Torch memories

As UMHB President Dr. Randy O'Rear looks on, Gene Deutscher, Olympic torch bearer for the 1980 Lake Plaid Olympics takes a last look at torch at conclusion of Sunday ceremony at UMHB.

Richard Creed/Special to the Telegram

BELTON — A torch that helped carry the Olympic flame to the 1980 Winter Games in Lake Placid, N.Y., now has a new home on the campus of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor.

Temple resident Gene Deutscher, who carried the flame along with 51 others on an 8-day, 1,000-mile journey, donated the torch to the university on Sunday.

Deutscher doesn’t have direct ties to the university, but he’s happy the torch will now be on display after sitting in his closet for the better part of the past four decades.

“I know they’re going to be good shepherds of it. It’s a nice feeling to know that it’s in the public view at a Christ-centered institution in the Temple-Belton community,” Deutscher said.

After speaking with representatives of the university, he believed UMHB would be a good fit.

“The Olympics to me are all about body, mind and spirit,” he said. “In my view, UMHB represents all of that. It was an easy transition to me once I realized what they mean to this community and beyond.”

The torch is now on display in the Frank and Sue Mayborn Campus Center.

“It’s really a complete honor that he chose UMHB,” Director of Development Susan Kolodziejczyk said. “His relationship with us is by friendship, and we are grateful and honored that he chose us. We are proudly displaying it and hope all who walk through there can enjoy it.”

An avid runner, Deutscher was the head of a teaching hospital in Fort Worth when his executive assistant heard a radio advertisement calling for people interested in being a member of the torch relay team.

After an extensive application process, a time trial and an interview, Deutscher was selected as the representative from Texas. He and 51 others — one from each state, one from the District of Columbia and one from Lake Placid — guided the flame from Langley Air Force Base in Hampton, Va., to Lake Placid.

Once they arrived, the torchbearers soaked up many of the events that transpired over the next 10 days.

“We participated in the opening and closing ceremonies and the medal award ceremonies. We were there for the whole deal and had passes to all the venues,” Deutscher said. “We took advantage of that as much as we could.”

Though the torch had been in his possession for 38 years, Deutscher didn’t claim ownership of it.

“I don’t feel the torch belongs to me. I think the torch belongs to the people of Texas,” he said. “I was just the representative who had the good fortune to be selected, but I’ve never viewed it as being mine.”

With a prominent location inside the university’s fitness center, Kolodziejczyk hopes the torch will provide a little extra motivation for those who pass by.

“We thought that was a perfect location for it because of what it stands for,” she said. “What a motive it gives those who walk through there.”

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