Dating back to the early 1900s, the prestigious Gray "W" has been awarded to Washington State University athletes who earned a varsity letter. That Gray "W" has been worn with pride on Cougar lettermen's jackets and sweaters for over 100 years and embodies tradition, pride, and accomplishment. The spirit of the Gray "W" does not end when a WSU student-athlete's playing days are over. For many years, former Washington State University letterwinners have stayed involved with the athletic department by joining the Gray "W" National Varsity Club, the official letterwinners' association of Washington State University. It is comprised of former student-athletes who understand the importance of being a Cougar and continue to support the proud tradition of Cougar Athletics.
Jack Thompson, a two time All-American, WSU Hall of Fame inductee, and a Gray "W" member for over 20 years, understands the importance of a varsity student-athlete alumni group. He says, "The Gray 'W' National Varsity Club needs to play a vital role in spreading the good name of WSU around the country. As letterwinners, we share the common bond of Cougar Pride and the Gray 'W' National Varsity Club gives us the opportunity to come together, no matter what sport, and play an active role with the university and athletics department."
Throughout its existence, the Gray "W" National Varsity Club's mission has been to offer former WSU student-athletes the chance to continue those elements of a Cougar culture that they experienced as a student-athlete. However, the goal of this elite group has moved from a fundraising philosophy, into a service mission, where the needs of former letterwinners are the first priority.
"Getting former letterwinners back on campus and involved with the university is a high priority for WSU Athletics," says Jim Sterk, WSU Director of Athletics. "We appreciate what former WSU letterwinners have done for Cougar Athletics. The Gray 'W' National Varsity Club is an organization built on pride, doing our best at servicing former varsity student-athletes, and keeping them connected with WSU Athletics."
WSU Senior Associate Director of Athletics/SWA, Marcia Saneholtz comments, "I'd like to see a consistent involvement between our former student-athletes and our program - it's a win-win situation. Being part of the Gray 'W' National Varsity Club will help letterwinners stay in touch with former teammates and colleagues."
Many people have worked with the Gray "W" Club and have helped shape it into what it is today. Those people include Bill Moos, Rueben Mayes, James Donaldson, Keith Lincoln, and Collin Henderson. Former Cougar Alumni Director and football player, Keith Lincoln, created a vision of giving back to letterwinners and creating more opportunities of having a close relationship with the athletics department and university. In Lincoln's eyes, making the Gray "W" National Varsity Club a first class alumni group is vital to the athletics department. Working closely with Jim Sterk, they knew the importance of making the Gray "W" National Varsity Club a group that has longevity and has a consistent presence within the athletic department.
With the collaboration of many active members of the club, a benefits package was put together offered to Gray "W" members. Those privileges include: annual T-shirt, decal, membership directory and subscription to Butch's Beat; free admission to the Annual Homecoming Letterwinners Reunion; honorary discounts for special events; and free admission to Cougar sporting events (excluding football, men's basketball, and postseason). A $50 membership fee helps cover expenses for the Homecoming Letterwinners Reunion and other benefits offered.
A great deal has changed over the 112 years of Cougar Athletics. Yet, one symbol of excellence, spirit, and pride has lived on through the years. That is a mark of accomplishment; only awarded to an elite group of young Washington State University men and women. That symbol is the prestigious Gray "W", the official letterwinners emblem of WSU Athletics. No matter the sport or the years you were a Cougar student-athlete, what binds the Gray "W" National Varsity Club together are elements of a Cougar culture that all WSU student-athletes helped establish and continue to pass from generation to generation. If you want to join or have any questions regarding the Gray "W" National Club, please call (509) 335-7156 or send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.