Bob 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. It’s not too far-fetched to imagine him in the field house directing calisthenics, clipboard in hand, whistle clenched tightly between his teeth.


But, it’s 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 departments—men and women—studying 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. I’m 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 University’s 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 patients—a 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 surgery—often 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 Kertzer’s career. He speaks enthusiastically of a just-published paper by a former master’s student and of graduates who have gone on to establish international reputations.

“I don’t 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. They’ve 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, he’ll 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 Kertzer’s retirement. “I miss listening to someone who cared about his university so much . . . who celebrated his students, who always knew their names.”


—Mike Jones, University Publications

 

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Distinguished Professor, Robert Kertzer

Robert Kertzer with Donald Murray at Durham’s Bagelry

Robert Kertzer, professor of kinesiology, School of Health and Human Services, with Donald Murray, professor emeritus of English, and Mike McConnell, associate professor of art, the Bagelry, Durham, N.H.

 

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