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Whitworth Mourns Passing of Pirate Legend Sam Adams

November 13, 2015
The entire Whitworth University community mourns the passing of Sam Adams, a man who influenced the lives of an entire era of Pirate student-athletes. Adams passed away peacefully early Friday morning, Nov. 13, 2015.

Adams was a student-athlete and coach at Whitworth. He was inducted to the Whitworth Heritage Gallery Hall of Fame as part of the initial class in 1990. He was also inducted to the Inland Northwest Sports Hall of Fame in 1989.

As a student-athlete, Adams was an NAIA All-America end in 1948, setting school, conference and national records for receptions and touchdowns. After a short playing career with the British Columbia Lions of the Canadian Football League, Adams returned to Whitworth. First serving as an assistant coach for football and track, he was named head coach of both programs in 1958. Adams guided the Pirate football team to a record of 47-19-1 over seven seasons, including three Evergreen Conference championships. The 1960 team finished 9-0 in the regular season and advanced to the NAIA semifinals. Adams also coached several All-Americans and four NAIA national champions in track and field: Sam Gulley (high jump, 1958), Dick Moultrie (pole vault, 1958), and Fred Shaffer (discus, 1960-61).

In 1965, Adams left Whitworth to become a faculty member at Washington State University, where he chaired the master’s degree program for athletics administration with a specialty in sport law.

Most important to Whitworth and its alumni, Adams and his wife, Colleen, had a lasting impact on the lives of the young men and women with whom they came into contact, whether through coaching or through Young Life. The Adamses were spiritual mentors, counselors and advisers to hundreds of former Whitworth students. More than 80 of Sam’s Whitworth players returned to campus to honor him and Colleen at a reunion on Oct. 3.

Located in Spokane, Wash., Whitworth is a private liberal arts university affiliated with the Presbyterian church. The university, which has an enrollment of 3,000 students, offers 60 undergraduate and graduate degree programs.


Steve Flegel, assistant athletic director & sports information officer, Whitworth University, (509) 777-3720 or