“If you can read, you can do
Advice from Nondace Campbell, who for 37 years as the director of the Reading Center at UF encouraged students to pick up a book or two (or 10) and helped them develop the confidence they needed to succeed in life.
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By Brianna (Martin) Patterson ’03, M’07
ondace Campbell began her career as a ninth-grade English teacher – a job she loved – in the late 1960s in Huntington, Ind., but was soon inspired to apply for the Vista (now known as the AmeriCorps Vista) program. After training with a group of other volunteers in Denver, Colo., Campbell was sent to the Oconoluftee Job Corps Center in Cherokee, N.C., in the Great Smoky Mountains national park, where she taught reading and math. Her students – all men, ages 16-21 – would spend one week in the classroom and the alternating week learning a vocational trade.
“That’s when I became interested in how to teach reading,” she said. “The fellows in North Carolina all had less than a fifth- or sixth-grade reading ability when I started. We began with the alphabet and worked through to the G.E.D. level.” After her Vista experience, Campbell moved to northwest Ohio to pursue a master’s degree at the University of Toledo. Upon completion of that degree, a contract to teach at a U.S. military dependents’ school in Greece fell through, and a friend mentioned a new grant-funded position available at The University of Findlay. “On my way to Greece,” said Campbell, “I stopped at Findlay for a year and stayed for 37!”
education that he eventually paid for the UF education Campbell arrived at the University in 1972, and of all of his nieces and nephews. Campbell even has had for that first year, the grant required her to spend onethe pleasure of teaching children of her former students. third of her time at Defiance College and two-thirds of Outside of her own classroom, Campbell also was her time at Findlay. Dr. Richard Gebhardt, who was the adviser to both the yearbook and newspaper staffs. And chair of the English department at the time, believed the while Campbell spent much of her time on campus reading classes should be kept small, and according to helping students, she also found time to pursue some Campbell, that set the tone for the next 37 years in the other interests. Reading Center. Campbell also has been involved with the While Campbell’s position at UF continued to be a American Association of University Women, the grant-funded position, she recalls having the luxury of 10 honorary teachers’ honor society Delta Kappa Gamma, hours of secretarial help from Bernice Shuder, who had the Three Arts Club in Findlay, the Board of Mental taught business education and typing classes at Findlay Health in Findlay, the Black Studies Library Association College. Campbell remembers the tiny woman sneaking and the College First Church of God in Findlay. She into the office on the third floor of Old Main to work also is a Read for Life tutor. extra hours, using her own typewriter and typing station, In 1974, Campbell ran as a Democratic state repeven though there were no additional grant funds to pay resentative against Republican Michael Oxley, who later Shuder for the extra work. became a member of the U.S. House of Representa As the Reading Center became a permanent fixture tives from Ohio’s 4th district. Campbell’s campaign staff at the University, it moved from Old Main into Shafer included several University friends, including Dr. Shiv Library and recently to the UF Village. Gupta, a UF business professor, who helped Campbell The center holds books of all genres and includes with economic policy. classics by Shakespeare, the Harry Potter series, Stephen Campbell retired from the University in May 2009, King novels and the Anne of Green Gables series, to and hopes that with new leadership in the Reading name a few. Within the past several years, Campbell also began incorporating poetry into her classes. “I’ve insisted that we read a poem or two, or five or six, at the end of every class … the poems usually speak to the soul,” she said. Both domestic and international students who were enrolled in Campbell’s classes either needed to improve their overall college reading skills or they were education students learning about young adult literature to teach in their own classrooms one day. Campbell did require students to read outside of class – thus the wide selection of titles on her Reading Center shelves. All types of students have spent Campbell during the early years of Findlay’s Reading Center time in the Reading Center. Campbell Center, the program will continue the challenge and laughed as she told a story about a student from the opportunity of working with students to improve their country of Oman. He was expected to take back many reading skills. American gifts to his family at home, but he was most One thing is for sure – Campbell will continue to concerned about being able to find hair dye – Grecian “discover the power of words” through books and poetry, Formula 44 – for his uncle. just as she’s helped many students do for themselves. Recently, two of her former students returned to campus as Visiting Executives within the College of Business. Another student was so appreciative of his UF www.findlay.edu
By Charlene Hankinson
Edward W. Erner, Ph.D.
Change Agent By Charlene Hankinson
ince his arrival on the Findlay College campus in 1973, Edward W. Erner, Ph.D., has seen a lot of change in the institution. In fact, he was a driving force for change in his several administrative roles, including serving as vice president for academic affairs. During this time Findlay evolved from a struggling, small liberal arts college to a growing, multi-disciplinary university. Humble, unassuming and compassionate, yet a determined visionary, Erner has had considerable personal and professional long-term impact on the institution. After serving as the director of the Ohio College Three and the Northwest Ohio Consortium for six years, both based at Findlay College where he administered state and federal funds, Erner was asked to help expand the Weekend College program in 1979, and in 1982, was appointed dean of the Office of Community Education and Extended Studies. Named vice president of academic affairs and dean of the faculty in 1987, Erner helped administer a period of unprecedented academic change. Not drawn from the traditional academic ranks, Erner came uniquely prepared for the job. After earning degrees at Hanover
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In his roles as administrator and teacher, this unassuming servantleader has been a catalyst for change at Findlay.
College and Indiana University, Erner pursued a doctoreffort. There were lots and lots of people extremely ate at Ohio University (OU) in interdisciplinary studies involved in making this all happen. It was a very excitin college administration, human relations, counseling, demanding time.” ing and student personnel. From 1963-72 he held five In retirement, Erner is researching the latest studfull-time administrative positions at OU while completies on brain functions and servant-leadership roles. He ing his Ph.D. and helped to establish five OU regional teaches a course on women in leadership for the master campuses. Those experiences proved critical to the tasks of arts in liberal studies program. His research has imhe would later undertake at Findlay. pacted his own views on leadership. Asked if there was Remembering his years as vice president, Erner anything in his career he would do differently, Erner commented, “Thinking about the creation of new said unhesitatingly that he would have worked harder programs, marketing ourselves, hiring the right people, to develop additional female and minority leadership establishing the right guidelines, looking out for quality: opportunities within The University of Findlay. these were the fun daily challenges.” He and his wife, Virginia, a retired music educa Erner recalled participating in cabinet strategic tor, are proud of their own accomplished daughters. planning retreats at the Pennsylvania farm of then-PresJana is a pediatrician in the Findlay hospital system, ident Kenneth Zirkle. “What we were doing, we were Kristi is a physical therapist in Point Pleasant, W.Va., dreaming about the future,” he said. Discussion cenand Melanie is a professional bassoonist for symphonies tered on what it would take for the institution not only in Colorado and Wyoming. to survive but also to thrive. “Our biggest danger was Erner invests his time in the growth and develthinking too small,” Erner noted. opment of people. He is a mem In 1989, Findlay initiated ber of the local long-term flood a master of arts degree in teachrecovery committee and serves ing English to speakers of other in the Stephen’s Ministry of First languages (TESOL) and bilingual Presbyterian Church, which education in April and changed its provides caring Christian listeners name to The University of Findlay for people who are experiencing on July 1. In quick succession, six difficult circumstances. He also more graduate degrees were added, is an informal mentor to two along with a number of new unUF students: a freshman male dergraduate majors, before Erner and a female graduate student. retired in 2002. He volunteers with ECLIPSE, It was not a simple process to through the Community Foundaestablish new graduate programs, tion, encouraging young people to and new master’s degrees needed to participate in community service evolve out of strong undergraduprojects. He and his wife also sing ate areas, Erner pointed out. The with the UF Concert-Chorale and University developed a market their church choir. niche for its graduate programs by Reflecting on the difficult building curricula to create practiprocess of institutional change, Erner as Vice President of Academic Affairs in 1987 cal results and provide information Erner recalled that at first some that enabled graduate students, most of whom were faculty members were opposed to introducing nontradialready employed, to advance in their careers, he said. tional undergraduate programs and master’s degrees ini Erner remarked that the graduate programs, as tiated by innovative leaders. “There was this really inwell as enhanced undergraduate majors and minors, grained notion that we were a small liberal arts college,” helped to improve the University’s academic image and Erner noted, saying that many questioned whether the attracted a greater number of highly qualified students. institution should adopt these new endeavors. In time, In 1987 when he became vice president, the most recognized the new programs provided significant full-time-equivalent (FTE) enrollment was 1,307. advantages and embraced the changes. “If I look back By 2002, the University had grown to a total FTE of over all the years, that was one of the biggest challenges 4,000 for both undergraduate and graduate programs. that I addressed, helping that thought process to move Erner is the first to say, “Obviously, it was a team along and broaden our vision,” he said. www.findlay.edu
Shiv Gupta, D.B.A.
Teacher, Leader, Entrepreneur, Innovator and Legend By Brianna (Martin) Patterson ’03, M’07
hiv Gupta, D.B.A., professor of marketing and economics, is by nature a businessman. Gupta joined then-Findlay College in 1969 as an assistant professor of business after being recruited by Dr. William Templeton, who was then chair of the Division of Business, at a conference in Chicago. Gupta was working at the University of Dayton (UD) at the time. A native of New Delhi, India, Gupta brought with him 15 years of international business experience. He received a bachelor’s degree from the University of Punjab, India, and worked as a vice president of merchandising for the Federal Government Co-Op Department Stores in India until he and his wife and children moved in the late 1960s to the United States so Gupta could pursue a master of business administration degree from UD.
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While he was teaching at Findlay, Gupta also was pursuing further education – including extensive postgraduate work at the University of Cincinnati – and his business interests. For many years, Gupta was co-owner of a manufacturing plant in Sandusky, Ohio. He also acquired a facility on Lake Erie, which was turned into an upscale restaurant, night club and banquet hall, where he serves as consultant. In addition, Gupta buys and sells real estate in India and visits India twice each year to “keep pace with the development of the IT sector and foreign investments.” All of that experience has enabled Gupta to bring added value to his classroom, where he instills entrepreneurial and leadership qualities in his students, as he has done since he began teaching at Findlay. In 1977, Gupta introduced the Students in Free Enterprise (SIFE)
program at UF, which he continued to advise for 15 years. His SIFE teams won regional championships 14 times, competing against other teams from much larger institutions such as The Ohio State University, Kent State University and Bowling Green State University, and national championships five times and took second place many times. Gupta viewed the experience as a good academic challenge and said, “SIFE is to prepare the student body to act like business leaders, to be entrepreneurial, to be risk takers and to be successful in life.” He noted that one presentation in the mid-’80s in Memphis, Tenn., was so impressive that a gentleman offered to give $100,000 to a team of students interested in starting a business. Three students initially took the challenge, and the resulting business, Gifts in Time, remained in operation in the city of
Gupta introduced the SIFE (Students in Free Enterprise) program to Findlay, served as adviser for 15 years and led teams to national championships five times.
Many alumni make it a point to connect with Gupta, a beloved mentor and teacher, when they return to campus. Last fall, Ed Urbaniak ‘78 and Gupta reunited during an impromptu meeting in the Cave.
Former students, friends and family established two endowed funds honoring Gupta in fall 2006: The Shiv K. Gupta Business Scholarship and the Professor Shiv Kumar Gupta Award for Excellence in Teaching.
Findlay until it recently was sold and now operates under a different name. Gupta was inducted into the National SIFE Hall of Fame in 2000 for his contributions to the field of free enterprise systems in the U.S.A. Gupta also has used his knowledge to help students beyond the University. In 1973, he published an innovative simulation game that teaches students about teamwork and risk-taking in starting a small business. “Popcorn with Pizzazz” was used in the United States and internationally. A second simulation game, “The American Business Challenge,” was published in 1981 as a classroom tool to develop entrepreneurship among undergraduate students. He also created teaching units for grades K-12, which were used by approximately 30,000-40,000 elementary and secondary students since 1986. For his creativity and innovation, Gupta twice received the Leavey Award for Excellence in Private Enterprise Education from the Freedom Foundation of Valley Forge, Pa.; received the George Washington Honor Medal for Excellence; and was recognized by the National Federation of Independent Business Foundation, among many other awards. As Gupta’s teaching career progressed into the 1990s, he was instrumental in curriculum development within the College of Business. During the five years he was director of the business program, Gupta changed the undergraduate business curriculum, bringing it up to date. Those changes still are relevant for today’s students. Later, Gupta helped develop the University’s master of business administration program by providing a basic framework and content for many core courses, that are still taught today. Gupta, who teaches both traditional and online courses and uses the new technology available to professors, continues to academically challenge his students and himself. In 2007, he chaired a session for a conference in Chicago, along with five MBA students, and chaired a session for a conference in Las Vegas with another five students. In 2008, Gupta presented a paper on profit maximization and corporate citizenship at an international conference in Chicago. In 2009, he presented papers at international conferences in Mumbai, India, Las Vegas and Chicago. “I work with the students and learn from them,” said Gupta. “We underestimate the ability of the student body. They are very intelligent and hard working. The only thing is, you have to bring it out. As an instructor, that is my job. That’s what I enjoy.”
James D. Houdeshell, P.E.D.
Life by the
Verdict of the Scoreboard By Suzanne Wilcox English
Any coach knows the feeling: When you glance up at the scoreboard, the verdict on your coaching is glowing at you, for everyone to see.
r. James D. Houdeshell — who took his Findlay men’s basketball teams to three national championship tournaments — judges not only his coaching, but his life, by the verdict of the scoreboard. In coaching, “every time you turn, there’s a verdict of some sort,” and for Houdeshell, athletics established a process for achieving success that has since guided him in achieving goals in a number of other important areas, including educational administration.
Education is what brought Houdeshell to Findlay. He grew up on the family farm in nearby Rawson and came to then-Findlay College right after high school in 1949, drawn by the college’s affordability and the fact that he could compete in athletics. His favorite find at Findlay? His wife, Mira Frost Houdeshell ’78, of course, who was understanding about the demands of his coaching job and continuing education — and also encouraged him to consider returning to his alma mater.
After graduating from Findlay College in 1953, Houdeshell worked as a teacher and coach at area schools and coached the junior varsity basketball team at Findlay College under renowned athletic director Don Renninger ’40. Houdeshell had accepted a position to coach high school football in Allen County, and in early August 1955, was preparing for preseason when it was unexpectedly announced that Renninger had resigned. His wife encouraged him to go talk to then-president C.T. Fox about the position. Realizing his youth and not really expecting he would be given the job, Houdeshell went to talk to Dr. Fox, who after a week offered him the position, pending successful
release from his contract. It was just being in the “right place at the right time,” he says, acknowledging that when he came in, Renninger was clearing out things and asked him, “Are you ready for this, Jim?” and he responded, “Well, we’ll see.” He came back to Findlay as head football, basketball and baseball coach, winning conference championships in baseball, track and field and men’s basketball, which he took to the national tournament three times — and never left. After he completed his doctorate, having worked evenings, weekends and summers with a onesemester sabbatical, Houdeshell began to expand his work in educational administration. He had been the prime mover in
development of a major in health and physical education, and had served as director of health, physical education and recreation since 1955. In 1968, he chaired the planning committee for construction of Croy Physical Education Center. A major accomplishment was directing the teacher education program in gaining simultaneous accreditation from both the National Committee for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) and state accreditation – one of only 17 schools to do so nationwide. Houdeshell described it as “a long, tough ordeal,” adding that he couldn’t have asked for better assistance. “I was able to work with a lot of wonderful faculty members over the years.”
The Houdeshell Scoreboard Faculty/Administrative Positions at Findlay Special Assistant to the President and Development Officer – since Jan. 1, 1999 Dean of the College of Professional Studies – 1994-98 Dean of University College – 1992-94 Assistant Dean for Administrative Affairs 1986-92 Chair of the Division of Teacher Education – 1986-92 Chair of the Division of Health, Physical Education and Recreation – 1955-84 Director of Health, Physical Education and Recreation – 1985-92 Dean of Students – 1958-59 Professor of Health and Education – 1955- 98
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Honors & Awards Findlay College Athletic Hall of Fame – 1975 Findlay College Distinguished Alumnus – 1978 NAIA Coaches National Hall of Fame – 1980 Hoosier-Buckeye Collegiate Conference Coach of the Year – 1985 Hancock County Sports Hall of Fame – 1987
Served as faculty marshall for 44 years, leading commencement processionals and carrying the mace.
The University of Findlay Distinguished Associate (with wife, Mira) – 1996
Dr. James D. ’53 and Mira M. (Frost ’78) Houdeshell Scholarship Endowment Fund established in their honor by family and friends - 2002
President’s Distinguished Service Medal – 2001
NAIA Charles Morris Award as Athletic Administrator of the Year – 2002 Croy Gymnasium court named the James and Mira Houdeshell Court – 2002 National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) Hall of Fame – 2006
Chaired the steering committee that organized the University’s 125th anniversary celebration, 2006-07 Organized joint class gift committees for 50-year and graduating classes in 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007 and 2008, resulting in gifts of the bell tower, clocks, outdoor furniture for study area, derrick fountain, electronic sign and archives
He also chaired the committee to develop graduate studies in education in 1990, and led the committee that saw the Master of Arts in Education approved by the Ohio Board of Regents and North Central Association in 1991-92, with the first classes offered in summer 1992. With 54 consecutive years at UF under his belt, Houdeshell is now challenging the late, legendary Myrtle Deming ’19, whose record 57 years of service to Findlay between 1917-74 include her work as a student employee, for the title of longest-serving employee at UF. He is sincerely grateful for the opportunities he’s enjoyed at Findlay. “I firmly believe there’s one of two ways that people operate: You
either work up the ladder within an organization, or you move from place to place. After I completed my doctorate, I had opportunities here, and I decided I would work my way up the ladder here. So I committed to doing everything I can — here.” When asked about favorite memories, Houdeshell doesn’t turn to his list of honors. “My wife – my wife and family,” he points out, including his parents, who were farmers. “I will not forget their work ethic.” Houdeshell admits he had one goal he didn’t achieve: The presidency of Findlay College. He was a candidate twice, and others were hired. He has no regrets; he worked with each president in turn. “Each president brought with him
his own style. I learned to work with them to make things happen,” he says. Despite numerous successful campaigns — in athletics, educational programs, building and fund raising — Houdeshell does not count them among his greatest accomplishments. While he holds himself accountable to that internal scoreboard, relationships are what he has found most rewarding. “My proudest moments are those I’ve shared with studentathletes,” he says. “One of the things that’s always been important to me is my relationships with the students — the opportunity to work with students and to maintain contact, friendships with them through the years.”
Coaching Positions at Findlay
Athletic Director – 1955-60; 1971-86 (20 years); resigned in 1960 to develop a major in health and physical education
Findlay College – 1953, B.S., mathematics, general science
Head Coach of Men’s Basketball – 430-312 record for 30 years – 19551985, retired after the 1984-85 season; took Oilers to three NAIA national championship tournaments; earned several conference and district championships Football Coach – head coach – 1955-59 (five seasons); assistant coach 1961-65 (five seasons) Baseball Head Coach – 1956-59 (four seasons), conference champions, two years
Master’s degree in education – BGSU – 1957; Master of Education, physical education with minor in school administration
Track and Field Head Coach – 1961-64 (four seasons), conference champions, four years Cross Country Head Coach – 1968, conference champions Athletics Association Participation Commissioner, American Mideast Conference (AMC) of the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA), 1996-present
Indiana University, Bloomington, Ind., Doctor of Physical Education – 1968; physical education with minor in measurement and evaluation
Family Wife – Mira Frost Houdeshell ’78, son, Jamie ’86, grandchildren Ethan and Zoë
Commissioner, Mid-States Football Association 1993-present Houdeshell is the only person who has served as president of the NAIA Athletic Directors Association, NAIA Basketball Coaches Association and NAIA National Board.
Sharon G. Milligan
Because of her pioneering efforts in athletics at Findlay, a woman’s place is on the court, the track or the playing field.
By Charlene Hankinson
ooking out of her office window in Croy Physical Education Center, Sharon Milligan, associate professor of physical education, has a bird’s-eye view of the lawn in front of Old Main. As the seasons change she has enjoyed watching the kaleidoscope of color as the landscaping evolves from tulips to geraniums to mums. Having arrived at Findlay College in 1967, Milligan recalls a time when such floral highlights didn’t adorn the campus and neither were there many opportunities for women’s athletics. She
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originally intended to teach physical education at Findlay for two years before moving on, but the construction of Croy Physical Education Center in 1969 enticed her to stay. Before she knew it, two years turned into 42. In addition to teaching, Milligan soon found herself as the sole coach for women’s sports – volleyball, basketball and softball. She started the first girls’ field hockey team and the first women’s tennis team. One year she was the track coach and another she served as the cheerleading adviser.
Roberta Phillip ’98
In the late 1960s, before Title IX in 1972 mandated equality for women in education, women’s sports at Findlay College, like most colleges, were unfunded. The women held fund-raisers and worked the concession stand at football games to make money for the teams. At times, mothers made the girls’ uniforms. Athletic contests were collegial affairs, with both teams sharing punch and cookies afterward, she remembered. Milligan noted that she hasn’t coached since the early 1980s, so she has not been a part
of the women’s intercollegiate athletic program that is now so much larger and more competitive. Milligan discovered athletics at Otterbein College where she played on several teams and learned sports such as canoeing, golf, tennis and downhill skiing. She found the new activities exciting and added physical education to Spanish and elementary education majors. After graduating in 1965, she went on to earn a M.Ed. in physical education from Ohio University in 1967. In turn, Milligan brought new activities classes to Findlay. Over the years, she has taught archery, tennis, self-defense, badminton, folk dancing, cross country skiing, sailing, bicycling, canoeing, backpacking and others. A nine-month teaching contract left Milligan free to spend her summers hiking and bicycling across the United States. She hiked the 2,100-mile Appalachian Trail from Maine to Georgia, completing it in 1980, and bicycled the 4,250-mile Trans America Bicycle Trail from Oregon to Virginia, completing it in 1982. In addition, she hiked from the Mexican border to Canada on the Pacific Crest Trail in 1987. She also hiked the Inca Trail in Peru and trekked in Nepal to the first base camp of Mt. Everest. Milligan, who serves as director of the health and physical education program, said that staying in touch with 18- to 21-year-olds helps her keep a young outlook. She has maintained long-lasting ties with former students Rosaline “Roady” Morgan ’71 and Eileen Kleinfelter ’79. Morgan, who went on to a career in middle and high school teaching and coaching, was honored as National Middle School Physical Education Teacher of the Year in 2001 and was named a Distinguished Alumna at The University of Findlay in 2006. Kleinfelter coached women’s basketball at the collegiate level, including seven seasons at The University of Findlay from 1994-2001, and was named to the UF Athletic Hall of Fame in 2004.
In addition, Milligan has regular contact with many of her former students who are now physical education teachers and coaches in area school systems. These alumni are now mentoring student teachers from The University of Findlay. “It is fun to go out and see our (former) students, working with them in a different capacity to help our current students out,” she said. Among her many happy memories are leading backpacking class trips to the Smoky Mountains and Grand Canyon National Park and joining Universitysponsored trips to the Holy Land, Mexico, Japan and eastern Europe. She also has relished attending sports events and theater and musical productions, calling campus life “a very enriching environment.” A lifelong resident of Fostoria, Milligan serves as mission chairperson and on the administrative board at High Street United Methodist Church in Fostoria. She was honored, along with her brother and her mother, as the Fostoria Family of the Year in 1995 by the Fostoria Ministerial Association and Fostoria Family Services. In gratitude for the help their mother received with Meals on Wheels during an 11-year illness, Milligan and her brother, Frank, have served as volunteers for more than 10 years after their mother’s death. For their efforts, they were named Community Heroes in 2004, but Milligan simply called it “paying back.” Milligan’s teaching and coaching efforts also have been recognized. She received the Founders’ Academic Excellence Award for Faculty in 1992, and she was inducted into the UF Athletic Hall of Fame in 1995 for her role in pioneering women’s athletics. Milligan has decided to teach one more year before retiring. Now, she’ll have one more chance to view the changing seasons and to prepare another class of students to teach and enjoy the many variations of physical activities.
In one of her early roles in promoting women’s athletics at Findlay, Milligan served as coach of the Oiler women’s volleyball team.
Milligan and former student Rosaline “Roady” Morgan ’71, enjoying a Homecoming game reunion in 2006. 7 7
Basketball to Shape Young Men
By Suzanne Wilcox English Photography by Richard Orr
For men’s basketball coach Ron Niekamp, the accolades continue to pile up: A 36-0 record in 2008-09, en route to the NCAA Division II National Championship A record of 550-174 after 24 years as head coach of the Oilers NCAA Division II National Association of Basketball Coaches Coach of the Year for 2009 Division II Bulletin and Basketball Times Coach of the Year – 2009 Miami University’s Cradle of Coaches, inducted 2005 along with his former professor, Bo Shembechler Regional coach of the year in 2009, 2007 and 2005 Conference coach of the year in 2009, 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2003 32
Findlay Fall 2009 www.findlay.edu
hile Niekamp can’t help but enjoy the accomplishment of the 2008-09 Oilers — as well as the work and accomplishments of many past players who helped the program to advance to that level — he is most proud of his team members’ development as young men. “Seeing our players leave here, and go on and do really good things with their lives” is the most rewarding aspect of his job, he said, sitting in his second-floor office in Croy Physical Education Center as he waited for summer camps to start, tanned, relaxed and smiling. “They come back and support the program, with their wives and their children. You hope that you’ve helped them in some way, beyond winning a game,” Niekamp said, reeling off a few examples including Jason Grimes, a grad of recent years who was accepted into medical school at The Ohio State University. “Many do well and stay involved with the program,” including coming back for games and alumni events. “Certainly, winning the national championship caps everything we’ve accomplished here,” he said. “We felt it was an accomplishment that reflected the efforts of a lot of people,” including past players who helped move the program to the next level. “One of our goals — our ultimate goal — was to win a national championship. Our priorities lie elsewhere, and we’ll never sacrifice our priorities to accomplish a goal,” he emphasized. I knew we had a really good team, but I didn’t think we needed to win a national championship to validate our program. But having won a national championship — it’s really a good feeling,” he admitted with a smile. The team notebook for the year emphasizes the team’s tradition of quality and characteristics such as respect, dependability and consistency: • Quality people who get their degrees! • Tremendous work ethic! • Great self and team discipline! • Total commitment to the team concept! • Outstanding competitive spirit! • Mental toughness and ability to accept criticism!
“You hope that you’ve helped them in some way, beyond winning a game.” - Ron Niekamp
• Humility – Know who you are! Along with the inspirational messages are very specific expectations, including do’s and don’ts for behavior on and off the court, attitude and contribution to the program. (Continued, next page) 33
Niekamp is proud that when people watch the team on the floor, “they see selflessness — guys willing to give things up for their teammates, and really excited to see a teammate do well,” Niekamp said. “We are far from perfect. You do have to deal with discipline,” he said. “But by the same token, it is stimulating to be around them, and be engaged by them, because they have such great energy.” Niekamp has been fueling up on the energy of young basketball players for a long time: His 24 years with the Oilers have followed 13 years as a high school coach in the region. When he heard Jim Houdeshell was stepping down, he applied for and got the head coaching position for the program, which he described as solid and successful in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. Later, the administration took the institution to NCAA Division II, with an invitation to membership in the Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference, one of the most competitive in the country in Division II. “I never looked at this job as a steppingstone,” Niekamp said, noting he and his wife, Doris, a teacher, had four children whom he was not interested in uprooting again. “We were able to attract quality young men here to play ball. It had a lot to offer, a lot of pluses.” Coaching requires a great time commitment, particularly during the season, but Niekamp feels he was able to be there for his own children as well. “Any coach would tell you, if you have regrets, they are ‘did I really do enough, and should I have been there more?’ But most of my recruiting trips have not been overnight trips,” and his children were involved in events at the University, as well as theater, volleyball and many other activities. “While it was hectic, I’m thankful I was able to be there for at least most of the things” they were involved in. As far as coaching, fans can expect some more good years. “I’m not ready to retire,” Niekamp said. “I’ll take it year by year and hope that I maintain good health, and we continue to succeed.”
Niekamp’s Loyal Lieutenant — and Rising Star When you see Ron Niekamp — at least during basketball season — you nearly always see associate coach Charlie Ernst somewhere nearby. Ernst, a 1992 UF graduate who played basketball for Niekamp, majored in public relations and marketing. He at first worked in the Admissions office, but also joined his former coach as an assistant. “He’s one of many who have that special feeling here because it’s their alma mater,” Niekamp said. “We have been what I would describe as a good team.” Ernst is responsible for the Oilers’ defense and serves as recruiting coordinator. He also works daily with the guards, serves as equipment manager and assists Niekamp with day-to-day operations. This fall, Ernst will begin his 19th season as an assistant and his eighth as Niekamp’s right-hand man. After the men’s basketball team won the NCAA Division II national championship this spring, Ernst was selected as one of five assistants, and the only non-Division I coach, to receive the “Rising Star” award as one of the best assistant coaches in the nation. “I delegate a lot of responsibility” to Ernst because of his capabilities, the coach said. “Our success in many, many ways can be linked back to Charlie’s effort.” “I have been very lucky to work for and with someone that I have great respect for. Ron has given me many responsibilities and I guess I have just tried to take advantage of those,” Ernst said. “Our program success can be related to many factors, none possible without Ron’s leadership and example.”
Findlay Fall 2009 www.findlay.edu