Runner Gene Palmer joins TTU Sports Hall of Fame Friday

Runner Gene Palmer joins TTU Sports Hall of Fame Friday

Dinner and Induction slated for Friday evening

COOKEVILLE, Tenn. – Gene Palmer was the most dominant middle distance runner in the Ohio Valley Conference during his four years at Tennessee Tech in the late 1950s, winning individual championships and setting school and conference records.  

In recognition of his success in running both track and cross country, Palmer is one of four people who will be enshrined into the Tennessee Tech Sports Hall of Fame Friday night (Nov. 12) as the school honors its athletic legacy with the 36th annual induction ceremony.

The 2010 Hall of Fame Class will be honored during Homecoming weekend, Nov. 12-13. The induction will take place at the Hall of Fame Dinner Friday evening, and the group will also be recognized at the Homecoming football game Saturday against Eastern Kentucky.            

Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Gene Palmer’s family moved to Tennessee for his senior year in high school, where coach Bill Dupes found him and convinced him to attend Tennessee Tech. For the next four years, Palmer worked closely with the future Hall of Fame coach, both as an award-wining middle distance runner and unofficial assistant coach.

While cross country was still considered a club sport at the school, Palmer helped to reorganize the team and led them into several meets each fall. For his work with the team, Dupes awarded three letters to Palmer in the sport.

It was on the cinders that Palmer stood out, winning four letters in track while clocking times among the best in the conference. As a sophomore, he set the school record in the 880-yard run with a time of 1:57.5 at a dual meet with East Tennessee. As a junior, se also anchored the mile relay team that set both a school and OVC record with a time of 3:26.1.

A versatile and tireless runner, Palmer typically ran in numerous events at each meet including the 440, 880, mile, mile relay and occasionally the two-mile run. In four years and more than 30 races, he took first place in the 880-yard event in every meet but one.

At that time, the top five finishers in each event at the OVC Track & Field Championships were considered all-OVC, and he earned that distinction 11 times, posting that honor twice as both a freshman and sophomore, three times in his junior year and four times as a senior, including a fourth place showing in the high jump. 

A popular student on campus, Gene was elected the Junior Class Vice President and also served as the Treasurer and President of the T-Club.  

Following his graduation from Tech in biology in 1960, he continued to find success as a runner while serving in the U.S. Marines. He was a member of the 1961 All-Marine track team, and from 1964 through 1972 he was nationally ranked in the 880-yard run. He qualified for the National AAU Track & Field Meet while representing the Marines, and for the USTAFF National Championships while with the Knoxville Track Club.               

After more than three yeas on active duty in the Marines, he returned to school and received a Ph.D. in Neuroscience from Vanderbilt University Medical School. He spent 15 years at the University of New Mexico School of Medicine, the South Alabama Medical School and Vanderbilt working in cardiovascular research. He also spent 17 years in private industry research working on epilepsy and stroke research.

Gene is married to the former Jo Herston from Columbia, Tenn., a 1960 Tech graduate, and the couple  recently moved back to Cookeville following his retirement.

Joining Palmer in the Class of 2010 are Steve Hawkins, Diane Seng Haynes and Brandy Henry Kleeman. With their induction, the Hall of Fame will grow to 154 since it was established in 1975.

Tickets to the Hall of Fame Dinner and the game are available by calling (931) 372-3940, or through the Athletics ticket office in Eblen Center. Reservations must be made for the dinner, and tickets are $25 each.