LEBANON, Ill.,— McKendree University has lost a member of its family with the passing of men’s tennis coach Bill Rusick.
Rusick, a longtime Metro-East tennis figure who has coached at McKendree since 2002, lost a two-year battle with cancer on Friday. He passed away at his residence in Shiloh. Rusick was 51 years old.
“Coach Rusick was respected and admired by his players,” said Dr. Todd Reynolds, vice president for student affairs at McKendree. “Over the six years he coached at McKendree, he directed a program that continued to improve and is now considered to be among the top programs in this region. His passing is a loss to us all and our thoughts and prayers go out to his family.”
Back in 2002, Rusick first joined the McKendree coaching staff as the head women’s tennis coach. The following year, he relinquished his women’s coaching duties and took the reins of the men’s squad. Rusick guided the Bearcat men’s program for the next five years. In fact, he coached McKendree through its recent fall season, which wrapped up just three weeks ago.
During his coaching career at McKendree, Rusick led the Bearcats to three consecutive trips to the NAIA Region V Tournament. This past spring, McKendree had one of its strongest seasons in recent memory, posting a 9-8 dual match record and reaching the regional semifinals.
“Everyone in the McKendree community is saddened by the death of Bill Rusick,” said McKendree athletic director Harry Statham. “Bill was a phenomenal teacher of the game, a tremendous coach and a good friend. His courageous fight against cancer and his competitive nature to the very end are a tribute to his legacy. We will miss him but never forget him.”
A tennis instructor for nearly 30 years, Rusick was the co-owner and club pro at St. Clair Tennis Club. He also taught countless players the game of tennis at Oak Hill Racquet Club and Kings Point Tennis Club.
A native of Granite City, Ill., Rusick starred on the tennis courts at Granite City South High School before moving on to the collegiate level at Southern Illinois University at Edwardsville. He was a key member of the Cougars’ NCAA Division II national championship squads in 1978 and 1979. Rusick earned All-America honors at SIU-Edwardsville five times during his playing career. He graduated from SIU-Edwardsville in 1980.
In 2006, Rusick was inducted into the SIU-Edwardsville Athletics Hall of Fame.
Rusick is survived by his wife Christine and her children Chris and Lindsay.
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William A. Rusick, 51, of Shiloh, Ill., born Sept. 20, 1957, in Granite City, Ill., died Friday, Oct. 17, 2008, at his residence.
Bill was a tennis professional who touched many lives. A five-time men's tennis All-American, he was part of SIUE's first two national championship teams in 1978 and 1979. In the national championship seasons, he earned singles and doubles All-American honors. He and his teammates made up the most dominating dynasty at SIUE to date; he was inducted into the SIUE Tennis Hall of Fame in August, 2006. He coached the McKendree men's tennis team from 2003 through this fall, 2008. His fighting spirit carried him through his cancer battle off the court, but this opponent proved to be too tough to beat.
Through the world of tennis, Billy made lasting friendships with countless people, many of whom were more like family. These people not only looked up to him because of his ability on the court, but more importantly because of the person he exemplified. His compassion and concern for others was abundantly evident in every relationship he established.
Many lessons were taught on those tennis courts, lessons of courage, support and a drive to be a best you can be. He leaves behind hundreds of people whose lives have been enriched by these lessons and who, in turn, will pass them on to their children and grandchildren with Billy fondly in memory...his legacy will live on. With a smile and a warm heart, we also remember Billy's love of shopping, his smile and the way he made us all laugh.
Bill was preceded in death by his mother, Violet, nee Hutchings, Rusick; his father, Anthony Rusick; and his brother, Michael Rusick.
Surviving are his wife, Christine Rusick; stepson, Chris McMillin and stepdaughter, Lindsay (John) Costello; aunts, uncles, many cousins; and Dr. and Mrs. Kenneth Hillmer of Granite City, Ill.
Memorials may be made to Billy's family, Family Hospice, or Holy Trinity Catholic Church Building Fund.
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