ob Kertzer is not your typical PE teacher. Sure, his colleagues call him a gym rat and joke that his one and only computer is a yellow legal pad. Its not too far-fetched to imagine him in the field house directing calisthenics, clipboard in hand, whistle clenched tightly between his teeth.
But, its because of Kertzer and his pioneering work at UNH that we have a new respect for that PE teacher, not to mention a greater appreciation for the place of exercise in our daily lives.
Kertzer, recently retired professor of kinesiology, possesses
the gift of reinvention, a gift he put to great use in his 36 years at
UNH. Soon after he arrived in Durham in 1965, fresh from his doctoral
work at Michigan State, Kertzer led the effort to transform the physical
education department with its teacher prep model to a program
of professional preparation grounded in the biological and social sciences.
Research, that was his real game, says long-time
friend and Professor Emeritus Don Murray. He led the way.
Kertzer recalls that the department was very different
back then. Really, it was two departmentsmen and womenstudying
separately. The program was not academic-, but activity-oriented.
The push to reinvent physical education, which ultimately
became kinesiology in 1995, put UNH ahead of the curve, says Kertzer.
We became academically very respected. We were one of the first
universities to develop beyond preparation of phys. ed. teachers. That
enabled us to offer these careers [in physical education] to academically
gifted students. It was a real turning point. Im very proud of the
effort we made.
Kertzer and his students were soon touting the benefits
of exercise to members of the University and Seacoast communities. The
Universitys employee fitness program has been going strong for two
decades and the Cardiac Rehabilitation Program, once a novelty, became
a model for similar programs nationwide.
It occurred to me as a physiologist that exercise might be very valuable to cardiac patientsa real innovation in 1978, says Kertzer as he explains that bed rest was the standard prescription for cardiac patients. Not only were we doing patients no good, we may have been harming them.
Today, thanks in part to Kertzer and his students, cardiac
patients can expect to be exercising soon after heart attacks or surgeryoften
before they even leave the hospital.
The most wonderful thing about the program,
says Kertzer, is that it provides undergraduates with a great clinical
experience. Every exercise science major is required to spend half a semester
in the program.
This devotion to the student experience has been a hallmark
of Kertzers career. He speaks enthusiastically of a just-published
paper by a former masters student and of graduates who have gone
on to establish international reputations.
I dont fancy myself as complicated,
he says as he tries to explain his classroom success. To sustain
my enthusiasm, I remembered the impact that dedicated and caring professors
had on me. I said to myself, Never forget that. Offer it as a model.
So, what does a master teacher do in retirement? Reinvents
himself, of course. Since leaving Durham for Tucson last December, Kertzer
and his wife Joyce have taken up tennis and hiking. Theyve hiked
some 250 miles and are now planning a trip to Australia and New Zealand.
Kertzer will be back in Durham before then. The School
of Health and Human Services is planning to rename the exercise physiology
lab inhis honor. And, of course, hell drop
by the Bagelry for coffee with former colleagues Don Murray and Mike McConnell.
I miss his 11 Brooklyn stories retold 1,318 mornings
for a total of 14,498 times, joked Murray on the occasion of Kertzers
retirement. I miss listening to someone who
cared about his university so much . . . who celebrated his students,
who always knew their names.