After more than 40 years of service to WVU and CPASS, Dean Dana Brooks retired on June 30, 2019. A tireless advocate for diversity and for his students, Brooks leaves behind a legacy of innovative leadership and passion for his field — sports education.
Dana Brooks knew he wanted a career teaching and inspiring others even as a youth growing up in Hagerstown, MD. He was a consummate team player. And he has the trophies and awards to prove it, stacked high on his shelves. He was never focused on the scoring or winning, but on supporting his team. “I was a passer. I defended. The team scored for you. I’m all about the team,” Brooks says.
He also knew the positive influence a great teacher or coach could have, especially on minority students. He often cites the coaches and teachers he had as the greatest influence on why he pursued a career in education. “I wanted to be like them. I wanted to teach physical education in public schools. I wanted to teach kids, elementary school kids. I wanted to help them play, laugh, have fun — not complete reports — but in a way that they’re learning and don’t know it,” Brooks says.
He began his career at Hagerstown Junior College, where he earned an Associate of Arts in 1971. He continued his studies at Towson State College, earning a Bachelor of Science in 1973. After serving as a substitute teacher in Washington County, MD, in 1974, he launched into academia full force at WVU, picking up a Master of Science in 1976 and a Doctor of Education in 1979.
At the same time, Brooks served as a graduate teaching assistant, getting his first taste of teaching in higher education. And he fell in love with it, specifically the field of sports psychology. “I learned it’s not just about the activities people do, but why they do it and who does it. It’s the sociology, the culture, the history, the justice. It’s about male vs. female and black and white — the whys and why nots.”
Brooks was immediately hired on as an instructor of physical education at WVU in 1978, moving into roles with progressively more responsibility as the years went on.
Former business planning officer Sharon Sisler recalls Brooks’ earliest days in the College during her 48 years there. “I first met Dana when he was just a young faculty member. The college administrators were constantly singing his praises for accomplishments in the classroom, his research focus and his service to both the community and his profession,” Sisler says. “His high energy and sense of humor endeared him to students, coworkers and those in leadership. We served on several committees and projects together, and he became my mentor, teacher and encourager.”
He moved quickly from instructor to minority recruitment/retention coordinator to acting assistant dean in the then School of Physical Education from 1986 to 1987. From then on, Brooks continued to serve in leadership roles — as acting chairperson in the former Department of Sport and Exercise Studies, as acting and then associate dean in the School of Physical Education, as acting graduate coordinator and then as interim dean of the School of Physical Education.
He became dean of the current College of Physical Activity and Sport Sciences in 1993 and served there until his retirement. Lynn Housner, associate dean emeritus and former professor of physical education teacher education considers Brooks one of his biggest influences. “I met Dana during a pre-interview lunch. He had been the dean only for a year or so, but he had a clear vision of where he wanted CPASS to go. It was hard not to become excited about his vision. I decided then that I wanted to work with him at WVU.”
“I first met Dana when he was just a young faculty member ... His high energy and
sense of humor endeared him to students, coworkers and those in leadership. We
served on several committees and projects together, and he became my mentor.”
With such a rich and extensive career in education, Brooks has been at the helm during
some incredible changes in the College’s history. He was integral in expanding
degree programs for both undergraduate and graduate students at CPASS; moving to
a new, high-tech building with cutting-edge lab and classroom spaces; bringing
on new faculty and, of course, overseeing the College’s name change in 2007. Brooks
also oversaw the development of the International Center of Performance Excellence
and the current iteration of
FiT Publishing. “Dana stepped into that quarterback role, leading our college
in a mighty long drive through challenges, detours, sometimes roadblocks, but always
finding the path to our successes, and seizing every opportunity to give thanks
and credit to those on his team along the way,” Sisler says.
In his spare time, Brooks wasn’t one to sit around. He served on every board, committee
and council he could, from being a fellow of the American Academy of Kinesiology
and Physical Education to serving as president of the American Alliance for Health,
Physical Education, Recreation and Dance. He was also a chair or member of the
WVU Athletics Council, Black Community Concerns, Social Justice Council and Affirmative
Miraculously, he also found time to help the rising generation get interested in
sports and physical activity, working with underprivileged youth from ages nine
to 15 as project administrator of CPASS’s National Youth Sports Program, which
offers enrichment activities over the summer in Monongalia County (as well as free
physicals, and free and reduced meals). Housner says his fondest memories are of
Brooks’ high-energy, multitask approach to leadership. “We used to shake our heads
and smile at his energy and passion for CPASS. We only hoped we could keep up,”
His research interests reflected this passion for bringing the benefits of sports
to the underprivileged. He dug deep into the history of sports integration at WVU
and the African American sport experience. He has made more than 100 presentations
at the state, national and international levels on these topics and has co-edited
and authored “Racism and College Athletics” (3rd edition), “Diversity and Social
Justice in College Sports” and seven book chapters over his career. “Dana was a
powerful role model as a scholar-practitioner,” Housner says. “We were also committed
to diversifying faculty, which was primarily male and white. CPASS now has one
of the most diverse faculty at WVU.”
These achievements have not gone unnoticed. He was honored with the Dean’s Recognition
Award from the College of Health Professions at Towson University, the Lifetime
Achievement Award from Hagerstown Junior College, induction into the Hagerstown
Junior College Sports Hall of Fame, the Martin Luther King, Jr. Achievement Award
from the WVU Center for Black Culture and Research, the Neil S. Bucklew Social
Justice Award and the Martin Luther King “Living the Dream” Award from the Martin
Luther King, Jr. Holiday Commission of the State of West Virginia.
“It has been a privilege to teach undergraduate and graduate classes and to serve
as dean for the past 26 years,” Brooks says. “I have had the honor of working with
outstanding and gifted faculty, staff, students and alumni from the College. West
Virginia University and the state of West Virginia changed and enhanced my life.
I am proud to be a Mountaineer.”
“We used to shake our heads and smile at [Dana’s] energy and passion for CPASS.
We only hoped we could keep up.”