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Retired teacher urges: Don’t float through life, make waves!

Master swimmer Roger Osborne

Master swimmer Roger Osborne.

Roger “Oz” Osborne ’68 majored in physical education and minored in driver education at Illinois State.

During his 33-plus year career at Maine West High School in Des Plaines, Osborne taught driver education full time. When asked how driver education has changed over the years he said that driving required one’s complete attention. You had to assess a situation and make the correct decision to stay safe. Also, back in the early years of his career people were reluctant to use seat belts because they felt they would be trapped in an accident situation. Today, even though vehicles have antilock brake systems, automatic high beams, all-wheel drive vehicles, Osborne says you still need to know how to operate a car. Add to all of that the myriad distractions people face today with smart phones, GPS and learning to drive can be more challenging than ever!

Although Osborne didn’t teach physical education, he embraced the importance of physical activity throughout his career and into his retirement. At Maine West High School Osborne coached the boys and girls JV swim teams for 34 seasons, and he oversaw the downhill ski club for 29 years, teaching many kids how to ski and led ski trips to Colorado resorts over the years.

When he turned 40 Osborne did his first Masters open water swimming event in the Chain of Lakes taking third place. Since then he has been an active on Masters swim teams for 30 years and on the Elgin Blue Wave Masters swim team for more than 17 years. Last year he won 5 medals out of 6 events and was ranked in the top 10 in the country for those events at The Spring Nationals in Greensboro, North Carolina. In his 30 years of Masters competitions, he has won 91 medals at state swim meets in Illinois and 19 medals at National competitions including being a National Champion in the 200 butterfly at Mesa, Arizona, in 2011. He has done over 20 triathlons and finished an Ironman triathlon of 140.6 miles in Sonoma, California, called the Vineman Triathlon. In 2011 he won his age group at the Big Shoulders Lake Michigan swim.

The swim team has provided social events as well as a camaraderie with men and women ages 18 to 70+ years old with the swimmers ranging from medium to elite athletes, to Ironmen and Ironwomen swimmers. He has had five hip surgeries due to faulty parts, but swimming helped him recover each time. He has even been asked to give talks on swimming’s benefits for lifelong fitness.

When asked about his fondest memories from Illinois State, Osborne still keeps in touch with his college roommate, Al Santini. Illinois State was large enough to accommodate his interests but not so big that he felt like a number. Osborne reminds students that there are many ways to tie into the field of Kinesiology and Recreation in terms of a career. Taking care of ourselves and our bodies is a lifelong commitment. Paying attention to one’s nutrition and physical activity will lead to a more rewarding life.

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