Long-time Mustangs coach Jack Fairs passed away Monday. He was 98.
Before retiring in 1988, Fairs, BSc’46, LLD’05, worked at Western for more than half a century. In addition to his coaching duties, he was also professor emeritus in the Faculty of Health Sciences.
Fairs played and coached many Western teams including football, basketball, baseball, tennis, squash, even fishing. Since 1970, his teams have won 31 team titles and 21 singles titles at Ontario University Athletics (OUA) events.
A native of Tillsonburg, Ont., Fairs was a naturally gifted athlete growing up. He enrolled at Western in 1942, playing football and basketball while earning his undergraduate degree in chemistry. He went on to Columbia University where he earned a master’s degree in physical education in 1947.
Upon graduation from Columbia, Fairs returned to Western. Splitting time between responsibilities with the football and basketball programs, Fairs quickly established his reputation as an instructor, coach and mentor, taking over Western’s squash program in 1962.
“Some of my favourite memories are from when we would drive all over the U.S. in team vans where we would get to hear Jack’s endless stories and jokes accompanied by the famous sandwiches, which Peg (Jack’s wife) made for us,” said Chris Hanebury, head coach, men’s squash. “Jack is the reason Western has become the hub for varsity squash and we will do our best to honour him this season and beyond. Rest in peace, Jack. You lived a truly inspirational life and influenced countless people. Thank you for everything.”
Between all of his championships, Fairs also had time to establish a long and successful teaching career from 1947-89. He is recognized as one of the founding fathers of Western’s Physical Education Department, which became Kinesiology in 1972.
He also played for the London Majors of the Senior Intercounty Baseball League for six seasons, helping the squad win the North American Sandlot Championship in 1948.
A five-time OUA Coach of the Year for men’s squash, Fairs made great strides in promoting the sport through the years. His awards and citations include Distinguished Service Award of the Canadian Squash Racquets Association (1979); Special Achievement Award of Squash Ontario (1984); Distinguished Service Award of Squash Canada (1986); and Sportsman of the Year Award for the City of London (1991).
Over the years, Fairs has been inducted into several sports halls of fame, including Western’s W Club Hall of Fame, the London Sports Hall of Fame and the National Intercollegiate Squash Association Hall of Fame. He is also a three-time member of the Mustangs Football Wall of Champions.
In 2020, Sandy Lubert, BA’89, published A FAIRS to Remember, The Life & Times of Happy Jack, a book full of light-hearted stories that remembers Fairs as an outstanding mentor, humble coach and loving husband.
“Jack Fairs was an incredible supporter of the Western Mustangs. He was an amazing coach, athlete, supporter and mentor and his legacy will live on through the countless lives that he has touched,” said Christine Stapleton, director, Western Sport and Recreation. “We are very fortunate and grateful to have had Jack as such an involved member of our Western community. He was a great man and he will be missed.”
Read the Mustangs’ tribute to Fairs here