Saturday, July 17, 2010

From Athlete to Scholar Part III

In addition to my thesis advisor Sarah Hughes at Shippensburg University, Mike Mc Tighe, Associate Professor of Religion at Gettysburg College is another person who mentored me on my road to becoming a scholar. We met in the faculty dining room following a paper I delivered on my master’s thesis on black abolitionist Henry Highland Garnet at a faculty colloquium on the Gettysburg College campus. We talked over lunch and quickly became good friends though we were so different. Mike was a tall very soft spoken hippy looking guy. Mike truly a brilliant guy with graduate degrees from Yale University (M.Div. 1973), and the University of Chicago (Ph.D. 1983). At Chicago he wrote his dissertation on Protestants and public culture in antebellum Cleveland with the renowned professor of religious history Martin Marty serving as his dissertation advisor. Early in are meeting Mike sense some doubt in me about my academic chops. He provided needed assurance that I had the intellectual ability that it took for a career in the academy. I recall having similar doubts the year I transferred from Herkimer to Syracuse as both a student and lacrosse player. Over the years these seasons of doubt and insecurity never stopped me from moving forward because God always placed people in my path with words of wisdom and encouragement. Doubt in my experience is nothing but fear wearing a mask. And fear is most often False Evidence Appearing Real.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

From Athlete to Scholar Part II

I've been talking about the slow transition from athlete to scholar that I experienced. In reflection I realized that in 1991 I started acculturating into academia similarly to how I had to acculturate into the lacrosse world back in the late 1970s. Like the lacrosse world, academia as it on culture including, language, dress, shared values, lifestyle, and hierarchies that I had to learn how to negotiate. The process started during my first year of graduate school when I was doing my course work—that lasted about a year in a half. During that time I learned how to do scholarly research and how to quickly read and analyze entire books and summarize them into a paragraph. I had to also learn seminar and how to present a paper in an academic setting. But again it was no different in lacrosse. When I first started playing back in the late 1970s, I was clueless. I had to learn everything: how to hold a stick, the names of the different parts of the stick, and the rules of the game. Also noticed as a youth lacrosse coach that one of the hardest things to teach young players particularly those in first and second grade like the ones I work with is how to communicate on the field. The best players in my opinion in lacrosse or those who communicate both on offense and defense but if you didn't know the game would not understand what they're talking about because it sounds like banter. Well the academic world is no different and the language sounds like banter to those who do not know it. It took a while but I learned become fluent in both lacrosse and academia. More tomorrow.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

The Transition From Athlete to Scholar

I’ve been talking about my transition from athlete to scholar in the early 1990s while at Gettysburg College (see my earlier post follow along here). As it turned out, I did not get accepted to any of the Ph.D. programs largely due to my low GRE scores, low undergraduate GPA, and not having an undergraduate degree in history. My year as an interim dean at Gettysburg College signaled the start of my identity transformation from athlete to scholar and it would take almost 15 years! You see even though I graduated from a major university and recently completed a master degree, I had a history of academic failure that would not stop messing with my mind. Psychological I felt so inferior to colleagues at Gettysburg and culturally I had little in common with them. More on becoming an intellectual during my time at Gettysburg College.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Becoming a Gettysburg College Dean

The 1991 1992 academic year I learned a very simple but important lesson—someone is always watching you so do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do. I worked under the dean of the Department of Intercultural Advancement (charged with the recruitment and retention of black, Latino, and Asian students, and campus diversity activities) at G-burg that overtime had gotten out disfavor with school administrators. One day in the spring semester Mr. Van Arsdale (Van as we called him), one of the associated vice presidents asked me to come to his office for a meeting. I played lacrosse against is son Mark at Hobart, Mark is now the Associate Head Lacrosse Coach at the University Virginia. Van explained to me the issues with the dean and that the school decided to remove him from his position. Van than proceeded to tell me that he and other schools officials had been watching me and liked what they saw and then asked if would consider serving as interim dean. I had just completed my MA in history and I was 28. I had applied to Ph.D. programs in history earlier that year and I was waiting for acceptance notices. On the advice of my thesis advisor at Ship Sarah Hughes, I took the interim position. I also continued to serve as the defensive coordinator for college's men's lacrosse team.

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Nothing Like What Jackie Robinson Delt With

My dad's hero, Jackie Roosevelt Robinson and his family

As the first African American to play on a U S Men’s Lacrosse National Team in 1990, I now feel a kind of kinship with Jackie Robinson (without the threats and abuse he suffered so I didn’t have to endure so much hardship). But what’s interesting is that I am more conscious of being the first African American on a National team now then back in 1990. The discipline, time, and effort I put forth to make the 1990 team helped me a great deal as I returned to the campus of Gettysburg College as a coach, graduate assistant at the Center for Intercultural Advancement, and graduate student in history at Shippensburg University in the fall of 1990. My dad once shared a story with me before he died about how the pastor of the local AMEZ church in his home town, a real civil rights champion for the black community in the Tarrytowns, in Westchester County, New York in the 1940s and 1950s contacted Robinson to come to town. This minister wanted him to come and help end segregation in the Tarrytown YMCA so that African American residents in both towns could enjoy the facilities. Robinson came and used his star power as a pro baseball player to persuade the Y's board to integrate the facility. Today my family are members of that YMCA, I exerciset there four days week, and enjoy family swim in the pool with my children.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Are there Hoochie Mamas in Lacrosse? Part 2

The 1990 US Men's Lacrosse Team and coaching staff

So here goes my only experience with groupies in lacrosse experience, this happened in 1990 during the Lacrosse World Cup in Perth, Australia. My teammate Jim Burke told me a nice looking Aussie was interested in me and wanted to meet me outside of the locker room after a game. I was shocked to hear about and see this hoochie mama (as my southern wife calls aggressive seductively dressed women on the prowl)! So what did I do? I took a different exit and made a bee-line for the team bus avoiding her and others like her thereafter. You see, I’ve never been a player and when I entered graduate school to earn a doctorate degree in history starting in 1989, I made a decision not to enter a serious relationship, I needed to focus. Say what you want but I’ve seen a lot of folks get side tracked and derailed as doctoral students because of a love interest. I’ve also seen a number of marriages end in divorce while a spouse is working on a doctorate degree or immediately thereafter. My male friends thought I was crazy while some women thought I was gay. I was a hard earned B type of grad student with an occasional A. In the end the strategy worked; I completed my doctoral degree in history and I am happily married to a gorgeous and brilliant woman who has the green light to distract me just about any time she wants! My wife finished her doctoral studies in business at the Stern School of Business this past May and Babson College hired us both! It’s been a tough six years and I believe we lasted in part because I went through a doctoral program first and understood the time demands that she faced at each stage of the program. Staying focused is so important and hoochie mamas (and their male counter parts) can be a distraction to achieving one’s goals in life. Decisions are long lasting and life changing so it's best to make wise ones when it comes to relationships.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Iroquois Pay Back at the 1990 Lacrosse World Cup, Part 2

Started a story yesterday about the first time the Iroquois Nation sent a team to play in a Lacrosse World Cup in 1990. I was playing for the US National Team and witnessed history being made. The Iroquois, who play more indoor box lacrosse than outdoor, play a rough and physical brand of Lacrosse. However, on that day in Sydney it looked like they were taking revenge for centuries of European colonization of North America and the exploitation of native land and people. Ironically, I, the only black man on the US team and I had not suited up for the game trying to give my tendinitis inflicted knees time to rest. Although we beat them easily on the score board, they bruised up some of our best players that day. At times the pounding on our players was so bad that it reminded me of a scene from Custard’s last stand. I’ve always wondered how they would have treated me if I had played that day? After all during the antebellum period, some African Americans escaped and found refuge among Native American communities. Others African Americans lived with Native Americans in multiethnic maroon communities. The history of black red relations is also a mixed one with records of Native Americans owning enslaved African Americans and or returning runaway black slaves to white masters in exchange for rewards. After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery in 18656, Buffalo soldiers (black troops) helped the U. S. government repress and round up Native American societies forcing them onto reservations. So who knows what kind of treatment I would have received from the Iroquois Nationals that day in Sydney Australia in July of 1990.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Iroquois Pay Back at the 1990 Lacrosse World Cup, Part I

Top row: Emmett Printup in the hat, state government official, Travis Solomon, Mark "Red Man" Burham with the stash, and Brad Kotz (Lacrosse Hall of Fame). Bottom row: Chief Oren Lyons (Lacrosse Hall of Fame) who was a goalie on the same undefeated SU team with Jim Brown(Lacrosse Hall of Fame) and my coach Roy Simmons Jr. (Lacrosse Hall of Fame). Everybody in the picture is a SU lacrosse alum, yes that's a baby faced Gary Gait (Lacrosse Hall of Fame) just two months after his senior year and another Syracuse lacrosse national championship.  
During the 1990 Lacrosse World Cup I played in for the United States, each time was permitted to dress about 23 players each game. Our roster had 27 players I believe. With really bad tendinitis in my knees, (one of the reasons why I stopped players after 1993) I volunteered to sit out the game after we played and beat the Aussies. Little did I know what a savvy decision that one was; we played the Iroquois Nationals in the next game and they had a serious bone to pick with Team USA in their first appearance in a Lacrosse World Cup. My Syracuse teammates Emmett Printup and Mark Burnham played for the Iroquois along with Travis Solomon. They and their Iroquois teammates warmed up with serious game faces and a notable silence, something was up. The defensemen on the Iroquois team used the all wooden hand made traditional sticks. Those sticks are heavy and when you get hit buy one they make serious welts, they can break open your skin, and they can break bones. After the first faceoff and a lumber jack like check that made the crowd gasp when they heard the loud whack of traditional wooden stick, I could tell this was going to be a game unlike any my 26 white teammates and I had seen before. More tomorrow.