To say this past year was a memorable one at Wallace Community College would be an understatement.
The school opened a new $18.7 million Health Sciences Building. The baseball team won the Region 22 Baseball tournament and made the team’s first ever trip to the junior college World Series in Grand Junction, Colo. But perhaps the crown jewel of all, the school received the 2017 Award of Excellence from the American Association of Community Colleges.
“I don’t want to say it was beyond anything we expected,” said Dr. Linda Young, president of Wallace Community College. “I will just say it was a very exciting year for our faculty and our staff for the accomplishments of our students.”
Dr. Young, Wallace baseball coach Mackey Sasser, and Wallace Director of Student Services Dr. Ryan Spry were each presented with commemorative Dothan Eagle plaques in a private ceremony earlier this week. Dr. Young joked she might have to get a bigger office to showcase all the academic and athletic awards the school has received this year.
It wasn’t just the school that received awards. There were also some personal awards.
Dr. Young was inducted into the Dothan Area Chamber of Commerce Business Hall of Fame. Sasser won his 600th game as the school’s head baseball coach, in addition to his first ever junior college state championship. Since winning that title, Sasser said things still haven’t slowed down.
“It’s been nonstop since about the first of May,” Sasser said. “We had the state tournament, and immediately after winning it, we had to turn around and get ready for the World Series. Then when we got back, we had to get ready for our baseball camp. I think I will finally get a chance to take a break next week.”
But Sasser isn’t complaining. As the old saying goes, “To the victor go the spoils.”
“I sort of feel like (Chipola coach) Jeff Johnson,” Sasser joked. “After winning the state tournament and going to the World Series, my phone hasn’t stopped ringing. It’s not just former teammates and my former guys who have played for me who have been calling and texting. It’s people that are suddenly interested in Wallace College that want to play here.
“And what really makes it so good is we’ve got seven players coming back that have now had a taste of this success. So hopefully they will work harder and tell the incoming freshman about it so we can get back to Grand Junction again. It was definitely a great experience.”
Dr. Young and Dr. Spry were among those who made the trip to Grand Junction and got to experience things first hand. Young said she was truly amazed at the hospitality in Grand Junction, while Spry said his wife got several ideas and saw things she would like to implement when Wallace hosts the state tournament next year.
And there was also one additional success story for this year’s team — one that everyone is proud of.
“We had nine of our players sign scholarships to four-year schools,” Sasser said. “Six of those were to Division I schools. That is really important — not only to the success of our program, but to the success of these young men. Most of these guys will never get the opportunity to play professional baseball, so their education will prepare them for the rest of their lives.”
It was truly a successful year for Wallace Community College, both in athletics and academics. There is one part that really impresses Dr. Young.
“What was truly amazing is, we did it in the same year,” she said. “There were over 1,200 community colleges that were in competition for the Award of Excellence. For us to finish No. 1 says a lot about everyone here.”
While Dr. Young is president of Wallace Community College, she said she also feels like she’s taken on another role.
“I feel like I’m Coach Sasser’s agent,” she said. “I get phone calls all the time now from people that ask me if Mackey can come speak at their civic club or their event. But this is a good problem to have. Everybody knows who we are now.”