Inside Iowa State
Dec. 15, 1995
Yesterday's athletes - today's faculty, staff
by Steve Jones
He played major college football for some well-known coaches, including Johnny Majors and Jimmy Johnson. Yet, you won't find gridiron memorabilia in Dan Robinson's Lagomarcino Hall office. He prefers being viewed as Dr. Dan Robinson, professor and chair of the department of professional studies in education, rather than Dan Robinson, former football player for the Iowa State Cyclones.
Robinson is one of several Iowa State faculty and staff members (the exact number is unknown) who participated in intercollegiate athletics. They are men and women who enjoyed competing, but have put their athletic exploits behind them. Many had short careers, but even they praise their experiences. Robinson played at ISU in the late 1960s, first for coach Clay Stapleton and then Johnny Majors, who took the Cyclones to their first bowl games in 1971 and '72. Majors hired young and talented assistant coaches, like Johnson, who later won two Super Bowls as coach of the Dallas Cowboys.
Robinson said college football instilled in him a sense of competition that remains today, even when he's pursuing his hobby of training and showing purebred dogs. "You want to be good at whatever you do," he explained.
Sports also helped him learn to organize his time, focus attention, handle winning and losing and work as a team member.
"I still have that sense of being a team player and expecting that everyone is responsible for pulling his or her own weight," Robinson explained. "This also carries over to academic life."Sports is one of the few ways to learn how to work as a team member, said former University of Rochester (New York) field hockey and basketball player Carole Heath, an associate professor of chemical engineering. "You learn how to get along with people you don't always want to get along with."Cathy Brown, a campus planner with facilities planning and management, said she learned as a Cyclone basketball player in the mid-1970s that she could be a valuable team member as a reserve. "It gave me a better perspective on the value of being a member of a team without playing a prime role," she said. Because the business world is looking for employees who can work well with others, former Kansas State baseball player Vern Henricks said lessons learned in sports will become more valuable. Henricks, development officer for the College of Engineering, said athletics at any level are "truly a valuable experience for life."If it weren't for a football scholarship at Western Illinois, Stan Johnson, distinguished professor in agriculture, would have delayed college and stayed on the family farm. A linebacker, Johnson played three seasons for the Leathernecks in the late 1950s before his interests shifted more toward academics.
"I'm sure I would have stayed very interested in football if I had been good at it," said Johnson, director of ISU's Center for Agricultural and Rural Development.
Besides getting him into college, football helped Johnson, who came from a small high school, adjust to college life. "I might not have adapted to college as fast if I had not been in an athletic program where I had friends, counselors, coaches and other forms of support."Unlike Johnson, former ISU golfer Cindy Frederickson never had an athletic scholarship. She didn't even have a golf team until her sophomore year in 1971 when ISU first sponsored one. Although the Cyclones were among the Big Eight's best in the early 1970s, Frederickson, adviser to the health and human performance department, and her teammates sometimes had to pay their own traveling expenses. Their only uniforms were team jackets -- which they bought themselves. "It seems kind of crazy when you go back and compare with what the team gets today," Frederickson said. "But that was a different day. We didn't have Title IX then. You just played for the love of the game. We at least had the opportunity to play." Frederickson credits Title IX (a federal law that forbids sex discrimination at educational institutions that receive federal aid) with helping to provide opportunities for female athletes. "It needs to be there. From my personal experiences, things you learn in athletics last your entire life."How do former athletes on the faculty treat student- athletes in their classes? "I treat them no differently," said former Yale linebacker and fullback Jim Ruebel, who teaches the classics, including Roman literature and history. "If they're away from class on an official university absence, then they can make up the work just like any other student who has to miss class to represent the university."Carl Vondra, head of geological and atmospheric sciences and a former javelin thrower on the Nebraska track team, said he treats all students the same. However, he is sympathetic to athletes and their crazy schedules both from his own experiences and because his son Charles played football for the Cyclones in the late 1980s. Johnson also said he provides no advantages, "but I treat athletes so they won't be penalized academically for their rigid schedules."
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