by Steve Estes
This President's Message (PM) will be one of the last I write for NAKHE. I'm in the unusual position of having written these messages for three years, first during my term as president in 1998/1999, and now in the second year of a two-year presidency (2014/2016). Serving as NAKHE president has been a career highlight - it is hard to put the position of NAKHE president in perspective as I've never done anything like it, and will likely never do anything like it again. For anyone who is interested in such a position I can say only that serving as NAKHE president will be one of the most joyful, rewarding service roles that one can experience in an academic career. To those of you who asked me to lead, and for all of the help I have received over the years, Thank You for your consideration and confidence. I hope that I have lived up to your hopes and expectations.
While on the one hand I am grateful for the opportunity to be serving as president, this joy I experience is tempered by the news that many of you will have received by the time this issue of IJKHE goes to press. Our longtime colleague Shane Frehlich passed on September 5, 2015, and I am going to tell Shane's story in this PM because his story represents what NAKHE has become over the years to many of us. Indeed, NAKHE as an organization has chosen, through its Strategic Plan (http://files.www.nakhe.org/administrative/NAKHE_Strategic_Plan.pdf) to explicitly advocate and support the model life that Shane lived as a NAKHE member. Shane's career, like mine and many others, was shaped by NAKHE in ways too numerous to count. But I'll try to recount Shane's life-well-lived path in this narrative.
I met Shane when he arrived at SUNY Cortland as a full time lecturer in the fall of 1997. During his first year, the Department of Physical Education did a nationwide search to fill the tenure track position in motor learning/sport psychology position and I chaired the Personnel Committee. In our department at that time were a bunch of "Young Turks," faculty influenced by the academic discipline movement in kinesiology (then physical education) that was in full bloom across the country. Our department hired five of us in 1993 - Ann Maliszewski, Susan Puhl (both exercise physiologists), Dapeng Chen (motor learning), Tom Quinn (physical education) and myself, and this was the beginning of what eventually became the heart of a new department of exercise science. Alison Wrynn joined us the same year Shane did, and this group began to advocate for the recognition of a disciplinary approach to studying and teaching physical activity that is dominant in most universities today. But our new ideas were not welcomed at Cortland in the mid-1990s, and were in fact actively resisted by senior faculty in the department who felt that the mission of the department should be teacher training. It was into this mix that we had our search, and Shane was the candidate of choice.
Shane was simply a fantastic hire. Not only did he possess the skill set that the department needed to teach and research in a critical area, he was simply a great person to be around. A consensus builder by nature, Shane's easy going ways and desire to see both sides of an issue were a real advantage in a unit that had devolved into an "either/or" mentality between the academic subdisciplines and the profession of physical education. I remember many conversations where Shane's easy baritone, smile, and sense of humor defused what could have been destructively rancorous discussions of curriculum and departmental mission. Eventually us "Turks" were successful in renaming the "Non-Teaching" degree in physical education to exercise science and sport studies, and Shane was in the middle of these discussions and helped make this curriculum change possible by helping to convince our senior colleagues that we weren't all academic radicals bent on the destruction what the Department of Physical Education had stood for and advocated for many years. A new name for an old degree (and, in fact, a new Department of Exercise Science and Sport Studies) was accepted, and in hindsight this change led to the splitting of the department into several units at Cortland that better represented where the field was going at that time. As of this writing Cortland's School of Professional Studies—which houses three separate departments formed out of the former Department of Physical Education, continues to do very well, in large part because our group of faculty were able to make changes that were consistent with where kinesiology is today. These changes were not without cost, though: all of us who were hired between 1993 and 1998 eventually left Cortland for other positions across the country. But we all remained in touch - through NAKHE.
This is where Shane's story picks up again. Shane began attending NAKHE meetings shortly after he joined the Cortland faculty, and one other NAKHE leader did as well - Alison Wrynn. The three of us found that NAKHE (then NAPEHE) was an organization that provided opportunities for us to express our ideas in presentations and in print. Furthermore, all of us began to assume leader roles in NAKHE that were critical in legitimizing the philosophical positions we held regarding what kinesiology should be, and where it should go. At the time all of us vaguely realized that we were being mentored to assume leader roles in NAKHE, but more than anything else we simply enjoyed each other's company and that of our mentors and colleagues - Ron Feingold, Leah Fiorentino, John Massengale, Hally Beth Poindexter, Judy Bischoff, Karen DePauw, Joy DeSensi, Bill Forbus, and many others. Our idea of fun was taking a position and arguing it to its logical conclusion, and then making this idea come alive in our academic homes. Our senior colleagues showed us how to do this, and we did the heavy lifting at home and wrote about it in Quest and The Chronicle of Physical Education in Higher Education (later this journal, the International Journal of Kinesiology in Higher Education).
Shane followed this path as well, first at Cortland and then at California State University - Northridge. Shane left New York for California when a good opportunity arose, and he had the chance to begin putting his own mark on a department while he was there. As an assistant professor teaching motor learning and sport psychology, Shane was successful at building consensus among his senior colleagues at Northridge just as he had done at Cortland. Later Shane's steady work manifested in a successful search that led to his appointment as department chair in 2009.
Shane's successes led to other leadership roles as well. Shane served as a California State University Statewide Academic Senator beginning in 2012, and he was elected chair of the Faculty Senate at Northridge in 2014, a position he held until his passing. And he continued to achieve other milestones in a career that had much promise. I asked Shane to give the Sargent Lecture for 2015, one of NAKHE's prestigious named lectures at our annual conference. Because of poor health Shane was not able to deliver the lecture in 2015, but things looked up earlier this year so I asked him to deliver the lecture in 2016. Sadly this was not to be.
What to make of Shane's story? I'm proud to have been part of it, and that NAKHE was central to his very, very successful career. Regular conference attendance and presentations at both the Administrator preconference sessions and the conference; appointments to leadership roles in NAKHE leading to shaping the Association, and being shaped by it; professional opportunities arising out of networking with NAKHE colleagues; and on. Shane was active in other associations as well as NAKHE, but I'd like to think that we were his favorite. Shane certainly represents the template that NAKHE has strategically adopted in the 21st century: faculty development through membership in an academic and professional society dedicated to a mission of leader development - not only personally benefitting from membership in the Association, but benefitting others by working with them to shape their professional careers. And loving every minute of it.
I will miss Shane's smooth baritone, his easy smile, his youthful wisdom, his ability to temper impetuosity, and ultimately his leadership. I feel that Shane would have led NAKHE at some point in the future - that he would be writing these PMs - and I would have followed his lead as he once followed mine. He was simply an outstanding person, and I'm proud to have called him my good friend. Shane became the kind of academic leader that NAKHE hopes to "cause" in our young NAKHE members. And if there is any message in Shane's untimely passing it may be that the narrative of Shane's academic life can serve as a model for what we do in NAKHE, and why. This is a model that we can all be proud of, and this is how I will try to honor the memory of a damn fine colleague. Farewell old friend, and safe travels.
I’d like to thank colleagues Alison Wrynn of CSU Fullerton, and Doug McLaughlin of CSU Northridge, for their help in remembering Shane Frehlich.