Spring Valley High School Class of 1952
For the first time in Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame history, two members of the same family will be inducted together. Emil and Bob Willis, from Spring Valley High School, are hall of fame legacies. Their father, Emil Willis Sr., a 1932 Spring Valley graduate, was inducted into the Rockland County Sports Hall of Fame in 1980. Bob, Emil Jr., and Emil Sr. along with his wife, Henrietta, are all members of the Spring Valley Sports Hall of Fame. Emil Jr. was also inducted into the Rockland Community College Sports Hall of Fame in 2013. Tonight’s induction of Emil Jr. and brother Bob marks the culmination of a family’s contribution to the world of education and sports in Rockland County.
Emil Willis Jr.
Athlete, Coach, Administrator
Emil Willis Jr. played football, basketball and baseball for the Spring Valley Tigers before graduating in 1952. While at Spring Valley, Emil was named to several All-County teams, most notably during his senior season when he was selected to the first team All-County basketball and second team All-County baseball squads. He started at Springfield College, joined the Army and served our country from 1953 to 1955, and then returned to Springfield to complete his degree in physical education, graduating in 1958. Emil played baseball and basketball at Springfield. After college Emil’s first coaching job was at Penacook, N.H. where, in his first season, the basketball team won the Central New Hampshire School title (14-5) and in baseball took the state team title with a 15-2 record. It was a complete transition for the school’s programs.
Upon completing his master’s degree at Seton Hall, Emil was hired in 1960 at Spring Valley High School as a physical education teacher and coach. Emil coached a variety of sports at Spring Valley but was most known as the varsity baseball coach. His best team was the 1967 Rockland County and Section 9 championship baseball team. In 1970 after coaching baseball at Spring Valley and Ramapo, Emil took a coaching job at RCC. At RCC he started right off with a Mid-Hudson Conference baseball championship title in 1970 and 1971. He was named the Mid-Hudson Conference Baseball Coach of the Year in 1970 and again in 1971. Emil also coached the RCC
bowling teams to great success, guiding numerous squads and individuals to the NJCAA national tournament. The college team’s successes certainly were memorable occasions but the undefeated baseball season with the 1967 Spring Valley Tigers was the best of them all. “My most memorable thought of that year was the final game for the Section 9 championship against Newburgh,” Emil stated. The Tigers finished the PSAL season 14-0 behind the pitching of Fred Fabbri and Rich Raff, each recording 7-0 records. “We were behind 2-0 and came back to win the game 3-2, as Tony Herdermian scored on a squeeze bunt to win the game,” Emil recalled.
The RCC Story:
Just Call Him Professor Willis
Being a faculty member at RCC starting in 1969, Emil became a full professor in 1990. He was chairman of the Physical Education department from 1982-2010. Aside from coaching, Professor Emil Willis left an indelible mark on RCC and the youth of Rockland County. He founded the RCC Summer Sports Academy, which many youngsters throughout the county attended. Professor Willis was also instrumental in the development of the RCC Kids College, which was an alternative youth summer program featuring art, computer technology, theater and science. In addition, Emil created, developed and directed the Baker Camp Program, which gave RCC students the opportunity to take physical education classes at Baker Camp on Lake Sebago in Harriman State Park. Courses included sailing, kayaking and orienteering.
Emil is retired now and still lives in Suffern. He has three sons; Jeff, Jim, and Eric, and one wonderful daughter, Kerry, his primary caregiver. In prior years Emil enjoyed working out at the St. Lawrence
Center in Hillburn and socializing with friends at Dunkin’ Donuts.