PIKEVILLE, Ky. – The University of Pikeville is mourning the loss of an alumnus, friend and employee who had been involved in the school for six decades.
Gary Thrash, 65, passed away after a battle with cancer on Tuesday morning at the Pikeville Medical Center.
“Gary Thrash was an outstanding supporter and ambassador for the University,” said James Hurley, vice-president. “One thing was certain about Gary, he loved the Bears with all of his heart. He will be greatly missed by the campus community.”
Bill Watson, who recently finished his 15th season as head coach of the women’s basketball team, summed up his relationship in a way that many would echo. “He was a great friend, and a strong supporter women’s basketball and the university,” he said. “When I think of Gary Thrash I think of the school. I’m a better person for knowing him and the institution is better for having him around.”
Thrash enrolled at the school in September 1966 and had been affiliated with it in various forms since then. A native of St. Clairsville, Ohio, Thrash graduated from Pikeville College in August 1971.
In the meantime, Thrash served the school in many capacities. He was best known as the residence hall director of Wickham Hall, where he served two stints. He is also a former president of the alumni association.
It was in that capacity that Thrash made an impact on the athletics department. A longtime scorebook keeper for both the men’s and women’s basketball teams – a job he began as a work-study student under former coach and athletics director Paul Butcher – Thrash initiated and helped fund the Athletics Hall of Fame, which inducted its first class during the school’s centennial year of 1989.
Thrash himself was inducted into the Hall in 1997, becoming the first member of it to never have played or coached at the institution.
“Gary was a tremendously caring person. He was responsible of the organization on the UPIKE Athletic Hall of Fame,” said Ron Damron, vice-president of student services who is bowling coach and former director of athletics, who noted Thrash was director of Wickham Hall for 20 years. “He had a great relationship with the students in his residence hall. He cared about our students and he cared about the university.”
Robert Staggs, another former AD who coaches softball, knew Thrash before he enrolled at the school in the 1970s, said the university would suffer from the loss. “The University of Pikeville has lost a great friend,” he said. “Thrash has been associated with PC/UPIKE for as long as I can remember. I kidded him all the time about being one of the people who helped build the ‘99.’”
John Biery first knew Thrash as his residence-hall advisor; later they became friends and longtime coworkers. “A true friend and servant of the University of Pikeville has passed away,” he said. “His co-workers, students and fellow alumni will truly miss him and grieve the loss of someone so close to the organization for so long.
“Rarely do you find the consistency of demeanor and loyalty to team that Gary possessed. He was a true friend.”
Thrash, who was a physical therapist, lived in Prestonsburg with his wife Sondra. Arrangements are pending and will be announced by the Haysi (Va.) Funeral Home.
“Thrash was a good friend who always had a smile on his face and would do anything he could for you,” said Staggs. “When I saw him, I would always greet him with ‘Gary T’ and he would always answer ‘Ro-bear.’
“It's not going to be the same around here without him.....God speed, Gary T.”