Alumni & Friends

Recognition Awards

Outstanding Tiger Alumni Award


Chuck Watson
Class of 1955


Chuck Watson In his own quiet, unassuming way, Chuck Watson of Arkansas City has spent his whole life helping others.


Whether it’s through his work at Winfield State Hospital and Training Center, at his church or in youth athletics, Watson willingly extends his hand for his fellow man. His commitment to others is just one reason Watson is being honored as an Outstanding Alumni during commencement exercises at Cowley County Community College. Watson graduated from then-Arkansas City Junior College in 1955.“My mother always told me ‘never do anything to be seen, but always be seen doing something,’ ” Watson said of his well-known mother, Lovie Watson.


Throughout his 59 years, Watson has certainly lived by his mother’s words. For the past 35 years he has worked at WSH&TC, primarily as director of recreation. He has planned, organized and developed recreational activities for the mentally retarded throughout Kansas and has been recognized nationally as a pioneer in developing programs for the mentally handicapped.


Watson grew up with his four brothers and five sisters in Arkansas City. After graduating from Arkansas City High School in 1953, Watson had his heart set on a football scholarship to a four-year school. The University of Kansas wanted him. So did Grambling University in Louisiana. The school’s now-famous coach, Eddie Robinson, came to Arkansas City to visit Watson. Lovie had other plans for her star football player.“I didn’t have it in my blood to go to juco,” Watson said. “But my mother was smart. And Dan Kahler came to my house and I ended up going here.”


In the fall of 1953, the Tigers’ football team went 8-2. In Watson’s second year they were 7-3. After two “enjoyable” years at ACJC, Watson transferred to Pittsburg State Teachers College. He wanted to play football more than anything, and contributed to a 9-1 season his first year. But his season was cut short by a dislocated shoulder about three-fourths through the season.


Watson had had enough of school, and worked at Watson’s City Service from spring 1956 to April 1958, when the United States Army drafted him.“I’d never do it again, but it was the best two years of my life,” he said. “I learned a lot of discipline in the army.” After two years in the service, Watson married Linda in 1960. In 1965 he went back to school at Southwestern College in Winfield. Two years later he earned a bachelor of arts degree in psychology. While in Winfield he got a call from Sonny Maynard, director of recreation at WSH&TC. They had an opening, Maynard said, and invited Watson to apply. “I was very apprehensive at first,” Watson said. “I was very nervous. There were people there with different ability levels.”


Through the years the job has become more challenging for Watson. Since 80 percent of the population at WSH&TC are classified as multiply handicapped, Watson said many of the activities have changed from participatory to spectator.

Watson helped develop several firsts for WSH&TC. It was the first facility in the nation to develop a softball program and inter-competition in basketball. And it was the first in the nation to hold a downtown parade for the hospital’s clients. And Watson is especially proud of a vacation camping program he used to hold for clients at Camp Quaker Haven south of Arkansas City. He had to tell a story about one camp.


“We worked with the Jaycees of Ark City,” Watson said. “There was a retarded checker player, and some of the Jaycees were playing him. They ‘let’ him win the first game, then spent the next three hours trying to beat him. They asked me, ‘is he really mentally retarded’? I said yes he is.”


Winfield has played host to the Kansas Special Olympic softball tournament for all 21 years of its existence. And because of Watson’s involvement, the event is now known as the Charles Watson State Softball Tournament. For all Watson has done for the less fortunate, he settles for little or no credit, just like his mother taught him. “I like to do things for people who can’t pay me back,” he said. “Seeing people become positive because of what I’m involved in is a reward. Mentally handicapped people can tell you if they like what you’re doing.”


Besides his extensive work with the mentally retarded, Watson serves as Sunday School superintendent and trustee at Church of God In Christ in Arkansas City, umpires baseball games and officiates basketball games. Athletics provided Watson with a way to earn a living.


He came back to ACJC from 1960 to 1974, serving as an assistant football coach to Ben Cleveland. Watson has watched the college change throughout the decades.


“The college was an extension of the high school in 1955,” Watson said. “Now it is a junior college covering Arkansas City and surrounding communities. It’s more of a college environment. I think the college has an open door and has worked well with industries. I think that’s great.”


Watson vividly remembers graduation day from ACJC in 1955. A tornado warning ended the ceremony prematurely. “We had the high school and college graduations together,” Watson said. “And they had got done handing out diplomas to the high school, but didn’t get finished with the college. They told us to stop by the office to pick our diplomas up.”


Watson said he is grateful for the award, but knows there are others just as deserving. “I was surprised,” he said. “But I really do appreciate it.”


Chuck Watson has been seen doing a lot of things.