Grab your skates!
The Walter S. Orr Rink opened 63 years ago this month—dedicated on January 15, 1955. The dedication ceremony, led by Dean Eugene S. Wilson (Class of 1929), included speeches by Trustee Francis T. P. Plimpton (Class of 1921), President Charles W. Cole (Class of 1927), and Walter S. Orr (Class of 1912), the rink’s namesake and major donor. The formal ceremony was followed by two figure skating performances and an Amherst College vs. UMass Amherst hockey game (which Amherst lost, 5-4).
National champions performed the two inaugural figure skating routines. Dick Button won Olympic gold in both 1948 and 1952 with two historic “firsts” in competition. In 1948, he landed the first double Axel, and four years later, he landed the first triple jump (a loop). Ice dancing pair (and spouses) Phyllis and Martin Forney would compete in the 1955 World Figure Skating Championships.
Despite the cold (the Amherst Student noted that it was below freezing), a substantial crowd gathered for the dedication. The speeches tended to humor, with Dean Wilson introducing President Cole as “one who is long-experienced in skating on thin ice,” and Trustee Plimpton hoping that the co-educational weekends would benefit from the new recreational opportunity.
Perhaps people were tired of braving the cold, because Orr Rink was enclosed just ten years later in 1965. It was completely renovated in 1997, and is now home to both men’s and women’s ice hockey teams. Recreational skating is available to the Amherst College community (see the Athletics site for hours) from November through February; lace up and have some fun!
1. “Richard BUTTON – Olympic Figure Skating.” International Olympic Committee, February 1, 2017. https://www.olympic.org/richard-button.
2. “Plimpton, Button Help Dedicate New Orr Rink.” Amherst Student, January 17, 1955. Amherst College Archives & Special Collections.