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Two who left us made great contributions

William Max Welch was known far beyond Terre Haute for innovation and expertise in his field.

So was William Arthur Dando.

Back here in Indiana, the two men were known for their many years of teaching and serving others.

The community lost those two “Bills” in recent weeks. Both left a lasting impression on Terre Haute.

Bill Welch died last month at age 96. His name got etched into local history in 1972, when Welch coached the Terre Haute North Patriots cross country team to the Indiana High School Athletic Association state title. His Patriots were Vigo County’s first high school state champions.

“It wasn’t because they had such incredible talent,” he recalled in 2017. “It was because they worked hard.”

They reflected their coach. Welch accomplished much in his near-century of living.

His service in the U.S. Army during World War II through four battle campaigns under General George S. Patton certainly stands out. Welch came home, earned a degree at Indiana State Teachers College and began a teaching and a multi-sport coaching career at Gerstmeyer and North high schools and Rose-Hulman Institute of Technology that stretched into the 21st century.

His teams won state and regional titles. His individual athletes did the same, and also became college All-Americans. One became one of the greatest left-handed pitchers in major league baseball history, Tommy John.

“Bill Welch was the best coach I ever played for,” John told the Tribune-Star last October.

Welch won numerous coaching honors and is enshrined in four Halls of Fame. Running tracks at Rose and North bear his name. He officiated at the 1984 Summer Olympics. His training techniques remain in use today. He helped design the world’s best cross country venue, the LaVern Gibson Championship Cross Country Course in Terre Haute.

Yet, his teaching touched the lives of thousands of everyday men and women at local schools and colleges. They will always remember Welch as a source of mentoring, learning and encouragement in their lives.

Bill Dando became a legend in international geography circles. He died on New Year’s Day at age 86.

The Pennsylvania native and his wife Caroline brought their family to Terre Haute, where Bill and his wife served on the ISU faculty. During many years as chair of the university’s department of geography, geology and anthropology, Bill continued writing books in his many specialty areas — a passion that did not stop after his retirement in 2002. Dando wound up writing 29 books and two atlases during his long career. The latest dealt with world famine and hunger, and the three-book series “Geography of the Holy Land.”

The latter works illuminate the ways cities and small towns in the Bible developed, helping to explain their significance today in a region of the world constantly in the news.

“Where has our focus been for decades? The Middle East. We should learn more about this part of the world,” Dando said last February. “Almost everything that’s happening in the Middle East is repeated in history.”

Geography groups honored his work, and he received the 1982 World Hunger Media Award. Thousands of college students benefited from Dando’s knowledge and world travels in the Air Force and as a researcher and scholar. But so did other folks in Terre Haute.

Dando taught Bible history and geography in Sunday school classes at his church, Centenary United Methodist downtown near the campus. He worked with K-through-12 teachers to preserve and strengthen the teaching of geography in schools. He often spoke to church and community groups about hunger, globally and right here in Terre Haute.

Bill Welch and Bill Dando made a difference in this town and elsewhere.

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