A Mother’s Day Tribute

May 8th, 2014

In celebration of Mother’s Day, Institute for International Sport Founder and Director, Dan Doyle, has shared a touching poem he wrote. Visit his blog, Dan’s Corner, to read more.

A Tribute to Rommel Padanou

February 26th, 2013

Two weeks before the opening ceremonies of the 1997 World Scholar-Athlete Games, I received a call from a Peace Corps volunteer in Gabon, on the west coast of Central Africa.

Since the inaugural World Scholar-Athlete Games in 1993, the Peace Corps has helped us identify outstanding scholar athletes and scholar artists, particularly from African countries. Upon receipt of a Peace Corps nomination, our job is to find funding to get the candidate to the Games.

The Peace Corps volunteer was calling about Rommel Padanou, a young man who had displayed uncommon ability as a student and basketball player. The volunteer persuasively cited other details about Rommel, including his view that Rommel was among the finest young men he had ever encountered.

I immediately contacted a friend who agreed to fund Rommel’s airfare and tuition to the Games.

Upon meeting Rommel on opening day, I saw why the Peace Corps volunteer was so earnest in his recommendation. At 6’5″ and rippling with muscles, Rommel cast an imposing figure. Yet more than his physical presence, what struck me was his humility, and his gratitude for the opportunity to be at the Games.

When the basketball competition started, Rommel distinguished himself as one of the best players in the competition. I also received feedback from several coaches about his positive attitude and competitive spirit.

A few days into the Games, I was standing outside of Keaney Gymnasium at URI, conversing with two representatives from my alma mater, Bates College.  Bill Hiss, Executive Vice President and Wylie Mitchell, Dean of Admissions, had just finished a presentation to the participants regarding the college admissions process, and were getting ready to return to Lewiston, Maine.

As we were talking, Rommel walked by and I motioned him over to meet Bill and Wylie. His game was starting in a few minutes and the conversation with the two Bates representatives was brief, but long enough to impress both men to the point that they decided to stay on and watch the first half of Rommel’s game.

Rommel not only played well, but displayed an admirable combination of leadership and sportsmanship that both Bill and Wylie noticed right away.  As we were watching Rommel, I shared my knowledge of his sterling academic record. At halftime, I asked Rommel to join us for a brief chat, during which it was agreed that, when the Games concluded, he would visit Bates.

An important objective of the Scholar-Athlete Games is to help young people in a variety of ways, including assisting participants from other countries further their education – either in their home country or at an American college. Three weeks after closing ceremonies, Bates had reviewed Rommel’s transcript and recommendations and decided to offer him a full-academic scholarship.

The school’s investment paid off.  Rommel had a brilliant four-year career at Bates, excelling in the classroom and on the basketball court, where he scored over 1,000 points.  Upon graduation, he became a highly successful businessman, specializing in the import-export business in the United States and in his native Gabon.  Several years after his graduation, Rommel was featured in a Bates magazine cover story about his many accomplishments.

Seven weeks ago, my daughter, Meg, who attended Bates with Rommel, contacted me to say that Rommel had passed away.  It would be several days before we learned that Rommel had been quietly and valiantly battling a disease that took his life.

From the time I met Rommel, we developed a special bond; he often referred to me as his second father.   Over the years, many people who knew him would contact me with heart-warming stories of his success and goodwill.  When I learned of his passing, I felt – and still feel – as any father would.

I loved Rommel, and when I reflect on his splendid but all too abbreviated life, I am reminded of the words of A. E. Housman:  ‘Like the wind through the woods … Through him the gale of life blew high.’

Whenever I think of Rommel Padanou, which I will do often, I will always think of him as a peerless example of why we do what we do at the Scholar-Athlete Games.

Meritocracy at Its Best

May 22nd, 2012

General Managers are starting to understand that minority coaches can organize, prepare, and teach just as well as anybody else.  I think our whole society is learning that.”   Lionel Hollins, Head Coach, Memphis Grizzlies

 

Watching the NBA playoffs brings to mind a mark of progress and the key role of a father and son in making the progress become reality.

 

One of basketball’s first iconic figures was Joe Lapchick, a Hall-of-Famer who starred for the original Celtics and coached the New York Knicks and St. John’s University. It was Joe Lapchick who signed Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton to a Knicks contract in 1950, making Clifton the first African-American to join an NBA team.

 

Throughout his distinguished career, Coach Lapchick made a point to foster opportunities for African-Americans in basketball as players and as coaches. His son, Richard, Founder and Chair of the DeVos Sport Business Management Program at the University of Central Florida, is one of our nation’s leading civil rights and sports activists. Richard has dedicated his life to bringing about equality in sport and society. The annual Racial and Gender Report Card issued by the DeVos Program is the most influential assessment of the professional and amateur sports leagues as well as sports organizations in the United States.

 

Of the thirty NBA head coaches, 14 are African-American. Portland Trail Blazers’ Kaleb Canales is the league’s first Mexican-American head coach and the Miami Heat’s coach Erik Spoelstra is Filipino-American.  Seven of these coaches led their teams to the 2012 Playoffs.

 

The likes of Doc Rivers of the Boston Celtics and a future Hall-of-Famer,  Mike Brown of the Los Angeles Lakers, and Mike Woodson of the New York Knicks remind us of what can happen when able professionals are given the opportunity to lead.

Middlebury College January Term and My Next Novel, An African Rebound

December 30th, 2011

One of my favorite activities over the last 13 years has been an annual trek to Middlebury College to lecture at the January term “Sport and Society” course. The compelling course is taught by Middlebury head men’s hockey coach, Bill Beaney, and my coach for life, Donald “Dee” Rowe (Middlebury ’51).

This year, along with delivering the annual lecture, and with the help of former Middlebury professor and dean, Karl Lindholm, I will be working with a group of students in the class on a project that should be great fun for all.

My next book, the novel, An African Rebound, will be published in late-fall 2012/early-spring 2013. During the Middlebury January term, the Beaney/Rowe class will involve a group of students reading up to a certain key point in the novel, and then writing an essay on what they think will happen.

Karl, an old and dear friend, will work with me on the project. Karl is now in the process of reading and critiquing the book. He, too, will take part in the critical thinking exercise of guessing what will happen. The end result will be a pizza party in early-February, at which the participating students will read their essays and Karl will offer his comments. At the end of the evening, all participants will receive a copy of the rest of the book.

Alumni Anecdote

December 22nd, 2011

It is always great to hear from a World Scholar-Athlete Games graduate.

We just received this wonderful note from Steve Hauser, who attended the World Scholar -Athlete Games in 2006 and then went on to graduate from Wesleyan University:

“For a student-athlete, there are few opportunities that are as fulfilling as the World-Scholar Athlete Games. When I attended the Games back in 2006, the unique mix of athletics and culture was unlike anything I had previously experienced. I still remember the experience of sitting next to an athlete from Sierra Leone and hearing the stories of his childhood. I also vividly remember hearing former President Bill Clinton and political pundit Bill O’Reilly speak to us on the value of our generation. Perhaps I didn’t realize it then, but these experiences at the World Scholar Athlete Games were some of the most formative of my teenage years. I cannot recommend this event more highly and I hope to see it grow in the future.”