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The Campaign for UC Davis

Office of University Development

UC Davis
One Shields Avenue
Davis, CA 95616-5270

(530) 754-4438 phone
(530) 754-2294 fax

Bearing the torch for UC Davis’ athletic history and their family’s legacy.

Babe Slater in the 1924 Paris Olympics

See video from the 1924 Olympic Rugby gold-medal match. Slater is seen holding the ball while leading the team out of the tunnel.

by Sarah Colwell

Just as the eternal flame of the Olympic torch burns even after the games conclude, so too does the legacy of UC Davis’ athletic and Olympic history live on thanks to gifts from Dick McCapes ’56, D.V.M. ’58 and his wife Marilyn ’55, who passed away earlier this year.

Marilyn was the daughter of Colby E. “Babe” Slater ’17 — UC Davis’ first Olympic gold medalist and the first member inducted into the Cal Aggie Athletics Hall of Fame.

Slater, who played football, basketball and baseball at UC Davis, also played on the U.S. Olympic Rugby Team and helped them win gold during the 1920 and 1924 games. He was team captain during the 1924 Paris games when the U.S. team created a huge upset beating France 17 to 3, causing rioting in the stands.

Dick McCapes holds Babe Slater’s gold medals near the Colby E. “Babe” Slater Athletic Hall of Fame awards case in the UC Davis Pavilion.

(Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

Preserving Slater’s legacy and the legacy of all UC Davis student athletes is what motivated the McCapes family to make a gift to UC Davis to name the Colby E. “Babe” Slater Athletic Hall of Fame. On display in the hall of fame are several UC Davis trophies and athletic honors including Slater’s two Olympic gold medals and the Colby E. “Babe” Slater Award trophy. The Slater award, which was founded in 1965 by Slater’s fraternity Calpha (now affiliated with Phi Delta Theta), is given to the outstanding male athlete of the year. One such outstanding Aggie student athlete is 2012 Olympic athlete Scott Weltz.

In addition to their monetary gifts, the McCapeses gave Slater’s two Olympic gold medals to Intercollegiate Athletics and his historical manuscripts, newspaper clippings, photographs and memorabilia to the University Library’s Special Collections, where they are available to the public and researchers.

“Gifting her father’s Olympic gold medals and memorabilia to the University was a huge decision for Marilyn,” McCapes said. “She was pleased once she made the gift because she knew her father’s memorabilia would reside on the campus he thought so much of and would be cared for under ideal conditions.”

The collection has become a source of pride for UC Davis and one of prominence in the international rugby community. The collection played an integral role in the International Rugby Board’s initial marketing efforts to have rugby re-introduced into the Olympic Games. The last time rugby was played in the Olympics was in 1924 when Slater was team captain of the gold-medal winning Olympic team. Thanks, in part, to the Slater collection and UC Davis, rugby will be reinstated in the 2016 Olympic Games.

Babe Slater's Olympic medals

Babe Slater’s gold medals. Slater won Olympic gold medals for rugby in 1920 and 1924.

(Gregory Urquiaga/UC Davis)

“From our family’s standpoint, this is a priceless collection and knowing that it will be preserved in perpetuity was important to us,” McCapes said. “We are grateful to Intercollegiate Athletics, Shields Library and others on campus who worked with us to make this a reality.”