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1902 Ruff Herndon Begins 62-Year Swarthmore Career

Ruff Herndon

Ruff Herndon

Ruffin James “Ruff” Herndon's remarkable 62-year tenure as Swarthmore's athletic trainer spanned four Swarthmore presidents, seven deans, 11 athletic directors, and 73 head coaches. When Herndon came to Swarthmore as a member of the custodial staff in 1902, the College was still 40 years away from admitting African-American students and 68 years from hiring its first African-American professor.

Herndon was drawn to athletics through his background as a high school football, basketball, and baseball player in Richmond, Va. At the suggestion of a Swarthmore team doctor, he took two years of night school and became the College's athletic trainer in 1904.

As a lay preacher, Herndon brought students with him to North Philadelphia to prepare and serve breakfast to children at schools and churches during the Great Depression. Students and alumni honored the "omnipresent philosopher-trainer" Herndon on several occasions during his years at the College. Upon his retirement in 1964, students dedicated that year's Halcyon to him and his "kind, sensible, knowing spirit."