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'Everyone came for Cleve'

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

ALBANY -- Auburn athletic director Jay Jacobs perhaps put it best while talking about the turnout of more than 200 people for Thursday's 2nd annual E. Cleve Wester Scholarship Dinner and Quail Hunt.

"You can count a lot of blessings, but you can really count your blessings by the people who care about you when you're not here anymore," Jacobs said. "It's certainly something we can hope for in our lives that people still get together because of the lasting impact one had on their lives."

Judging by the turnout, there is still a lot of reverence for Wester, who died last fall at age 72. A former Albany and Auburn star who was on the Tigers' 1957 Associated Press national championship team, Wester made his presence known both in the Albany sports and business community throughout the years.

"It is very special and it makes me feel so good and I miss him so much," Wester's widow, Elizabeth Wester, said. "He would be so happy to see all his friends here."

Wester, who played for legendary Auburn coach Ralph "Shug" Jordan, continued to promote the university until his death. Wester's legacy is the driving force behind an endowed scholarship in his name which will be awarded to a Southwest Georgia Auburn student within the next three months, according to Southwest Georgia Auburn Club president Hank Jester. The scholarship, for now, is expected to cover one year's tuition.

Several figures associated with the Auburn football program attended Thursday. Randy Campbell, who quarterbacked the Tigers to the 1983 Southeastern Conference title, was on hand, as well as current coach Gene Chizik.

"Well it's really neat to come back down and be able to be a part of something of this magnitude for a great Auburn man," Chizik said. "It's really great for the Auburn family and friends to come and celebrate what Cleve has meant to everybody."

Wester played a big role in the hiring of Pat Dye, who was also on hand Thursday and won four SEC titles as the Tigers' coach.

"He not only was special to me, but all his friends, and the town of Albany and Auburn University," Dye said. "He was just a sweet, generous person. He was unselfish -- just a giver. He gave his time and money and love to the people he was close to. As I've said before, if you didn't like Cleve Wester, you needed to go look in the mirror because that's where the problem was."

The dinner and silent auction was only one part of the event that raised money for the scholarship. A quail hunt today at Arlington's Quail Country Plantation will also help raise funds for the cause.

"It's great to see everybody coming in," said Bill Bowles, who is general manager of Quail Country. "This great turnout is a great reflection of what Cleve has meant to both Southwest Georgia and Auburn University. Everyone came for Cleve."

Jester couldn't have agreed more.

"It's just a dream come true for all of us in Southwest Georgia," Jester added. "There is no better tribute to a fine Auburn man."