAIA Women’s Golf Association
· Vice President of the Kentucky Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance
· Commissioner of Barbourville Little League Baseball