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J. Robert Rossman

J. Robert Rossman

Professor and dean emeritus | Illinois State University | Class of 1975

Robert Rossman dedicated the 25th anniversary edition of his book — “Recreation Programming; Designing, Staging, and Managing the Delivery of Leisure Experiences” — to his favorite UI professor.

After all, it might not have made it to a first edition — let alone the eight it’s at now — if not for the late, great Joe Bannon, longtime head of the UI’s Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism.

“He published my first book even though all reviewers advised against its publication,” Rossman says. “It has become a classic book in the field and has sold over 30,000 copies through eight editions during the past 33 years.”

After earning his second UI degree — a Ph.D. in leisure studies in 1981 — Rossman himself went on to a career as an academic, serving as a professor, dean and department chair at North Texas, UNLV and Illinois State, where he aimed to have the same impact on his students that Bannon did on him.

“He was always prepared for class,” Rossman recalls. “He covered the material well and provided interesting examples of how theoretical issues played out in actual practice. He encouraged students to invest in their strengths. He was courageous and insightful.

“My relationship with him continued for several decades after completing my degree and he became a valued mentor, colleague and friend. He included me in many of his endeavors.

"One of the most interesting was a speaking engagement to address an international meeting of Morale, Welfare and Recreation personnel in San Antonio, Texas, about rebranding their activities. We were in the ‘green room’ waiting our turn to speak and in walked Tommy Lasorda.

“We spent about 15 minutes with him. He is quite a talker and thought being a leisure studies professor sounded really interesting. Joe proposed to Tommy that we change jobs for one day. He could be head of the department of leisure studies and Joe and I would coach the Dodgers. Tommy said he would love it but did not believe his bosses would go for it.

“Being a colleague of Joe's was always interesting and adventuresome. His passing was a personal loss to me and a loss to the profession.”