The 1980s were full of great athletes

Jackson’s impact on campus and Canada-wide has been ginormous. He served as the dean of the faculty of kinesiology for two five-year terms from 1978-88. This put him in position to mastermind many of the great improvements–such as the Jack Simpson Gymnasium and Olympic Oval–the U of C campus saw during this time, especially approaching the 1988 Winter Olympic Games.

Jackson has remained involved with many Olympic initiatives, including being a senior advisor to London’s Olympic bid and chief executive officer of Canada’s “Own the Podium” initiative aimed at placing Canada at the top of the 2010 medal standings.

In naming him to their hall of fame, the U of C is somewhat behind the times. Jackson has already been recognized by Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame, the Canadian Olympic Hall of Fame, has received the Canadian Olympic Order and is an Officer of the Order of Canada.

During his terms as dean, Jackson built the U of C’s first masters and doctorate programs in kinesiology and founded the Sport Medicine Centre, which is still operating at the U of C. The recent expansion built on top of the Sport Medicine Centre, opened July, 2005, was named the Roger Jackson Centre for Health and Wellness Research and his name can easily be seen from the MacEwan Students’ Centre north loop.

“It was very special. I had no idea,” Jackson said of his reaction to the centre in his name. “For the university to name a building after you is very extraordinary. For them to do it while you’re still around is an incredible honour. I’m very humbled.”

Before his time as dean, Jackson was an Olympic athlete himself, competing in rowing in the 1964, 1968 and 1972 Olympics. He won a gold medal in 1964 in the coxless-pair rowing event.

Jackson’s favourite part of his job was working with young people. He enjoyed the new crop of students each year that would learn and grow.

“The university environment is tremendously positive,” he explained. “It teaches you to think and work as a team.”

One athlete who saw his fair share of teamwork and success was Randy Gingera. He began playing for the Dinos men’s volleyball squad right after high school in the 1985-86 season. He saw the Dinos win the bronze at the 1988 Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union Men’s Volleyball Championship and the gold in 1989. He was named both U of C Male Athlete of the Year and CIAU Male Volleyball Player of the Year in 1989 and was a CIAU First-Team All-Canadian in 1988 and 1989.

“We were arguably one of the best in North America,” Gingera said of the Dinos squad back then. “We accelerated through American as well as Canadian teams. Being part of that program was very important.”

After his time with the Dinos, Gingera continued playing volleyball with the national team for almost 10 years. With games around the world under his belt, Gingera returned to the U of C in 2000 for a fine arts degree. He went on to obtain a masters degree in environmental design. Being inducted to the hall of fame turned out to be different than Gingera had expected.

“When I was coming, I thought it wouldn’t be a big deal. But it’s huge. It’s a big honour,” he said. “There are some great Olympic medalists here. Being recognized with them is fantastic.”

Michelle Conn started for five years on the Dinos field hockey team from 1981-85. In her final year, she became the first Dino to receive CIAU All-Canadian honours. But Conn’s field hockey career didn’t end there; the Dinos program opened a window of opportunity for her.

“For me it was a chance to still be included in school athletics,” she explained. “And the university league in field hockey is like junior hockey to the NHL. I got the bug and wanted to be on the national team. The U of C was a great place to train.”

And she remained in control of her own destiny; after playing for the Dinos, Conn was consistently playing on the international stage. There, she conjured up goals as a starter with the 1988 and 1992 Olympic team and alternate on the 1984 team.

She was the co-captain of the national team from 1989-92 and a member of the 1986 team that won bronze at the World Championship. In 2001 she became the second field-hockey-playing member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame.

But Conn was not content with her field hockey successes. After retiring from the national team, she concentrated on marathons and triathlons and now plays golf.

As athletes like these are honoured, more are just breaking out of their moulds in the current Dinos programs. As long as great athletes keep coming to the U of C, there will be many more names added to the Hall of Fame over the years.

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