A Rosalie by Any Other Name

Posted by Lisa Wellman on March 18, 2014 in 2014-corkie-hedlund-A.jpgWe took their classes, prayed through their exams, ate at their dinner tables and never forgot the lessons they shared – both in and out of the classroom. You know who they are – Dr. Ronald Averyt, Dr. Ed Morrissey, Dr. Lora Reiter, Dr. Charles Anderson – just a few of the ones who came to OU and stayed, affecting the life of our school for decades. A handful of others belong to this fraternity, and Dr. Rosalie Hedlund is one of them, though hardly anyone knows her by that name.

“I had a twin sister whose name was Rosemarie, and due to their similarity, neither of us could go by our given names,” says Hedlund. “The family story is that when I was learning to talk, I called a fork a cork, and that’s how it came to be. I have tried to get rid of the nickname each time I moved to a new job or community and it never worked. The funny thing is, when I got to OU, I couldn’t take being called by my first name and asked Coach Bo (Boucek) and the others if they would call me Corkie.” They did and the rest is history.

Corkie Hedlund arrived at Ottawa University in the fall of 1981 as a head volleyball coach and PE instructor. At that time, the athletics department consisted of the head football and basketball coaches and Bo Boucek, who coached a multitude of other sports. Women’s sports were still considered less important than men’s, and Hedlund did not have an assistant coach or trainers to help her.

Though she loved sports and enjoyed coaching, she didn’t relish the associated recruiting and travel that took time away from the classroom because her primary focus was on teaching. For years she paid her dues before approaching Peter Sandstrom, the academic dean, about teaching full time.

In 1989 she was finally ensconced in full-time teaching and began exploring new ways to incorporate her philosophy of the importance of holistic education.

“When OU introduced Writing Across the Curriculum, several of our profs made a presentation to the Kansas Association of Teachers of English,” says Jan Lee, associate professor of liberal arts studies and associate library director. “The presentation was then published in Kansas English. The title was ‘Can a Coach Teach Writing?’ Yep, Corkie was that coach. Whoever heard of writing being required in a PE activity class?”

Hedlund’s desire to play an active role in OU’s Liberal Arts Studies (LAS) program stretched her even further outside the boundaries of a traditional PE teacher. For years, she taught First Year Core, a course designed to orient students to the academic realities of college through discussion, small group work, reading, and focused writing assignments. She eventually took up the challenge of advising Senior Core, a course that brings students’ entire college experience to bear on a complex issue. Her unique approach led her to create much of her own curriculum.

In 1983, Hedlund created the class she is most known for: Nontraditional Team Sports. It was so popular (and still is) that she eventually created a Non-Trad Sports II class, as well. Both courses focus on personal responsibility and helping teammates.

“I’ve always appreciated that ‘play hard, play fair, nobody gets hurt’ was a philosophy beyond sports,” says Galen Bunning ‘98. “Corkie asked us to use sports as a way to look at ourselves and society. It’s a great philosophy for life.”

“Her passion for her students to really think about life is something I will always remember,” says Lindsay Vest Cooper ‘05. “The time she took to read and respond to everything you wrote still amazes me.

She was often tough to please because she expected the very best from each of her students.” Her fellow professors agree – Hedlund expects the best of her students because she expects the best from herself.

“Our sharing of pedagogy is one of the things I value most about our friendship” says Lee. “I’ve borrowed more than one good idea from her to use in my classes. In fact, often we consider our pedagogical conversations a big part of our professional development.”

Hedlund’s determination to continue her own education (she received her master’s degree just before joining the OU faculty and her doctorate in 1985) provided her with several opportunities to move on to bigger universities, including the University of Kansas. She chose to stay at OU, however, to ensure face-to-face interaction with students on a daily basis.

“I’ll never forget the time I had to miss her class because my family thought my cousin was dying,” says Kristi Johnson Lambert ‘99. “I sped to Kansas City and didn’t think twice about checking in with professors first. When I returned, Corkie’s response was, ‘If you ever have to worry about missing a class due to a near death in the family, then you’re at the wrong school.’”

There is no doubt that Dr. Rosalie Hedlund is at the right school.

Court Crusher

The Ms. Hyde to Corkie’s famous Dr. Jekyll is the spirited, competitive athlete who comes out to play when she steps on to a racquetball court. All of her opponents cite her enthusiasm for the game and her ability to soundly defeat players half her age time and again.

“I learned all I know about racquetball from Corkie,” says Thy Yang ’98.

“I played with Corkie a couple times a week for years before I actually beat her,” says Danny Wellman ’97. “She coached me the entire time she pounded me, and I loved every minute of it!”

Well, she can’t be all nice, all the time, right?