Last Thursday Grambling State University bid farewell to Dr. David “Rusty” Ponton affectionately known as “Coach P” during a surprise party held in the Black and Gold Room.
Ponton, who most recently was serving as Special Assistant to GSU President Rick Gallot, first came to Grambling in 1993 as assistant women’s basketball coach under Patricia Bibbs, and later served as head women’s basketball coach, director of the Favrot Student Union as well as CWA/SGA Advisor, Dean of Student Activities, and Vice President of Student Affairs and Athletics Director.
Major League Baseball great Ernie Banks once said, “The measure of a man is in the number of lives he’s touched.”
Many people around the university, from students to members of faculty and even the university president, have said that Ponton touched many lives with his kindness, warmth, and humility presented with unrivaled commitment.
“I’ve never met anyone who was as committed to the student as Dr. Ponton,” Gallot said. “He has always gone above and beyond the call of duty when it comes to the needs of students. We certainly appreciate his service for 30 years. We will miss him and his brand of service.”
Dr. Rudolph Ellis, vice-president of student affairs, also expressed his thanks to Ponton.
“I knew Dr. Ponton the day I first arrived on campus as a transfer student and ever since that day, he was my mentor,” Ellis said. “That was over 15 years ago. Dr. Ponton has been a champion for student success and promotes students’ growth and development. I wish Dr. Ponton all the best in his future endeavors.”
Willingness to help students regardless of where they came is something Ponton is known for at GSU.
“His help toward the international students through the years is deeply appreciated,” said Thaddisha James, the International Students Organization’s public relations officer. “We thank him for his service. Happy retirement to you Dr. Coach P. He was a mentor, and many looked up to him.”
Coach LaMonte Vaughn Jr., who will take over GSU’s track and field program from the retiring Betram Lovell this summer, expressed his thankfulness for Ponton.
“Dr. Ponton is about the people,” Vaughn said. “He has been a servant leader on this campus for quite some time and has positively impacted so many students, faculty, and staff. I wish him nothing but continued health and success in whatever he chooses to do next. I’m sure he is not done serving others with a smile.”
GSU men’s basketball coach Dante Jackson echoed those sentiments.
“From the time I got here Coach P has been a valuable resource to me and our whole basketball program,” Jackson said. “He has been a great mentor, a great leader, and somebody you aspire to be like. When he walked in, your day just got brighter. He had great advice all the time and just wanted to see everybody succeed. I just want to thank him.
SGA President Cameron Jackson said Ponton will always be part of GramFam.
“Coach P had that family atmosphere about him,” Jackson said. “He brought GramFam to Grambling. One thing about him is that no matter where you were he would be there to support you. We are all going to miss him but most importantly we will always love him.”
Others at the sendoff party expressed their feelings about Ponton’s unique and “infectious” personality:
• “Coach P was one of a kind. He made everyone that he encountered feel like family. He has a vibrant and infectious personality. Under his leadership, he supported the softball program in every way imaginable. He was the loudest cheerleader in the stands at home contests. Coach P will truly be missed and I'm grateful for the opportunity to work with him,” — Softball coach Nakeya Hall
• “Before I came to Grambling I had the opportunity to play against Rusty twice and I relished those games because I knew that not only was I playing a great coach but also a great person. He was a real one on and off the court. The game of basketball here will miss him and was blessed to have him.” — current GSU women’s hoops coach Freddie Murray.