Christian music hums from the Clubhouse at Hayden Park. Maps of the Park hang on the yellow walls, while eight pairs of cross country skis rest against the wall waiting in anticipation of the first good snow.
A little further in on the left is an office decked out in Charger memorabilia, highlighting the heart of Hillsdale athletics for the last 35 years: “Wild Bill.”
President of Hillsdale College Larry Arnn recognized Assistant Professor of Sports Studies Bill Lundberg’s 35 years of service at the president’s dinner and service award.
“I’m not really a man of few words but they gave me an opportunity to say a few words and I just gave a shout out to Dr. Arnn and Rich Pewe,” Lundberg said. “I talked about how this is a great college that we’re at and, of course, effective coaching and teaching and preaching. I was praising the Lord and thanking God for what He’s given us with loving and serving Jesus with our heart, in our minds and with our strength. I spoke just pretty briefly for me.”
Anyone who knows Wild Bill, knows this is an accurate self-description. He has told many of us his story in snippets — but mostly in long chunks — as we linger after Physical Wellness and Dynamics or take a jog through Hayden Park. But here is his story — for the record:
In 1980, Lundberg attended the Olympic trials, and was in the top five contenders. However, during the race he ruptured his achilles tendon and couldn’t finish the race.
Then in 1980, Lundberg unexpectedly lost his dad to a brain aneurysm. A family oriented man, the loss hit him hard. Shortly after, sports were cut at Jackson College, where he was the cross country coach, and he lost his job.
In a time of despair and heartbreak, Lundberg turned to God.
“These are setbacks or challenges, but scripturally we’re just talking about something like in Romans 8:28, which is that, ‘For we know that God works all things together for good for those who love them, those called according to His purpose.’ So there’s sometimes a lot of challenging things that we have to adjust to and go through,” Lundberg said.
Lundberg first came to Hillsdale in February 1985 as the men’s head cross country and track coach and assistant professor of physical education. He was thrown into a hectic season, as three months later, Hillsdale hosted the NAIA Track and Field National Championship.
He adjusted quickly and a year later, Lundberg led the cross country and track team to a GLIAC title. In the 1990s, the men’s cross country team won six conference championships while the men and women outdoor track and field team won every title from 1992 to 1995 with the exception of one. The men’s cross country teams from 1992 to 1994 were inducted into the Hillsdale Hall of Fame in 2020. In 1994, Lundberg was named NAIA National Coach of the Year for men’s cross country.
Chief Administrative Officer Rich Pewe was a freshman when Lundberg was hired at Hillsdale.
“We were instantly on-board with his system because we were impressed that he was a world class athlete and he was so personable. He lived in my suite with us for a month before finding a house,” Pewe said. “He coached me in three sports for four years. I was his team captain in cross and track. And he gave me the chance to do some assistant coaching in the spring of ’89.”
But Lundberg’s influence on Pewe, like many, went beyond the world of athletics. In Lundberg’s 27 years of coaching, all teams he has coached have achieved grade-point averages of 3.3 or better. Two hundred athletes have been academic and athletic all-americans, and 17 have been national champions under Lundberg.
“I have never met anyone like Bill. It is hard for anyone to match his general enthusiasm, the joy he finds in Christ, and yes, his loquaciousness,” Pewe wrote. “He had a profound impact and influence over his athletes. We missed dinner often because his team meetings went long.”
The rich faith that Pewe admires is what got Lundberg through, and it is what he preaches to his athletes and physical wellness students to this day.
“I say to my students and my athletes that if I’m not coaching or teaching, I’m preaching,” Lundberg said. “I’m not really trying to always push the Bible and God’s word down on them constantly, but you want to live that out most of all. It’s vital in our lives to do well in whatever way we can to live. Not to just live a good life, but to live a life that’s God honoring.”
In 2012 Lundberg took on a new role as the first Hayden Park fitness and recreation director and manager. The position is different from coaching, but allows Lundberg to do what he is passionate about.
“These last eight or nine years have really been rewarding at Hayden Park. Being a key part of our sports studies department, I can still get to be connected with what I love the most: being with our students and our student athletes,” Lundberg said.
Senior Natalie Stepanenko took Lundberg’s Physical Wellness and Dynamics class and was inspired by his charismatic personality.
“His genuine spirit lifts all those around him, whether it’s on the field or in class,” she said. “Wild Bill’s kindness is contagious.”
Lundberg’s motto for coaching, teaching, and preaching has reached many of those he met over the last 35 yrs.
“For many he completely changed the direction of their lives. He always wears his love for the Lord on his sleeve. I appreciate that more than anything about Bill,” Pewe said. “Many people have turned to Christ because of Bill. He was a great example as a father. As a son has always given his mother the respect she deserves. He treats his wife the way a man should. I love how smitten he is with his grandchildren.”