Alumni Spotlight

The Werrick Family


A Legacy of Love and Remembrance

His spirit is as present today as 23 years ago when he tragically and much too soon departed from this earth. And the legacy he left behind—nourished by his wife, his children, his siblings, his mother, and, so far, one cherubic little granddaughter named Hannah—is as strong and enduring as the very earth itself.

GRU’s long friendship with the Werrick family began with one member: Tommy Werrick (BS, Biology ‘72). Tommy entered Augusta College a pre-med student, but it wasn’t long before he realized his true calling was teaching. An avid athlete, he was a member of the 1966 inaugural Jaguar baseball team.

Beloved Teacher and Coach

Upon graduation, he became a popular science teacher and coach, first at Aquinas High School, then at Evans High School.

“As I look back on it, the time and energy he spent was incredible,” said Phillip Kelly, of Augusta, one of his many former students and players grateful to this day to have had him in their lives.

Never a stickler for ceremony, Tommy was known for taking on odd and sometimes menial tasks. He watered the grass on the playing field and laundered team uniforms after games. He often toted players back and forth to practice in his Volkswagon Fastback.

“He was always there, like a favorite uncle,” Kelly said.

And that included after school, when some of the older kids could flirt with trouble. On more than one occasion, Tommy tossed underage students out of Squeaky’s Tip-Top, the historic Summerville watering hole that closed in 2005.

“First and foremost, Tommy was a teacher,” said his sister, Anita Wylds. “But he didn’t just know the students. He knew their parents, too.”

And It Seemed Everyone Knew Him

“I couldn’t bring him Christmas shopping with me, because he ran into too many people and we never got anything done,” said his wife, Sheryl Werrick.

Tommy’s mother, Laura Cameron, said that people always responded to Tommy that way.

“He was affable right from the beginning,” she said. “Just a happy, playful person. Every neighbor knew him.”

And admired him. When GRU Athletic Director Clint Bryant created an award to recognize student athletes with the highest grade point average, he chose to designate it the Tommy Werrick Scholar-Athlete award.

“We consider it our highest honor,” Bryant said. “Tommy was a former Jaguar and a good student. And, as a coach, he always emphasized academics to his students.”

Always a Sportsman

Organized sports weren’t as popular in the 1960s as they are now. As a kid, Tommy many times organized his own sports and he learned to improvise, often to comic effect.

He played football with a sock stuffed with other socks. He played tennis with a golf ball. He divided his back yard into three holes for golf. And he played basketball with a tennis ball and a hoop made out of a coat hanger and a pair of underwear.

As an adult he played softball with the Knights of Columbus and his hobby was golf. He was always on the move, either playing a game or coaching young players. He paced the sidelines of football games, seeming never to sit down, Sheryl said.

Until Life Knocked Him Down

Doctors diagnosed him with lymphoma in December 1989. By spring, the disease had paralyzed him from the chest down. He died in July 1990, when his youngest son, Michael, was only a couple of months old.

But his children have grown up with a good sense of who their father was, thanks to the Jaguar Nation—and the Fighting Irish of Aquinas and the Knights of Evans High School.

“People always stop and tell me stories about how they remember him. I’ve heard hundreds of stories about what defined his character,” said son Tyler (BBA, Marketing‘10).

All In The Family

Tommy’s sisters, Anita Cameron Wylds (BS, Biology ‘73) and Gina Werrick Adams (BA, Elementary Education ‘79) both graduated from Augusta College. Anita worked for and retired from MCG. Tommy’s wife, Sheryl Duncan Werrick, attended the school at the same time he did, but ultimately graduated from the University of South Carolina-Aiken.

Tommy and Sheryl’s oldest child, Katie, took summer courses at Augusta State University while she was enrolled at the University of Georgia. Katie’s husband, Joey Martin (BS, Biology ’07; MAT ‘09), received both his undergraduate and graduate degrees at ASU. Their middle child, Tyler, received his undergraduate degree at ASU, and is currently working toward his MBA at GRU. He also works in the GRU admissions office as a recruiter. And their youngest child, Michael, completed his first two years at ASU before transferring to the University of Georgia.

The Wylds rarely miss a basketball game and have been Presidential members of the Jaguar Club for as long as Bryant can remember. Family members support both athletic and academic programs.

Twenty-three football seasons have come and gone since Tommy’s passing. But his memory lives on through his family and in the many lives he influenced with ideals that match those of Georgia Regents University: scholarship, sportsmanship, extraordinary effort, and personal integrity.

By Stacey Hudson

 


 


 

 

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