Once brick and cinderblock, the area on the south side of the Collegiate landmark is now much more aesthetically pleasing and inviting than it ever has been during its six-decade lifespan.
The shiny tile floor sports a green and gold color scheme, of course. There’s an image of a cougar on the wall abutting the gym area. No surprise there. There’s new ceiling tile. New lighting too. The doors, wainscot, chair rail, beams and trim are solid wood with a cherry veneer. Quarter-inch drywall painted white covers the masonry block walls. The radiator covers are solid cherry, the handiwork of the Wiltshires’ son Buck.
The namesake of the Jacobs Gym is A.L. “Petey” Jacobs, who served as athletic director from 1960 until he retired in 1981. He coached boys basketball (1960-1971) and baseball (1960-1981). During his tenure, his teams compiled a 799-317 record, but the plaque in the foyer cites the virtues that are his legacy: sportsmanship, loyalty, competitive spirit and commitment to fair play.
Who, though, are Jean and Dick Wiltshire? A great team. That’s for sure.
“Dick Wiltshire was one of the most understated superstars in the Collegiate universe,” said Alex Smith, Collegiate ’65 and, for most of his 47-year career, his alma mater’s vice president for development. “He was a selfless, nice gentleman, a do-good-and-disappear type of man. He modeled sportsmanship, persistence, citizenship and honesty. We’re still living off his DNA.”
Universally respected for his integrity, humility and business acumen as president of Home Beneficial Life Insurance Co., Mr. Wiltshire joined Collegiate’s Board of Trustees in 1955. He served as vice president from 1961-1963 and president from 1963-1965. He was named a Life Trustee in 1988.
He and Jean, a Collegiate alumna (Class of ’38) whom he married during his Christmas vacation from the University of Virginia in 1942, sent their four children to Collegiate. Gray Wiltshire Massie graduated in 1961, Rick Wiltshire in ’64, Buck Wiltshire in ’67 and Boodie Wiltshire McGurn in ’71. Twelve grandchildren are also alumni. Three great-grandchildren are currently enrolled.
“My mother and my dad, unless he was out of town on business, were at every game I played,” said Buck Wiltshire. “They were at every game Gray, Rick and Boodie played. My mother was a real sports fan. I remember when I was a little kid, every Saturday they had one baseball game on television. She would actually keep the scorebook. That was her life: spectating.”
Mr. Wiltshire, no less a fan, lettered in football, basketball and baseball at Woodberry Forest. He even ran the 100 for the Tigers’ track team, sometimes during breaks in the action of baseball games. At UVA, he played basketball and baseball and traveled with the Cavaliers to New York City for the National Invitational Basketball Tournament, which at the time hosted the nation’s top 16 teams.
He later played semi-pro hoops for the Richmond Barons. Two of his teammates were Petey Jacobs and Mac Pitt, former University of Richmond athletes and fast friends whom he’d known for years through shared experiences at Camp Virginia.
The three seemed cut from the same cloth. It came as no surprise, then, that in the late ‘50s when Collegiate launched a search for an educator to lead the new Boys School, Mr. Wiltshire (among others) reached out to Mac Pitt, then the principal of Albert Hill Junior High. Mr. Pitt would serve Collegiate for 27 years, the last 15 as head of school. One of his first hires was Petey Jacobs, who had taught and coached at St. Christopher’s for 21 years.
Coach Jacobs passed away on Dec. 7, 1995, Mr. Pitt on Nov. 4, 2008, Mr. Wiltshire on May 29, 2012, and Mrs. Wiltshire six months later on Nov. 22.
All left enduring legacies. The Jacobs Gym and Pitt Hall, which houses the Upper School, are long-established landmarks. The Wiltshire Foyer is the perfect complement.
Jean and Dick Wiltshire, you see, were not just great fans of Collegiate athletics. They were great fans and indomitable supporters of everything Collegiate.
“They enjoyed the competition,” their daughter Boodie McGurn said, “but it was more than that. They were just supportive people. They wanted to support their children and grandkids, and they did. It was all about support and love and community.”