A Magazine from California State University, ChicoFall 2015 Issue

Bridging Past to Future

Photo of Decathletes

Campus connection honoring late football coach Gus Manolis reopens after 14-month closure.

Photo of Gus ManolisHis tiny fingers tracing the raised bronze letters, little Gus Martin could not possibly comprehend their significance, but his innocent fascination brought smiles and tears to his family’s eyes. 

Minutes before, the pajama-clad toddler had tottered across the new Chico State bridge that honors his namesake. The bridge bears a plaque with his great-grandfather’s name, so dedicated in honor of the famed Chico State College faculty member and football coach who lost his life in 1958 while searching for a missing Boy Scout. 

The original Gus Manolis Bridge, stretching across Big Chico Creek from Kendall to Holt Halls, served as one of nine key campus connectors until its destruction in September 2014, when a towering sycamore toppled over and took the bridge with it. University President Paul Zingg said the former coach’s protective spirit must have been watching over that morning, as no students were injured in the collapse.

After a 14-month closure, a new 72-foot steel and concrete span reopened November 16, 2015, with members of the Manolis family in attendance. Tim Manolis wore his father’s cardinal-and-white letterman jacket for the occasion, and fought back tears as he and his siblings took the first steps across.

Siblings Georgeanne, Bill, and Tim Manolis with their mother, Anne, and family friend Edith Martin, wife of former AS General Manager Mac Martin, at the original bridge dedication in 1961.

Siblings Georgeanne, Bill, and Tim Manolis with their mother, Anne, and family friend Edith Martin, wife of former AS General Manager Mac Martin, at the original bridge dedication in 1961.

Hired in 1955 to coach football and track, Manolis was held in high regard on campus, with great success during his four seasons as a coach, including winning the Far Western Conference Championship in football in 1955 and recognition as “coach of the century” for his football record. 

Manolis died January 28, 1958, at age 34, after collapsing from a heart attack during a search for a 12-year-old boy missing in the Mendocino National Forest. He had felt ill but pushed on with dozens of other Chicoans in the search, telling friends, “I keep thinking if that were my child, I would want help.”

After his death, a group of students raised funds to build the bridge in his memory. 

In an editorial after his death, the campus newspaper, The Wildcat, wrote about Manolis:  “We will forget the details of the individual games and maybe the names of teams met on the field, but winning seasons, high campus morale, and a feeling of civic pride will come into our minds with mention of his name.”

Members of the Manolis family watch 15-month-old Gus Martin examine his great-grandfather’s dedication plaque on the Gus Manolis Bridge.

Members of the Manolis family watch 15-month-old Gus Martin examine his great-grandfather’s dedication plaque on the Gus Manolis Bridge. 

About the author
Ashley Gebb (BA, Journalism, ’08) is publications editor at CSU, Chico.