Graduating to Retirement

HMSLS Director Dr. Steve Langendorfer Ready to Embark on New Adventures After Two Decades at BGSU

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By: Anne-Margaret Swary

The School of Human Movement, Sport and Leisure Studies (HMSLS) is bidding goodbye to Director and Professor Steve Langendorfer as he prepares to retire at the end of June.

Langendorfer has been part of the BGSU faculty for more than 20 years, arriving in 1994 to chair what was then called the Physical Education and Dance Division (later Kinesiology Division). After a four-year term, he returned to teaching classes such as structural kinesiology, motor development, measurement and swimming/water safety.

Later, he served the wider university community as part of the General Education Committee, now known as the BG Perspective program. He served as its director for seven years – a post that helped him develop skills in what he calls “looking at the big picture.”  

That ability to consider broad perspectives served him well when he became HMSLS interim director in 2013. He became the permanent director the following year and has held that position for the last three years.

As School director, Langendorfer helped oversee and usher in a number of changes and initiatives in HMSLS ranging from revising faculty reappointment and tenure policies to updating curricula in many of the school’s degree programs, which include undergraduate degrees in exercise science, dance, sport management, physical education health education, and tourism, leisure and event planning, as well as a graduate degree with specializations in kinesiology, sport administration, and leisure and tourism.

“Steve has given so much to HMSLS,” said professor and graduate coordinator Dr. Vikki Krane. “He has capably guided us through good and bad times. Through it all he infused wisdom with humor. He always is well-intentioned and fair, leaving us with a model for our future. We will miss Steve greatly, but thanks to his mentorship, he has left us in good shape for the future.”

Of particular importance under Langendorfer’s tenure was the transformation of the physical education teacher education program into physical education health education (PEHE), which created a dual major and licensing that was much more helpful to students in finding jobs.

“Dr. Langendorfer was very helpful and supportive as we created the health education program in our PEHE major,” said program coordinator Dr. Pam Bechtel. “He was able to see the global need for this major being included in our program. We appreciated his support during the program development process. He understood physical education’s needs to move into the future to attract more students to our program.”

In addition to his humor and acumen, his colleagues say they will miss his commitment to the faculty and students in HMSLS.

“Steve has been a wonderful colleague,” said newly promoted professor and soon-to-be School Director Dr. Ray Schneider. “He was always willing to take on responsibility and allow the faculty members within our school to focus on our teaching, advising and research.

“He also was always concerned about the well-being of our students. Often, students would pop in to see him and he would stop what he was doing and listen to what they had to say.”

Indeed, the students are one of the many things Langendorfer will miss most about BGSU.

“I’ve always enjoyed teaching, as well as the intellectual challenge of trying to help students really learn and master the learning outcomes,” he said. “One of my favorite times in class was involving the children from the Child Development Center in our laboratory sessions for the motor development class. It was a hit for the college students and for the preschoolers who used to call it ‘coming to Mr. Steve’s gym!’ ”

He said he also will miss the camaraderie among the faculty the opportunity to help at Commencement ceremonies.  

“I am crazy about going to Commencements,” he said. “I really like to participate. It shapes my year. I love the challenge of announcing names at Commencement, and it’s special announcing your own students’ names.”

Luckily, students will still have a chance to spot him at future ceremonies as he still plans to help out as an emeritus faculty member.

And although he admits there is a certain sadness about all the things he’s going to miss, “there’s also excitement about things I’ll be able to spend more time doing.”

At the top of that list is spending more time with Jeanne, his spouse of 40 years, and adult daughters Anne and Caroline and son Patrick. In particular, he plans to see more of 18-month-old grandson Ciaran, followed closely by continuing his favorite activities: swimming, cycling, canoeing and wilderness camping.

In fact, Langendorfer has biked to work every day for most of his tenure at BGSU, including  during warm weather months when the family lived in Perrysburg. Neither snow nor rain deters him.

“Everyone always says ‘But it’s so cold!’ and I say, ‘Yes, but it takes me a third of the time to get here, so I’m not cold as long as you are,’ Langendorfer quipped.

He’s also a lifelong competitive swimmer and still swims 2 to 2.5 miles (that’s 140 to 180 widths of the Cooper Pool at the Recreation and Wellness Center) every day and at City Park pool on weekends in the summer.

Langendorfer has built an international reputation as an expert on water safety and developmental aquatics through his writing, editorial and service work to prevent drownings. His efforts earned him the prestigious Ireland Medal, presented by the Lifesaving Foundation at its International Drowning Prevention and Rescue Conference in Ireland in 2014 “in recognition of his long exceptional contribution to saving lives from drowning.”

In retirement, the Lifesaving Association has asked him to chair its Research Committee. He will continue his membership on the American Red Cross’s Scientific Advisory Committee and continue to edit the International Journal of Aquatic Research and Education.

Langendorfer also currently chairs the city of Bowling Green’s Bicycle Safety Commission.

“At some point, I would still like to bike across the country,” he said. “And if they ever clean up Lake Erie, I have the goal of swimming to Canada. With the blue-green algae blooms, it’s too dangerous right now.”

But the first thing he’ll cross off his bucket list is the 740-mile Northern Forest Canoe Trail from New York to Maine this July. At 66, Langendorfer has absolutely no plans to slow down.

“I am a kinesiologist by training, which is a scientist who studies human movement,” he said. “I guess I try to practice what I preach.”