World War I ended in late 1918 and Gardner Dow, having survived his Naval service, was settled into life as a junior at the Connecticut Agricultural College in mid-1919.
In May of that year, a Courant story appeared under the following headlines.
Brilliant Junior Prom At Storrs
First Affair Of Class Since Before War Is Great Success
The section of the story listing attendees included "Gardner Dow, '21, with Miss Francis Bristol of Ansonia."
Four months later, Dow made the trip with the Aggies football team to Durham, N.H., for a game and never returned.
Dow, 20, of New Haven, died after a freak and tragic play in a game against New Hampshire State on Sept. 27, 1919. A memorial service was held in Storrs on Sept. 30, a Tuesday, the same day as his funeral in New Haven.
On Oct. 3, The Courant wrote, "He was killed in the fourth quarter when he made a spectacular tackle in an open field run. His head struck a New Hampshire man's knee and he fell unconscious. The doctor did not think the blow was serious and the teams finished the game after he had been removed in a fraternity house. He grew rapidly worse and died at 7 o'clock. Dow was one of the most popular men on campus and he held many important offices."
Helmets at the time were made of soft leather.
Headlines in The Courant the day after Dow's death were as follows.
STATE COLLEGE LAD KILLED AT FOOTBALL
Gardiner Dow First Victim of Season in Game with New Hampshire College
The Courant initially spelled Dow's first name with an "i." That was incorrect. Also, some of the facts in the first news story were inconsistent with those in the Oct. 3 piece, such as the time of death and the period of play in which the injury was sustained.
As news spread of Dow's death, grief swept across the Storrs campus of the school that would change its name to the University of Connecticut in 1939.
According to a 2004 story in the UConn Advance, the Connecticut Campus newspaper, also on Oct. 3, 1919, wrote that "everyone at Storrs assembled in the [Hawley] Armory to pay honor to the dead hero. From 2:15 until 2:30 p.m. the church bell tolled, its sound being scarcely audible. At exactly 2:30 President C.L. Beach and Rev. Marshall Dawson mounted the platform and silence reigned in the Armory, a silence which never before had prevailed with such a large number present."
The campus community reacted swiftly in an attempt to honor Dow.
"At a meeting of the Connecticut Agricultural College Athletic Association, held in Hawley Armory tonight, it was voted to name the college athletic field the Gardner Dow field in memory of Gardner Dow, the plucky center of the football team, who was killed September 27 in a game with New Hampshire," read a story in the Oct. 10 edition of The Courant.
A plaque bearing the words "GARDNER DOW FIELD" was placed on the side of the Armory, which at the time overlooked the field.
"The significance of the name should give an added dignity to the place," an editorial piece in the Oct. 10, 1919 Connecticut Campus read, according to the UConn Advance. "May we, as a college, never forget the responsibility under which we may be proud of it as we are of him."
The Advance, which ran a story on the 85th anniversary of Dow's death, noted that the Connecticut Campus had reported a day before the New Hampshire game that Dow would not play because of an injured ankle.
But he played, and died. CAC lost that game, the season opener, 13-0. The Aggies, with players having voted to continue the season, finished 2-6, winning their last two games (over Boston University and Rhode Island). That was the football team's only season under coach Roy Guyer, who coached the men's basketball team and finished 8-6 in 1922-23.
Through the years, teams began playing at newer facilities in other areas of campus, and Dow Field and the surrounding areas gave way to newly erected buildings, such as the Homer Babbidge Library and the school of business. But the sign remains, "IN MEMORY OF GARDNER DOW."Copyright © 2015, CT Now