Dr. S. Richardson Hill Jr. (UAB President, 1977-86)
Dr. S. Richardson Hill Jr. has long been considered one of the most significant individuals in the growth of UAB as a university as well as the development of the school's athletics program.
Dr. Hill had a vision for UAB and for a university athletics program and with his eye on a plan for excellence at UAB, he hired Gene Bartow from UCLA in 1977 to lead the athletics program and coach the men's basketball program.
Dr. Hill began his career at UAB in 1954 as director of the Division of Endocrinology and Metabolism, and in 1962 was named dean of the Medical College of Alabama. In 1968 he was appointed UAB vice president for health affairs, and nine years later, he became the University's second president, a position he held for 10 years. He also served as the first director of the University of Alabama System Medical Education Program, during the years 1972 to 1979.
After graduating from Duke University and the Bowman Gray School of Medicine at Wake Forest University, he took postgraduate training as an intern, resident, and fellow in medicine at Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston, and Harvard Medical School. Dr. Hill's professional field of interest was in internal medicine and endocrinology, and he held Board certification from the American Board of Internal Medicine.
Dr. Hill served on many prestigious committees and advisory groups in the health field, and was recognized as one of the country's leading authorities in the area of health manpower training and the delivery of health care services.
Dr. Hill died in July, 2003.
Dr. Jerry D. Young (Vice President for Finance, 1974-83; Supporter)
An ardent supporter of all UAB sports, but especially the baseball program, Dr. Jerry D. Young served as senior vice president for finance at UAB at the time of his death in May, 1983.
A magna cum laude graduate of Indiana State University, Young came to UAB in 1971 and was the first dean of the School of Business. By 1973, the school had received accreditation by the American Assembly of Collegiate Schools of Business as the youngest school to achieve accreditation in the 60-year history of that program.
Named UAB's vice president for finance in 1974, Dr. Young was responsible for all fiscal operations at the university and played a key role in guiding the physical development of the campus during a period of intensive construction and growth.
At the same time, he was instrumental in establishing the intercollegiate athletics program on the UAB campus, the hiring of Gene Bartow as athletics director and head basketball coach and the hiring of Harry "The Hat" Walker as the Blazers' first baseball coach.
Dr. Young devoted much of his time and energy to the development of the Sun Belt Conference and was treasurer of the league in 1982. At the time of his death, Dr. Young was serving as president of the conference. During the 1984-85 school year, the Sun Belt instituted the Jerry D. Young Award, to be awarded to the men's basketball player who best exemplified the criteria of sportsmanship, scholarship, leadership and athletic ability.
Dr. Young worked tirelessly for the UAB community and his work on behalf of the athletics department and the baseball program is the chief reason why the field stands today. His son Jeff was a member of the first UAB baseball team in 1979, and Dr. Young had a particular fondness for baseball at UAB. UAB's baseball facility is named in his honor as Jerry D. Young Memorial Field.
Wanda Hightower Jordan (Women's Basketball, 1978-82)
Wanda Hightower Jordan finished her UAB basketball career more than 25 years ago and still holds numerous school records that may never be broken. Playing for the Blazers from 1978-82, she scored 2,854 points, the most by any men's or women's player in the history of UAB basketball.
Hightower Jordan also holds school records in scoring average (25.7), field goals made (1,113), field goals attempted (2,163), free throws made (628), free throws attempted (811), free throw percentage (.774) and steals (310). She ranks second in the record books in rebounds, grabbing 1,091 boards over four years.
A member of the first UAB women's basketball team in 1978-79, Hightower Jordan helped the Blazers to a pair of seasons with 20-plus wins an overall record of 77-39 during her career.
On May 17, 1982, Hightower Jordan became the first UAB athlete in any sport to have her jersey retired.
Oliver Robinson (Men's Basketball, 1978-82)
Oliver Robinson was Gene Bartow's first high profile signee when the legendary coach started the athletic program in 1978. During his playing career, Robinson quickly helped the Blazers make their presence known on the national scene. With Robinson as a mainstay, the Blazers participated in one NIT and two NCAA Tournaments in the early-1980s.
Robinson earned Sun Belt Conference Player of the Year in 1982 and was an honorable mention All-American the same season. He was also chosen as the most valuable player of the NCAA Mideast Regional (1982), leading the Blazers to the Elite Eight after wins over Indiana and then-No. 1 Virginia.
Robinson was UAB's first 1,000-point scorer and finished his career with 1,577 points which currently rank No. 4 all-time at UAB.
Robinson was selected by the San Antonio Spurs as the 23rd pick of the 1982 NBA draft. In 1998, Robinson was elected to the Alabama House of Representatives for the 58th District in Jefferson County.
Gene Bartow (Head Men's Basketball Coach 1979-96; Director of Athletics 1978-2000)
Long considered one of the most respected figures in intercollegiate athletics, no one was more instrumental in the growth of the UAB athletics program than Gene Bartow. Bartow forged the athletic program from its infancy to one that featured 17 sports and an annual operating budget of more than $8 million by the time he retired in 2000.
Among the achievements were guiding the program through three conference changes, growing the football program from a club sport to a Division I-A program, and adding several women's sports to the university's athletics roster.
Outside of his administrative accomplishments, Bartow is perhaps best known for his success as a basketball coach. He is regarded as one of the top college basketball coaches of all-time and was voted National Coach-of-the-Year in 1973 while at Memphis. He led teams for 34 years at six universities, including serving as the Blazers' head coach from 1978-96. He coached UAB to the NIT in the program's second year and followed that up with seven straight NCAA Tournament appearances, including trips to the Sweet 16 in 1981 and the Elite Eight in 1982.
UAB renamed its basketball venue, Bartow Arena, in his honor in 1997. In 2009, Bartow was selected for induction into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. He currently serves as President of the NBA's Memphis Grizzlies.