CEDAR CITY — Southern Utah University and its athletic community are mourning the loss of Kent “Red” Dover, an icon and staple in Thunderbird Athletics and in Cedar City.
Dover died peacefully on the evening of Oct. 12, the university said in a press release. He was one month shy of his 99th birthday.
“Although I didn’t meet Red until he was in his 90’s, his enthusiasm and energy in supporting the Thunderbirds was contagious,” SUU athletic director Debbie Corum said in the release. “Each time I saw him, he was always willing to offer his advice and I found him to be a great resource for the history of SUU Athletics. Although COVID-19 protocols kept us apart this last year, I cherished the moments we spent together and will miss him. I know that he is enjoying a happy reunion with his beloved Bessie.”
Dover is held in such high regard by all in the Southern Utah community that in 2017, the university honored “Red” by renaming its hall of fame the Kent B. “Red” Dover Athletic Hall of Fame in the America First Event Center. Dover was inducted into that very hall of fame just two years earlier in 2015.
“Kent ‘Red’ Dover has been ingrained in the fabric of the SUU community for decades,” said SUU Interim President Mindy Benson. “He grew up across the street from campus and served our country and community tirelessly during his life. He and his wife, Bessie, made an indelible impact at SUU through their unwavering support of our students and Thunderbird Athletics. He will be deeply missed.”
SUU’s hall of fame namesake played football, basketball and participated in track and field during his time at SUU in the early 1940s. He was a supporter of SUU athletics his entire life and never lived farther than three blocks from the university, save for his years serving in the Air Force.
Dover’s earliest involvement with the university came in the form of serving as a ball boy for the Branch Agricultural College football team. As he grew up, he stayed involved in sports any way he could. He participated in every sport that was available, but stayed busy in other ways, too.
Upon graduating from high school, Dover enrolled at Branch Agricultural College. He thoroughly enjoyed being a student but left for the Air Force after his freshman year. After taking part in 42 missions and logging over 500 combat hours, he returned to Cedar City to finish his degree and compete for the school’s football, basketball and track and field teams.
As previously reported in Cedar City News, a stately walnut tree planted by Dover some 95 years ago was cut down in May on the SUU campus to make way for a new classroom building. At that time, Dover’s children said they planned to use some of the wood from the tree to make their father’s coffin.
SUU Athletics is scheduled to honor Dover during its annual hall of fame induction event later this week. The ceremony is scheduled to take place Friday at 5:30 p.m. in the western entrance of the America First Event Center. A moment of silence in Dover’s honor will also be held at SUU’s home football game versus Northern Colorado the following evening.
Three SUU athletes are scheduled to be inducted into the hall of fame on Friday: Lori McCurdy Lopez, who played softball and volleyball for the Thunderbirds from 1980-82; Tysson Poots, who was a receiver on the football team from 2006-10; and three-time All-American gymnast Elise Wheeler, who competed from 2007-10.
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