Hello. My name is Emmett L. Gill, Jr., and I am an assistant professor at the Rutgers University School of Social Work. I might be what you consider a non-traditional academic – I study the intersection between sports and society, I am relatively young (below 40 in dog years), and I am a black male. I hope this mix of variables will make for some interesting blogging as I attempt to stimulate your intellectual juices with a few appetizers on academics and athletics in higher education.
However, before I delve into academics and athletics please bear with me while I share with you my memories of a black male educator – Emmett L. Gill, Sr. –my Dad! Senior was in the field of education for 36 years – rising from the ranks of a middle school English teacher to assistant principal of one of the largest, most challenging city high schools in North Carolina. In other words, my father was getting his Joe Clark on well before Lean on Me hit the big screen. Labeled as a gentle giant my father was 6’4”, 300-plus, but his students and colleagues viewed him as gentle because of his soft voice and uncanny ability to bring peace to almost any situation.
One of my fathers’ “people tools” was his desire to teach young men and women how to use sport to obtain an education. My father accepted a basketball scholarship to Winston Salem Teachers College to play basketball for the legendary Clarence “Big House” Gaines – while also lettering in football and golf. As a teacher and administrator he used his experiences to motivate at-risk males to obtain their high school education and for marginal student-athletes to use their athletic prowess to obtain a functional degree. I did not understand it when I was younger, but my father had a vested interest, I mean a passion, for influencing students’ lives. I cannot make a trip home without one of his former students stopping me and expressing to me how my father influenced their life. It’s funny how social learning and modeling works because I am driven by a similar purpose.
On Tuesday, April 29, 2008, at the age of 69 my father was called home by his lord and savior. I will miss him dearly as will my mother, sister, and the scores of students he schooled. My father raised an educator and scores of teachers, librarians, mental health workers, accountants, contractors, bankers and yes professional athletes – I hope that I can influence my students the way Mr. Gill influenced his “Gillites”.
While I have shed many tears I must get back to work in memory of one of the greatest black male educators we will ever see – my Dad – Senior – Mr. G!
Dr. Gill is an assistant professor in the School of Social Work at Rutgers University.