Local Profile: PV resident Wall earns hall of fame induction
PRESCOTT VALLEY - Doug Wall accomplished plenty of professional milestones outside the athletic arena while working as a longtime attorney in northern Arizona.
Nonetheless, sports have always played a prominent role in his life.
Perhaps that's one of the main reasons why the 83-year-old Wall - a former Division I football backup offensive guard at Kansas University in Lawrence, Kan., and a once-successful swimming coach - will be inducted into the Flagstaff Hall of Fame for athletes Monday night at the Radisson Woodlands Hotel in Flagstaff.
This past November, members of the Flagstaff Sports Foundation Hall of Fame notified Wall, a resident of Flagstaff from 1957-93 who now lives in Prescott Valley, of his induction. The foundation annually honors individuals who have positively impacted the Flagstaff community through their sustained efforts in sports.
Although he was a decent athlete and coach in the 1950s, Wall would become best known for helping to bring a large, indoor swimming facility and the High Altitude Training Center to Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff decades later.
Wall said from his home this past week that it came as a shock to him that he would be brought into the hall. Inductees are chosen from nominations submitted by individuals in the greater Flagstaff community.
"It's rewarding that a lot of things I've done have been honored," said Wall, who today resides with his wife, Marilyn, and their English springer spaniel, Molly, in a PV subdivision.
The Natatorium at NAU opened in November 1983, but the university later renamed it the Douglas J. Wall Aquatic Center in Wall's honor during the 1990s, following a stint of his with the Arizona Board of Regents.
Wall said former NAU president Gene Hughes - who is also being inducted into the hall on Monday - and he worked together to bring the Natatorium and the High Altitude Training Center to the Flagstaff campus in 1994 so that Olympic athletes would have a place to train and swim at an elevation of 7,000 feet. High altitude training has been proven to bolster athletes' lung capacity and stamina when they compete closer to or at sea level.
Even though the center was recently closed because of university budget cuts, its facilities were top-notch for Olympic-level athletes and their coaches, as well as the Flagstaff community.
"A lot of outstanding swimmers from different countries have come to Flagstaff to train through the years," Wall said. "It has provided good publicity to NAU and a beautiful facility for its students to work out."
As an athlete at KU, Wall was not a first-string football lineman, but he excelled at handball - which he picked up in the Navy. In fact, he won a handball championship at the university and competed in both singles and doubles for two years. He also played Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) handball and won titles at that level.
After graduating with a bachelor's degree in physical education from Kansas, Wall became the swimming coach for the Phillips Oil Company in Oklahoma, which recruited talented high school swimmers from several different age levels to travel across the country to compete in the AAU.
While with Phillips Oil in the early 1950s, Wall coached the nearby Bartlesville (Okla.) High School swim team to two state titles. He also taught water aerobics and women's synchronized swimming, which drew hundreds of spectators to Phillips' gorgeous pool - one that also provided recreation opportunities for its employees.
Some of Wall's swimmers at Phillips qualified for the Olympics, despite the team's inexperience in diving.
"They (Phillips) had one of the best programs in the country," said Wall, who did not swim competitively in college but, as an avid reader and student of the sport, caught on quickly as a coach. "We had the talent."
After a short stint with Phillips, Wall returned to Kansas University, where he earned a law degree.
For two years, in between classes and studying for exams, Wall coached KU's swim team. He said he was drawn to swimming because it requires more overall athletic ability than most other sports thanks to the movements involved - and the fact that one has to be both strong and well coordinated to participate.
"There was a lot more pressure at Kansas because the competition was really intense," Wall said. "We had a great group of guys, some of whom went on to become doctors and dentists."
In the early 1950s, at the urging of his uncle and then-Arizona attorney general Ross Jones, Wall moved to Phoenix to work in the old Valley National Bank's trust department.
Wall soon accepted a position in the bank's Northern Arizona Trust Department before leaving to work in a private practice law firm. He would also become the attorney for NAU, where he taught business law for several years.
Today, although Wall is retired from law, his wife, Marilyn, says he still has that competitive itch.
And despite being away from coaching for years, he isn't bashful about approaching neighborhood children to teach them how to swing a baseball bat or a backhand with a tennis racquet when he's out and about.
"He's still involved in the community," Marilyn said. "I'm very proud of him."