Let's Hear It!

The two men, James Johnson and Ronald Saderholm, arrived first and were having a drink together, talking about all the things that have happened since the last time they saw each other, 47 years ago.

They were at the Athletic Hall of Fame banquet on September 12 to be honored on the golden anniversary of their contribution to Moravian sports.

The 1953 season was more than a season. It was the end of an era. It was the last season that the all-male Moravian College and Theological Seminary and Moravian College for Women would exist as separate entities. The next year, 1954, the merger that created the modern Moravian College was accomplished.

And the first signal that it was going to happen was the 1953 cheerleader squad. Two men and five women. The first mixed squad in Moravian history.

“Jim and I were sitting in my room in South Hall, which doesn’t exist anymore, doing what 18-year-olds do,” said Ron Saderholm ’56, a farmer from Kentucky. “And Jim Blanton [’54] shows up in the doorway wearing a cheerleader sweater. It was dingy and shrunk-fit. And I said: ‘Jim, you guys are lousy cheerleaders.’ I’m known for my tact. And of course he said: ‘If you think you can do it better. . . .’ ”

So they showed up for cheerleader tryouts “just to get a sweater,” said the Rev. Jim Johnson ’56, M.Div. ’59, who was the recipient of the Seminary’s John Hus Award last year for his community-service work as director of United Family Services in Charlotte, N.C.

“Actually,” said Ron, “we persuaded them to let us buy skirts.”

Just then a petite lady in a sleek suit broke into the group. “Hi, Jim and Ron,” she said. “I’m Pat Schantz.” Obviously, Patricia Vannatta Schantz ’55, now a real-estate agent in Allentown, hadn’t seen them in 47 years, either. She was introduced to Jim Johnson’s wife, Edith.

Before long, up came two other members of the 1953 squad: Joyce Honey LaBar ’57, a retired biology teacher who lives in Vermont, and Ann Lieberman McCann ’56, Bethlehem. One member of the original squad, Mary Fran McHale Mider ’59, died in 1995; Kay Stewart Zeman ’57 was unable to come from Northern California.

According to Ron, “we held auditions” to pick the women. According to Jim, the guys couldn’t have put one foot in front of the other if Joyce LaBar hadn’t taught them how.

“I want to ask you something, though,” said Ron. “This squad was one of the first serious co-ed things at the College. Soon after, we began hearing about the coming merger. The girls started coming to some of our classes. And then the next year, we were one school.

“So don’t you think Jim and I are responsible for [today’s] Moravian College?”

Cheerleaders of the historic 1953 squad—Patricia Vannatta Schantz ’55, James Johnson ’56, Joyce Honey LaBar ’57, Ronald Saderholm ’56, and Ann Lieberman McCann ’56—were recognized for their golden anniversary at the Athletic Hall of Fame on September 12.

Photo: Tim Gilman ’73