Donald “Dee” Rowe, acclaimed coach, mentor and athletics adviser at UConn, was named one of the “100 Most Influential Sports Educators” in October. Rowe was awed by this recognition, repeatedly stating his gratitude and appreciation for the award.
“I’m very much overwhelmed by it,” Rowe said. “I’m very honored.”
One hundred educators were selected and awarded the title by the Institute for International Sports (IIS). This was the first year the prize was awarded.
Dan Doyle, director of IIS, said choosing Rowe was a no-brainer.
“He was one of the easiest choices,” Doyle said. “No debate at all.”
Over the course of three years, a very distinguished selection committee of college athletic directors narrowed the list from 1,500 to 100 nominees.
“The people who nominated Dee really pointed to the number of individuals he has successfully mentored,” Doyle said.
Rowe was Doyle’s high school basketball coach at Worcester Academy in Worcester, Mass. Rowe coached Doyle and Scott Beeten, now the men’s basketball head coach at the University of Albany.
Beeten said he tried to emulate Rowe when he first began coaching.
“He was a brilliant coach who knew how to treat people, how to motivate them and how to show loyalty,” Beeten said on the University of Albany Web site. “I was very fortunate to play for a guy who was not only a tremendous basketball coach, but who was really a special human being.”
After Worcester Academy, Rowe came to UConn in 1969 as the head coach of the men’s basketball team. During this eight-year span, Rowe coached Dennis Wolff who is now the head coach of Boston University. Afterward, having posted an overall record of 120-88, including an 88-48 mark in his last five seasons, Rowe stepped down from his coaching position, according to the UConn Huskies Web site.
A year later, in 1978, he established the University of Connecticut Athletic Development Fund which funds athletic scholarships through donations. Finally in 1991, when he was 61, Rowe retired from his full-time position but was kept on staff as a special advisor of athletics.
He has spent his work weeks advising athletes in a small office on the side of Gampel Pavilion with its white walls covered in plaques, awards and memorable. However, the only thing greater than the number of titles and trophies Rowe has amassed is his humility.
“So many others were more deserving of the award,” Rowe said, adding that he was obliged to simply be a sports educator. “I feel like the luckiest guy in the world to have been in this profession for 52 years,” he said.
Rowe has devoted his life to athletics and the mentoring of young people. He said he believes learning through the competition of sports is one of the best forms of education. Not only do athletics teach life lessons but the locker room is a place of diversity. “It’s important for young people to dare to compete; to pursue excellence,” he said. “Sports bring cultures together. You make an awful lot of friendships that give you strength.”
One reason why Rowe has accomplished so much in his lifetime is because of his passion.
“You’ve got to love to do it,” Rowe said. “Your passion directs you and the work is a privilege.”
Rowe said he will undoubtedly continue to mentor and advise young people.
“I still think I have more work to do.”