Pat Rice, former director of Student Health Services, Milo Hadwin, former lecturer in Bible, and Sherrill Bennett played table tennis in the Senior Olympics on Wednesday, Oct. 4 in Hot Springs, Arkansas, and earned a total of seven medals, five of them gold.
When Rice retired she looked for
people to play table tennis with to fill some of her free time, but could not find anyone. She asked the youth ministers at the College Church of Christ if she could come to their teen center to play with the youth group, and they loved the idea. Through her time spent playing with the youth group, Bennett and Hadwin discovered she played often.
“Sherrill found out that I played, and we started playing up at the church building,” Rice said. “Then Milo found out we played, and after playing together the three of us decided that we would come over to the boys’ dorm and play with some of the college students.”
It became a routine for the trio to play every Monday and Thursday at 3 p.m. if they were available, and they have been playing in Keller Dorm for four years. According to Keller Residential Life Coordinator Debra Nesbitt, when they asked her if they could play in Keller she loved the idea.
“(It was) such a great way to get to know students and get involved in their lives,” Nesbitt said. “I love that they took initiative and started playing. The students really look forward to it every week.”
Many different students come and play for hours in Keller, both male and female. One of these students is sophomore Easton Laird.
Laird has been playing Rice since he was in the youth group of College Church, and has played often with the trio on Mondays and Thursdays. When he first played Rice, he assumed it was an easy victory, but he was mistaken.
“When I first played Mrs. Rice, I thought ‘Are you kidding me? A 70-something-year old lady that thinks she can beat me at ping pong?’” Laird said. “And then she destroyed me, so ever since I first played her, I always have wanted to beat her.”
After Laird’s first victory, Rice had a t-shirt made with the date and score of the victory and “Keller Dorm Ping-Pong.”
Table tennis has a more special place in Rice’s heart than just recreation. When Rice was 14 she had a friend named Gary who taught her to play table tennis. A few years later, he was killed in a car accident, and through his passing Rice became very close to his parents.
“When I was a senior in high school, Gary’s mother invited me to a gospel meeting and I was converted to Christ. She was also a nurse and recruited me into nursing,” Rice said. “So I feel a little bit that through ping pong I have had a journey to find Christianity and my profession.”
For Rice, even though the game is fun, it is not about winning or losing, it is about the relationships.
“I have relationships with people that I wouldn’t have if we didn’t play ping pong together,” Rice said.
According to Nesbitt, the trio has made an impact on her family and the students through those relationships as well.
“I’m actually honored they chose Keller,” Nesbitt said. “It’s been a blessing in my family’s lives, as they have gotten to know them and play ping pong with the three of them. They have blessed me by reminding me, it’s the little things that matter, and we can use our talents for the Lord in so many ways. They happen to be glorifying the Lord through ping pong. That is a blessing to watch.”