Reflections from Professor Emeritus William Kauth
Lexington native and Professor Emeritus William Kauth ’64 recently took time away from his golf game in the Sunshine State to reflect on his career in the Department of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance (HPERD) at Illinois State University.
As a freshman in fall 1959, Kauth said: “I was one of those naive and nervous new students with a lot of uncertainty about what I was going to study for my future life’s work. I had played sports and I thought maybe I would like to coach and teach. It seemed as if HPERD was where I belonged. Early on, I wasn’t very focused on a career. Things got better as I got into my major courses. I took an anatomy and physiology class in old McCormick Hall. A spunky little lady, Professor Miriam Grey, took interest in me and got me interested in the subject matter. Likewise, both the athletic injuries and kinesiology classes, taught by Professor Richard Irvin, were a turning point for me in terms of my career. At about the same time I was in the training room being treated for a baseball injury, Irvin took a special interest in me and asked if I would like to work as a student athletic trainer. As they say, the rest is history. I found something that really interested and excited me, and it literally changed my life. I worked as a student trainer for a couple of years, and graduated with my bachelor’s degree in 1964.”
In 1965 Kauth graduated from Indiana State University with his master’s degree, with additional experience as an athletic trainer. After a teaching and an athletic training stint at Northern Arizona University, he accepted a similar position back at Illinois State. “I was thrilled,” said Kauth. “Although it has been a little over 50 years ago, I can still vividly remember my feelings when I walked up those steps in front of Horton Field House to begin my position as a faculty member in HPERD and the head athletic trainer for Men’s Athletics. I stayed at Illinois State for over 30 years, and it was a wonderful career.”
Many changes occurred at Illinois State during Kauth’s tenure. “While I was a student, ISNU became ISU, and Horton Field House and Hancock Stadium were built. The size of the campus and the number of students increased, and several big, tall dorms were built. Many changes occurred in HPERD and Athletics during the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s as well.
When Athletics was separated from HPERD and went from NCAA Division II to Division I, Kauth’s responsibilities as head athletic trainer changed. “These were exciting times; the men’s and women’s HPERD were combined into one department and the athletic training education program, for which I was responsible, was growing rapidly. I was encouraged by the HPERD chairpersons, Professors Phebe Scott and Betty Keough, to pursue my advanced degree.” Kauth earned his Ph.D. from the University of Utah in 1976.
“After I came back from Utah, the athletic training education curriculum, at both the undergraduate and graduate level, really took off, and I had a decision to make.” Kauth resigned his position as the head athletic trainer in 1981 and began directing all of his energy to the athletic training education programs. When he retired 19 years later in 2001, there were nearly 100 students in the combined undergraduate and graduate programs in HPERD.
Kauth says probably the two most satisfying aspects of his work at Illinois State was curriculum development and the teaching and coordinating the athletic training education programs, especially establishing and supervising student internship/clinical experiences. “I’m a great believer in internships for students; and in the profession of athletic training clinical, hands-on experience is especially necessary. Many of my students received full-time positions as a result of those internships when they graduated.”
Kauth recently ran into one of his athletic training students at a golf outing, and the alum’s flattering comments about Kauth, the athletic training education program, and the preparation he received at Illinois State University, was very gratifying. The alum credited Illinois State with preparing him to achieve a wonderfully rewarding career. “For me that’s what it’s all about!” Kauth said. “Isn’t that why we teach and work with students in the first place? That gives me the greatest amount of satisfaction and pleasure from my teaching career.”
Kauth admits he is very fortunate to be able to get out of the Illinois cold and spend the winter months in Florida. However, he still calls Central Illinois his home; he lives near Illinois State and the Weibring Golf Club. These days, in addition to playing golf, he still stays active in other ways by going to the weight lifting/exercise room, taking daily walks, and going on occasional fishing trips. “Unfortunately, you can’t stop the aging process,” said Kauth. “So no more jogging or noon basketball.”
Kauth advises new KNR students to “get as much practical experience as you can doing whatever it is you think you might like to do—whether it’s athletic training, coaching, teaching, fitness, etc., and develop a passion for it. I hope, along the way, you find a teacher or mentor who will take you under their wing, just as I was so fortunate to have found. Selecting Illinois State University is a great beginning!”