April 22, 2009 –
MAYETTA: Two Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation (PBPN) members, Warner A. “Tony” Coffin, Jr. (posthumously), and Gerald L. “Jerry” Tuckwin will be inducted into the American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame on May 2 at the Prairie Band Casino & Resort.
Two other American Indian athletes, Joseph T. “Joe” Hipp, Blackfeet, a professional boxer from Browning, Mon., and Melvin A. “Pete” Peterson, Eastern Band Cherokee, a professional world wide tennis player, will also be inducted during the event.
Tony Coffin was a long time coach at Haskell Indian Nations University (HINU) and was involved in several sports including football, basketball, baseball and boxing. The sports complex on the HINU campus was named in his honor and he was also well known for mentoring Indian athletes like famous track star Billy Mills who won a gold medal in the 1964 Olympic Games.
Tony was born October 10, 1916 to Warner and Margaret Coffin who resided in Mayetta,Kansas. Tony attended Mayetta High School and received his bachelor’s and master’s degree from the University of Kansas. He was also an officer in the U.S. Navy before taking his position at Haskell. He died September 25, 1966.
Jerry Tuckwin, a former student of Coffin’s, worked for 32 years as the director of athletics at HINU and will also be recognized for his contributions as a cross country track and field coach at HINU which was formerly known as Haskell Indian Junior College. Under Tuckwin’s tutelage Haskell’s team members earned National Junior College Athletic Association All-American recognition 30 different times and also won the National Junior College Marathon Championships twice which was the first national championships ever won by Haskell. Tuckwin also received the Kansas Junior College Coach of the Year Award three times and the National Runner-up award once.
Jerry was born on February 14, 1942 to Lewis and Elizabeth Tuckwin who lived on the PBP reservation and in Mayetta, Kan. until they died tragically in a fire in 1949. After their deaths he was raised by his aunt and uncle, Mage and Jane Puckkee, on the reservation and from there graduated from Haskell when it was a high school, in the 1960s. Jerry continued his education at Wichita State University (formerly University of Wichita) where he received a track scholarship and was a three-year letterman and graduated with a bachelor’s degree in 1964. He went on to receive a master’s degree from the University of Arizona and following his education taught school in the Lawrence area for a couple of years. In 1966 he enlisted in the U.S. Air Force and served in Vietnam until 1970.
Tickets for the Hall of Fame event, that begins at 6:30 p.m., may be purchased in advance at the Prairie Band Casino & Resort Gift Shop for $35 per person or at the door.
The American Indian Athletic Hall of Fame was founded in 1972 with the purpose of recognizing great athletes of American Indian heritage and to serve as a model for Indian youth who aspire to physical greatness. The hall of fame is housed at Haskell IndianNations University in Lawrence, Kan. Among the 90-plus Indian athletes who are enshrined there are Jim Thorpe, John Levi, Moses Yellow Horse and Sonny Sixkiller.