Orangeburg resident Dr. Gerald "Geb" Runager has been described as the premier sportsman.
The retired coach and principal loves building not just the friendly spirit of competition, but overall good character. He continues to serve as an assistant to Fellowship of Christian Athletes Director Earl Humes and coordinator of middle school athletics in Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five.
It is Runager's ongoing dedication to helping people develop the principles necessary for physical and spiritual growth that has earned his designation as the exemplification of sportsmanship by the Orangeburg County Community of Character initiative.
It is an honor that Runager said he feels he doesn't deserve.
"My first reaction was disbelief. There are so many people in the community who are much more able to carry the title than I am, but it's just quite an honor," said Runager, who was selected as the 2008 Orangeburg Citizen of the Year.
His years as an educator and athletics coach in the area began in 1958, when he took a position at Orangeburg High School as an assistant football coach and head basketball coach.
In 1960, he took over as head football coach and led Orangeburg High to an undefeated season and the state championship. His winning ways as a coach continued well into the basketball season before Orangeburg lost a game to North Charleston, ending a streak of 25 consecutive combined victories on the gridiron and court.
"The athletes make the difference. We had great players who were used to playing. They knew each other and were motivated to excel, and excel they did," Runager said.
He then decided to switch careers, becoming a salesman for IBM. A decade later, he returned to the forum that defined his life of service: education.
Until his retirement in 1993, he served as the principal of Mellichamp and Marshall elementary schools.
Even in retirement, he continued his service to the community as interim principal at Marshall and Sheridan elementary schools.
Runager still helps the youths of the community learn the nuances of athletics. He has helped South Carolina State University Coach Buddy Pough with his special teams unit and is now the coordinator of middle school athletics at Orangeburg Consolidated School District Five.
"Buddy's played high school football at O-W with my sons. I've known Buddy for a long time. I admire his work," Runager said.
He said sportsmanship goes beyond the court and field.
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"Sportsmanship is an ideal that you carry with you, and the ideal concerns fair play. Sportsmanship is exhibiting fair play in everything that you do, but it also encourages relationship building," he said.
He says the Fellowship of Christian Athletes means a lot to him and his family.
"FCA really is the foundation for the definition of sportsmanship. If you believe in Christ and try to practice being a Christian, then fair play is not a suggestion, it's a commandment," he said.
He said sportsmanship is not just about who wins or loses.
"You have to know how to treat other people in the process. You have to know how to respect and honor others while revering the competition that occurs. It's a fierce competition but once it's over, then the Christian has to begin to take hold," Runager said.
The Decatur, Ala., native is one of seven children. He first arrived in the Palmetto State to attend Erskine College, where he was recruited to play football and basketball. After graduating in 1952, he married his college sweetheart, Nancy Jane Culp.
They are the proud parents of five children: Mike, Pat, Max, Clark and Jane. They are the grandparents of 10.
Max Runager became a punter in the National Football League and has earned Super Bowl rings with both the Philadelphia Eagles and San Francisco 49ers.
"My son was actually in professional football for 12 years. He was very blessed with a lot of friends and no injuries and a lot of knowledge. He's working with coaches now. He's in special teams in the Carolinas whether it's college or high school. He's on call any time anybody needs his services," Runager said.
Runager credits his wife with helping him developing his sportsmanship.
"When you have four sons and a daughter, you're very careful about what you do and how you do it. You want to serve as a model of how to practice the principles of fair play, but I think I should credit my wife because she's my steadying and balancing influence. If I go off on the wrong track, she always has some way of bringing me back to task," Runager said.
"We have those sessions just about every day, and we've been married 59 years," he said, laughing.
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