UF Celebrating Legacy Of James Houdeshell

(From the University of Findlay)

James D. Houdeshell ’53, a revered figure in the University of Findlay community, passed away March 2, 2024, leaving behind a legacy that spans decades. Born in Hancock County, Ohio Feb.1, 1931, Houdeshell graduated from Rawson High School. As an undergraduate at Findlay College, Houdeshell excelled as a multi-sport athlete, earning letters in basketball, baseball, and football. His remarkable achievements led to his induction into the Findlay College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1975.

In 1955, he assumed pivotal roles at the University, serving as an assistant professor, athletic director, and head coach for football, basketball, and baseball. Over the course of three decades, he guided the men’s basketball team to 21 winning seasons, with 16 of those seasons culminating in qualifications for the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) District 22 playoffs. Three of his teams advanced to the championship tournament.

Houdeshell served as president of the NAIA Basketball Coaches Association and the NAIA Athletic Directors Association. In recognition of his outstanding contributions, he was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1981.

Houdeshell’s impact extended beyond the court. During his remarkable 60-year career at Findlay College and University of Findlay, the highly respected alumnus also served as the Dean of the College of Professional Studies, the Dean of University College, the Dean of Students, and the Chair of the Division of Teacher Education. His influence also extended to academic programs, including the establishment of one of the University’s first graduate programs—the Master of Arts in Education. Additionally, Houdeshell played a crucial role in developing Findlay’s health and physical education major and contributed to the planning and implementation of the equestrian studies program.

As the athletic director and a chamber member of the Division of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (HPER), Houdeshell spearheaded the planning and construction of the Croy Physical Education Center. Within this facility, nestled inside the Niekamp Arena, the Houdeshell Court was dedicated in honor in 2019. The stage for basketball and volleyball competitions, the Court is a lasting reminder of a man whose dedication and passion left an indelible mark on the University community.

James and his late wife, Mira (Frost ’78), shared a profound passion for Findlay College and University of Findlay. While James served as a member of the faculty and coaching staff, Mira was a super booster, championing the University and supporting all her husband’s efforts. Their commitment to educating young men and women and their unwavering support of Oiler athletics led to the establishment of the Dr. James D. ’53 and Mira M. (Frost ’78) Houdeshell Scholarship Endowment Fund. This endowment provides a scholarship to a full-time student majoring in education, maintaining a 3.0 GPA, and actively participating in varsity football or basketball.

Houdeshell had extensive knowledge of antiques and pottery and published a book, “Houghton and Dalton Pottery” in 1983. His service to the Findlay community has included serving on the board of directors of the Findlay Rotary Club, the board of education of Findlay City Schools, and as the first chairman of the Hancock Recreation and Parks Commission.

Proceeded in death by his wife Mira (Nov. 22, 2023), James leaves behind his son James P. “Jamie” (Cheri) Houdeshell; grandchildren, Ethan and Zoe (Xebastian) Aguilar; and one great-granddaughter, Gianna Aguilar.

A memorial service to celebrate James D. Houdeshell’s remarkable life will be held on Saturday, March 16, 2024 at 11 a.m.  Visitation will be held prior to the service from 9 to 11 a.m.  Visitation and the funeral will be held at Coldren-Crates Funeral Home, 205 West Sandusky Street, Findlay, Ohio.

“The UF family is mourning the loss of this great man; James Houdeshell and his wife were an integral part of our community for more than half a century. He will be deeply missed, but his dedication, passion, and impact on the University and beyond will be remembered for years to come. May he rest in peace,” said University of Findlay President Katherine Fell.

The full obituary for Houdeshell can be found here.