[NOTE: This article first appeared in the UConn Advance in 2004.]
On Sept. 27, 1919, the Connecticut Aggies
traveled in high spirits to the University of New Hampshire
for a Saturday afternoon football game. It was the season opener
for Connecticut Agricultural College (CAC, which later became
the University of Connecticut), and the first game played since
before the United States' entry into World War I in 1917.
But the team's return to Storrs later that day was marked by silence, sadness, and tears.
During the game, Gardner Dow, a football player for CAC, collapsed
after colliding with a player from the opposing team and died
before an ambulance arrived, despite efforts to revive him.
Dow almost did not play against New Hampshire. The day before,
the Connecticut Campus reported that Dow was out with a bad
His death came just a year after the college and its alumni
had mourned the deaths of seven students and
graduates who died during the First World War.
On the Tuesday following Dow's death, Sept. 30, 1919, at the
same time that Dow's funeral was beginning in New Haven, "everyone
at Storrs assembled in the Armory to pay honor to the dead hero,"
according to an article in the Oct. 3, 1919 Connecticut Campus.
"From 2:15 until 2:30 p.m. the church bell tolled, its sound
being scarcely audible. At exactly 2:30 President C.L. Beach and Rev. Marshall Dawson mounted
the platform and silence reigned in the Armory, a silence which
never before had prevailed with such a large number present."
A few days later, on Oct. 6, the Athletic Association, which
had oversight of all campus athletic activities and facilities,
voted to name the college's athletic field the Gardner Dow Field.
"The significance of the name should give an added dignity
to the place," noted an editorial in the Oct. 10, 1919 Connecticut
"May we, as a college, never forget the responsibility
under which we may be proud of it as we are of him."
The football team voted to continue its season, losing all
but the last of their seven games - a 7 to 3 win over Rhode
Island. That game, the first win over "Rhody" in what was then
an 18-year series, was the only bright spot in a dismal, tragic
On Sept. 27, 1920, a ceremony marking the first anniversary
of Dow's death included a speech by faculty member Henry Monteith
to students, faculty, and staff assembled in Hawley Armory.
"The most glorious death," Monteith said, "is on the field
of battle in the service of home, country, or college. For it
is met while mind and body still work to the last minute in
The athletic fields that carried Dow's name extended from the
rear of Hawley Armory westward toward what is now Hillside Road.
During the five decades after Dow's death, it was home court
to the college's football, baseball, soccer, field hockey, and
Over the years, tennis courts and other facilities
were added; and archery matches, agricultural shows and fairs,
and an assortment of student activities were held there.
Beginning in the 1950's, as enrollment increased, new facilities
began to replace Dow Field. First was Memorial Stadium for football,
then the J.O. Christian Field for baseball. Dow Field began
to disappear in the 1970's, when first, the Homer Babbidge Library
was built; then the original UConn Co-op building; and more
recently, the School of Business and Information Technology
The field was dedicated with the placement of a plaque on one
of two arches that were originally attached to Hawley Armory
and served as entrances to Dow Field. When the arches were taken
down, sometime in the 1950's, the plaque was moved to the rear
wall of the Armory.
Hidden by fencing and the Co-op loading area, the plaque was
inaccessible for 25 years.
Since the Co-op building was razed in 2003, it is again visible
near the rear doors of Hawley Armory.
Mark J. Roy