May 16, 2007

Booklet details Boydston's impact on athletics

by Pete Rosenbery


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CARBONDALE -- When long-time members of the Southern Illinois University Carbondale community discuss the University's most recent athletics accomplishments, many likely fondly remember the contributions of the late Donald "Doc" Boydston.

Boydston guided the University's nationally recognized health education department for 32 years and served as athletics director for 15 years, helping transform Saluki athletics from a small college program into a big-time university showcase. A new booklet details the pivotal impact that he had on Saluki athletics and on the players and students he recruited and/or mentored.

"A Man of Vision, Donald Boydston: A Memoir," is based on interviews that Larry Davis conducted with Boydston and with several former student-athletes who ultimately became close friends with Boydston and his wife, Jo Ann. Davis, a researcher and editor for the University's affirmative action office, visited with the Boydstons at their Florida home in 2003. Don Boydston died in March 2005 at the age of 84.

Boydston's accomplishments and legacy remain strong, said Seymour Bryson, SIUC's associate chancellor for diversity. Bryson came to SIUC in 1955 — Boydston's first year on campus — and he was a student worker for Boydston for four years.

Boydston was key to integrating SIUC's athletic programs by setting a climate for inclusiveness during a time when such was not the case nationally, Bryson said.

"As people think about the history of this University, I think a lot of people see the portrait … but sometimes I think people overlook the artists," Bryson said. "You look at why (men's basketball coach) Chris Lowery can be hired at this University at this period of time, or the number of African-Americans on athletic teams, I think a lot is traced back to Dr. Boydston."

Boydston's vision took advantage of conditions at the time that opened doors and helped lure many outstanding athletes to Carbondale from the South, such as football standouts Houston Antwine and Carver Shannon and basketball great Walt Frazier, Bryson said.

Bryson also credits then-University President Delyte W. Morris. Morris recruited Boydston from his job as a professor in health education at the University of Mississippi to establish SIUC's department of health education.

Boydston, along with others Morris hired, "were leaders and men of vision who saw how great this University could be. But they also believed this University should be inclusive," Bryson said.

The 68-page booklet also includes the recollections of many former Saluki standouts including Antwine, Shannon, Willie Brown, George McNeil and Paul Henry.

"I was struck by his enthusiasm, his continuing support of everything Saluki and SIU; I could tell immediately that the spirit he had brought to this job was very much alive," Davis said. "When 'Doc' Boydston described driving up to Carbondale from Mississippi with Jo Ann beside him and Carver Shannon sitting in the back seat playing a saxophone, I could see it as clearly as if I had been there."

Boydston served as athletics director from 1957 to 1972, a period Bryson considers the golden age of Saluki athletics. Between 1960 and 1972, SIUC teams won 12 national championships in gymnastics, cross country, swimming, golf and tennis.

Much like the faculty members he sought for his health education department, Boydston, the athletics director, sought out coaches who were viewed as the youngest and brightest nationally and who reflected some of his values.

"This University was built on the shoulders of many men," Bryson said. "He was just one of them. But he had a very important role to play in athletics and the development of the University."

Bryson does not believe the current balanced approach and program successes in SIUC athletics would have been possible without Boydston's efforts.

"He set the foundation for the current program in terms of the emphasis on the 'minor sports' and non-revenue sports," Bryson said. "Many universities were moving away from some of the sports; under Doc's leadership, those sports were considered an integral part of the overall athletics program."

Boydston also expected student-athletes to excel off the field or court.

"This was an area he emphasized as much as anything. You had to be a student first and then an athlete," Bryson said. "The demands and expectations aren't as great today, but I think he was also preparing us. At that time very few athletes were ineligible; a majority of them graduated and went on to get advanced degrees. To Doc, as important as your achievement on the athletic field was what you were doing in the classroom."

The continuing affection for Boydston was evident when talking with former student-athletes, Davis said.

"They for certain, know how very important Doc's contribution was not only to the rise of Saluki athletics, a balanced 10-sport program, but also to their individual lives," he said. "You talk to people like Harold Bardo, Carver Shannon, George McNeil and Paul Henry, and you understand immediately what impact Doc had on their lives and why they so fervently hope the University community will remember him."

"He cared about those student-athletes," Davis said. "He wanted to be sure they came here and got more than playing time — he wanted to be sure they received an education and an opportunity for a career."

Bryson believes naming a facility on campus for Boydston would honor a man who helped open up the University not only to athletes, but also to students who completed the health education program, including many who received doctorates.

Copies of the booklet are available through Bryson's office, 110 Anthony Hall, or by calling 453-1186. The booklets are free, but anyone who wants to make a donation will help to endow a scholarship that is being established in Boydston's name, Bryson said.

Donations may be sent to Bryson's office. Checks should be made out to the Donald Boydston Scholarship Fund.

Remembering a Saluki legend — Seymour Bryson, associate chancellor for diversity at Southern Illinois University Carbondale, is among those who credit Donald Boydston for integrating SIUC’s athletic programs after his arrival on campus in 1955, guiding the University’s nationally recognized health education department and transforming Saluki athletics from a small-time college program into a big-time university showcase. A new book, “A Man of Vision, Donald Boydston: A Memoir,” details the pivotal impact Boydston had on the players and students he attracted to SIUC and mentored. Donations or contributions for the book will be used to endow a scholarship in Boydston’s name.

Photo by Steve Buhman