Michael Rakov ’57 – The Michael D. Rakov ‘57 Award

Eph Legends
Eph Legends

Michael Rakov loved his Austin Healey convertible and late on the night of December 9, 1955, he decided to take it for one last run before putting it in a garage for the winter.

Eleven days after being named the captain of the 1956 Eph football team, Rakov died in a one-car accident.

The crash occurred in Williamstown just south of the Vermont line on Route 7. Rakov hit ice, and the Austin Healey flipped, killing Rakov instantly.

The choice of Rakov for captain of the 1956 Eph team came as no surprise, as he was a standout offensive lineman and linebacker. "Mike was one of the best interior linemen at Williams from 1953-57," teammate John Pritchard '57 said. "He was a great blocker, especially downfield, where his efforts led to many long runs by our backs. He excelled at cross-body blocks. Mike wasn't all that big, but he was quick and tough."

The 1956 Williams yearbook re-capping the 1955 football season noted Rakov's strong line play mentioning that Rakov and the entire offensive line were credited for opening up holes in the Middlebury defense for Eph running backs Tim Hanan and Danny Rorke to run through. The Hanan-Rorke duo rambled for 143 yards on the ground in the Ephs' 26-0 win over Middlebury.

Teammate and classmate Frank Uible said, "On Saturday, October 22, 1955, Williams played Tufts in Medford. As I recall, Tufts was at the time ranked #1 in New England small college football. Mike and Williams played an outstanding game, Williams winning 22-12, with Mike getting much recognition for his play."

Michael D. Rakov '57

The Williams Record reported Rakov's death in its December 14 issue that year:

On behalf of the Williams College, the Record extends its deepest sympathy to the family of Michael Rakov on the news of his loss. Mike, captain elect of the football team lost his life in an automobile accident Friday night. A memorial service was held for him in Thompson Memorial Chapel on Monday.

On both the athletic field and campus Mike was a respected leader. Students, faculty and townspeople will miss his good humor and friendliness. Williams has suffered a great loss.

On the Monday following the accident two memorial services for Rakov took place in Williamstown, one at St. Patrick's Church at 7:30 a.m., and one at noon, when the entire student body assembled in Thompson Memorial Chapel.

Pritchard remembers being struck by how many teammates, coaches, and fellow students then made the trip to Kinston, N.Y., for a final service in Rakov's hometown "It was really something to see," Pritchard said. "Mike was a good and special person in the eyes of many at Williams."

"Every year I dedicate my gift to the college in Mike's memory, and I know that many of my friends do as well," said Pritchard. "We chatted about Mike and our gifts in his name at our recent reunion in June."

Fifty-two years after Rakov last played for the Ephs Pritchard, writing in the Class of 1957's 50th Reunion book, Remembrances of Fifty-Seven, concluded his memories of Rakov with this paragraph:

"At Williams, Mike was a member of Alpha Delta Phi. Having graduated from Choate School in '53 with honors, he continued to play a strong role in the college community, working with grammar school children, and participating in athletics at Williams. I will always remember him for his spirit, sense of humor and dependability."

For many years Williams College presented athletic team awards on the last day of classes in the spring. In 1956, the college bestowed upon Rakov posthumously the Belvidere Brooks Memorial Medal, awarded annually to the member of the football team whose playing has reflected the greatest credit to the team. This marked the first time that the Brooks Medal, the oldest Williams football team award, had been awarded posthumously.

On hand to receive the award for Michael Rakov was his father, H.L. Rakov.

The 1957 Williams yearbook, The Gulilmensian, in its Memoriam tribute to Michael Rakov stated:

We reach the climax of our college life

Yesterdays have quickly passed. Our thoughts of our small importance gone, but, monumental in our hearts is Michael David Rakov.

The Michael D. Rakov '57 Award is awarded annually at the close of the football season to the member of the Williams varsity football team who, in the opinion of his coaches, is the most improved lineman, and who possesses superior qualities of leadership, aggressiveness, and determination.

The first recipient of the Rakov Award was Karl Schoeller '58, who was honored for his play during the 1956 season.

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