Catawba alumnus establishes scholarship

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 27, 2008

Albert H. “Tuck” Gudger, a 1948 alumnus of Catawba College, says a new scholarship he has established is just another way he is “giving back.”
Preference for the Albert H. “Tuck” Gudger Sr. Scholarship will be given to a wide receiver on the football team, a position that Gudger once held.
“I should have done this a long time ago,” he says. “I just feel that Catawba has been great and has meant a tremendous amount to me. I think you should give back to your school in terms of service and in terms of financing.”
Tuck lives in Asheville and has led an interesting life as an athlete, coach, teacher, flyer, salesman, public speaker, active participant in civic and cultural affairs in his community, author and pageant judge. He has judged in 69 state pageants for the Miss America System in 45 different states. But his interesting life voyage launched from Salisbury, his hometown.
Gudger, a star athlete at Boyden High School, enlisted in the U.S. Air Force after graduation in 1943. He was commissioned as a navigator exactly one year later in June 1944 and was shipped overseas in September with the 13th Air Force in the South Pacific Theatre as a navigator on a B-24 Liberator Bomb.
He was promoted to first lieutenant in November 1944, and by March of 1945, he had flown 42 combat missions, spending 620 combat hours in the air. He had also survived a crash landing in the Pacific which killed four of his 10-member crew. He was awarded the Purple Heart, the Air Medal with Four Oak Leaf Cluster, the Pacific Battle Medal with Five Battle Stars and the Presidential Unit Citation.
By the time he was discharged in November 1945, he was married to Mary Frances “Murf” Jarvis of Salisbury, a 1945 Catawba graduate, and was an active student-athlete at Catawba due to his accumulated military leave time.
Gudger lettered in three sports at Catawba, football, basketball and baseball, and played in the first and second Tangerine Bowl Games in Orlando, Fla., under Coach Gordon Kirkland in 1947 and 1948.
A top student as well, he majored in education and was chief marshal at graduation ceremonies his junior year. He also was a senior representative on the Student Senate.
Gudger credits the late M.M. “Chub” Richards, dean of admissions and a professor, for helping him get an assistantship to pursue his master’s degree in education at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. After he earned that degree in 1949, he coached at A.L. Brown High School in Kannapolis for four years, leading the Wonders to back-to-back state championships in football and basketball.
He then left coaching to go into the insurance business in Asheville. He was brokerage manager for the Paul Revere Insurance Companies for Western North Carolina and Northern South Carolina and was later general manager for that company’s Asheville operations. He obtained the company’s highest honor for sales and service.
Gudger was active in the Jaycees, serving as vice president of the N.C. Jaycees and as a member of the board of directors of the U.S. Jaycees. He was chosen as the outstanding man of the year in Kannapolis in 1952 and Asheville in 1966.
In 2008, he received a lifetime achievement award for community service from the Mountain Amateur Athletic Club and the Western N.C. Sports Hall of Fame. Currently, he is a member of the board of directors of the Western N.C. Veterans Memorial being built in downtown Asheville. He and two other members of that board raised nearly $500,000 to finance the project.
He served on the board of directors of Catawba’s Alumni Association and as its representative on the Board of Trustees. He has also been vice president and president of the Chiefs Club. Along with longtime friend Henry Bernhardt, he originated the Catawba Sports Hall of Fame and became one of its inductees in 1982.
Gudger’s first wife died in 1986. They had had two children, Cynthia Baldwin, Class of 8173, and Harlen, Class of 1977. His second wife, Peggy Sue Jones, was equally supportive is also deceased.
Copies of Gudger’s autobiography can be found at the Corriher-Linn-Black Library on Catawba’s campus, in the Rowan Public Library and at the Rowan Museum.