From a shop set up off his living room, Rex Huigens enjoys rebuilding antique mechanical clocks. Huigens has been associated with the University of La Verne since 1966, first as a student and an athlete, then as a coach, teacher and administrator. In retirement Huigens hopes to spend more time working on clocks at home and fishing in Idaho.
Rex Huigens, a hall of fame athlete, an award-winning coach and a dedicated professor at the University of La Verne, will retire at the end of this semester after dedicating more than 37 years of his life to the faculty and students of ULV.
“It’s been a great venue for me to learn and grow and create relationships with a lot of people,” Huigens said.
Huigens, 59, has won several awards in his years as a teacher, athlete and coach, including 1994 Coach of the Year in the West Region from the American Football Coaches Association, Golf Coach of the Year in the West Region three times in five seasons, an Excellence in Teaching Award – which he considers to be one of his most treasured awards – and the 2008 Distinguished Service Award by the Southern California Intercollegiate Athletic Conference.
“I’ve always seen myself as a teacher, even when I’m on the football field or on the golf course,” Huigens said.
Huigens graduated from La Verne College in 1970, and during his time as a student-athlete, he played football, basketball and golf for the Leopards.
Shortly after graduation, he took a job as a football coach at La Verne, and he has been loyal to the University ever since.
To honor his dedication and excellence over the years, he was inducted into the University’s Hall of Fame in 1996.
Huigens has taught a variety of classes in the Movement and Sports Science Department and has coached badminton, wrestling and basketball at ULV.
He served as department chair for the Movement and Sports Science Department for 13 years, and currently serves as the assistant athletic director in charge of compliance.
He is best known, however, for his 25 years as a football coach and 37 years as the head golf coach.
During his four years as head football coach from 1991 to 1994, the team saw two SCIAC championships and a spot in the NCAA Division III playoffs in 1994.
As the head golf coach, Huigens has led the team to the NCAA Championships during four of the past five seasons. Last year, the team earned its highest NCAA finish, ending second overall.
“He puts so much time into (coaching), and he really cares,” freshman Kevin Smith, a freshman golf player, said. “He just wants to do the best he can.”
Despite his great success and many awards, Huigens has stayed true to his values as a coach and remains very humble.
“If you were to pick one word to describe him, he is a true gentlemen in every way, shape and form,” Athletic Director Christopher Ragsdale said.
One thing that sets him apart as a coach is his ability to stay positive and patient, even in the face of defeat.
“Usually you wouldn’t expect a coach who said ‘dog gone’ to get listened to, but everybody really respected him and respected the way he handled himself,” said Bill Battin, a 1995 ULV graduate who played as a wide receiver while Huigens served as head football coach.
During his years with Huigens, Battin said he admired Huigens’ caring attitude toward his players and the relationships he developed with them. Battin specifically recalled an overweight teammate who was appreciative of the fact that Huigens let him play, despite others’ doubts.
“He was not as superficial as most coaches are,” Battin said. “He was as interested, if not more interested in the quality of the people he recruited, rather than their ability.”
Huigens still holds true to his unique coaching qualities.
“He has impacted me in a way that makes me always strive for more in golf and in life,” Smith said.
All of his players, present and past, recognize Huigens’ dedication to athletics and the individuals who participate.
“He just provides the best environment for all of his players to thrive,” senior golf player Chris Davis said. “He has a lot of patience for everybody.”
With the free time he will have after retirement, Huigens plans to visit his cabin in Idaho and also hopes to do some volunteer work.
“I would rather go out a little bit early than go out too late,” Huigens said.
As he leaves ULV, Huigens will not only be remembered as an outstanding coach, but also as a living legend, as he has exemplified true dedication and passion during his many years at the University.
“I think I’m a better person having been at La Verne, and I appreciate La Verne for helping me be that better person,” Huigens said.
There will be a reception to honor Huigens at ULV on Tuesday in the President’s Dining Room at 3:30 p.m.
Jamie Ondatje can be reached at email@example.com.