RIO GRANDE — At halftime of the University of Rio Grande’s men’s basketball game vs. Mount Vernon Nazarene University, the Student Senate and Student Activities presented senior Sarah Bonar, of Hartford, Ohio, with the inaugural Clarence “Bevo” Francis Character Award.
Bonar, varsity captain for the women’s basketball program and honors program member, said she is excited to be the student to set the bar for future winners.
“This is, without a doubt, the most prestigious award I’ve ever won in my life,” she said Saturday. “Any award with the name Bevo Francis in it just speaks volumes of its importance, and I’m honored to have been chosen for this.”
The winner of the award is chosen by alumni and must be a student in good academic standing who shares Bevo’s professionalism, good character and outstanding leadership qualities.
Dena Warren, URG director of student activities, said the award is about much more than his basketball records.
“One of our students, Rachel Hoffman, came up with the idea to do an award in honor of Bevo’s memory,” Warren said. “Bevo was an exemplary person and a lot of the students still look up to him, not just for his basketball records. The award is about the type of person he was and the alumnus he was. Rio was so important to him. We wanted to do something more than honor only his basketball career.”
In the 1952-1953 basketball season, Clarence “Bevo” Francis and his teammates achieved a perfect 39-0 season, with Bevo breaking several NAIA and NCAA records. Athletic Director Jeff Lanham said the team changed the face of college basketball.
“The Bevo Classic is a celebration of the 1952-1953 team and what they did in college basketball. It was at its lowest point ever, nationally. It needed a hero, and that was Bevo. He was able to do what he did because of the team he had around him. They turned college basketball upside down,” Lanham said. “This is the 33rd year we have had the Bevo Classic, and we want to continue to tell this team’s story and its legacy.”
Bevo lost his battle to esophageal cancer this past June, but his memory still lives on at Rio. Bonar said she has been inspired by the effect Bevo had on Rio.
“Bevo left such an impact on not only this university, but on this whole area. To be able to represent the values he stood for, and still represents, is more than I could ever hope for,” Bonar said.
Warren said Student Activities plans to continue this award in the upcoming years.
Jessica Patterson is a communications specialist with the University of Rio Grande/Rio Grande Community College.