The University’s first chancellor, Bishop Warren Akin Candler, was well known for his stern disapproval of organized sports. Once, in the 1920s, he referred to intercollegiate athletic competition as “evil, only evil, and that continually.”

But, as Emory’s reigning sports historian Clyde Partin ’50C-’51G has observed, “Anytime you get a bunch of boys together, they’re going to do something. They played tag in those days. They played anything.”

Partin should know. He has been a player on the Emory sports scene, in one position or another, for more than half a century. A 1950 graduate of Emory College, Partin went on to teach, coach soccer, and then to serve as chair of the Division of Physical Education and Athletics for twenty years, from 1966 to 1986. He presided over the move into the new George W. Woodruff Physical Education Center in 1983, a turning point for sports at Emory.

During Partin’s time at Emory, the athletics program has blossomed from a few P.E. classes and games in an airplane hangar (the old Emory gym) to a highly successful and diverse effort that includes a first-rate facility, a coaching staff of fourteen, and some 330 varsity student athletes. Partin continued to teach P.E. classes while working on a book that documents Emory athletics from the 1930s to the dawn of the twenty-first century.

Partin officially retired from his post as professor of health and physical education on December 31, 2002. Dozens of Emory community members, including President William M. Chace and wife JoAn Chace, turned out for his retirement party, held–appropriately–on the third floor walkway over the P.E. Center, while students and staff in T-shirts sweated through their workouts and swigged from water bottles on the floor just below.

“It’s been a great fifty years,” Partin said. “I would not trade anything for my time here. I was lucky to come as a student, and never in my wildest dreams did I think I would be on the faculty. I certainly never thought I’d be here fifty years. The people have been the greatest part–not just the faculty, but the students, too.”

Partin is “one of the proverbial unforgettable characters,” says Don Schroer, chair of Physical Education at Emory, whom Partin hired as men’s tennis coach in 1967. “He’s been a mentor to me all these years, and I have great respect for what he’s done for Emory and for me.”

Tom Johnson, a longtime soccer coach and professor of P.E. who also has also served as chair of the department, calls Partin “Mr. Emory.”

“It’s been very enjoyable to be associated with him,” says Johnson, who has worked with Partin for thirty-seven years. “He would do anything to enhance Emory and his influence here has been very positive. It will be different without him–he’s so friendly. He’s one of the old school.”

Colleagues and friends already are lamenting his departure, but Partin has an unusual definition of retirement. He’s still in his office in the P.E. Center every day, surrounded by stacks of old copies of the Emory Wheel, working on his book, which he hopes to finish this semester.

“I’ll take January first off,” he said at his retirement party, “but I’ll be back on January second. I’ll be working until I finish it. The good thing about it is, it’s just been a lot of fun.”–P.P.P.



© 2003 Emory University