UI Recreational Services director retiring


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When Harry Ostrander returned to the University of Iowa in the fall of 1969, the tuition and fees for a full-time liberal-arts student stood at just $185 and $500 for in-state and non-Iowa residents respectively.

The UI operated just one recreational facility, the Field House, which offered only men’s intramural sports.

Since then, the UI has built 68 facilities, five of which are managed by Recreational Services.

Ostrander has operated through a campus shooting, fire, three floods, and a tornado, and he has overseen millions of dollars in facility investment, most notably the Campus Recreation & Wellness Center in 2010.

Simply put, Ostrander has been with the university for a long time.

“He’s been here longer than dirt, longer than buildings, and longer than 12 presidents,” Athletics Director Gary Barta said during the retirement celebration Wednesday for the UI director of Recreational Services.

Ostrander returned to the UI after a brief stint at Florida State University and a persistent phone call from then-Hawkeye Athletics Director Forest Evashevski. He became director of UI Recreational Services in June 1969.

He has since occupied the Field House for more than half of his life.

But after more than 40 years, Ostrander will leave the UI on June 30 and retire.

Or at least sort of.

JT Timmons, the current director of Recreational Sports at the University of Illinois-Springfield will take over the helm as Ostrander transitions now into a two-year, 50 percent retirement period.

“When a recreation director can’t beat a [UI] vice president in golf, it’s time to retire,” he said of losing to UI Vice President for Student Life Tom Rocklin.

But Rocklin was hesitant about calling it that.

“He’s celebrating his retirement; we’re celebrating his career,” he said.

Rocklin credited Ostrander for bringing the UI into the competitive college spectrum, emphasizing that the facilities under which he pushed into fruition have helped improve student retention and recruitment efforts.

When he began his career as director, Ostrander had an operating budget was just $22,000, under a staff composed of seven student employees and a secretary.

Today that staff includes 41 full-time employees, five graduate assistants, and 56 student employees with a budget that has grown to $14.3 million.

Joni Troester, the director of organizational effectiveness/health and productivity for Human Resources, said working with Ostrander for the past 15 years has resulted in the creation of a wonderful partner, mentor, and friend. She credited him for the UI becoming nationally recognized for recreation and wellness awards.

“I shared my vision with Harry and he listened,” she said. “But he not only listened, he championed these efforts. He leaves a tremendous legacy for years to come.”

UI Dean of Students David Grady echoed Toni’s sentiments.

“Much of the growth we’ve seen over the past 40 years can be attributed to him,” he said.

For Ostrander, the success of the last 40 years is seen in the thousands of UI employees who choose to come into work each day to the university, he said.

But in foreshadowing his retirement, he closed his remarks in one fitting way. 

“I’m still going to be around for a couple of years, but if you’ve got any complaints, call David Grady,” he said. “I’ll be at the Field House.”

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