Alumni Award Recipients
Except from the award presentation remarks made by Country Day alumnus and former student-athlete of the honoree, Dr. Robert Dixon '83, during commencement exercises for the Class of 2016:
This year’s honoree has made a lasting and significant impact on generations of students and alumni during his four decades of service to our school community. He is a beloved teacher, a compassionate student advisor, and a dedicated coach.
He joined the Upper School history department in 1976 and has been instrumental in the growth and evolution of the history curriculum at Country Day. In the 80s and 90s, he collaborated with the English department to create and teach the American Studies program. He also played a key role in the development of political science and Advanced Placement history courses, including U.S. History and Government and Politics.
While his extensive knowledge of his subject matter is impressive, what students appreciate most is his approach to teaching. His classroom offers an open atmosphere conductive to dialogue and the exchange of ideas, and his steady, supportive, and reassuring manner puts students at ease. He tends to listen more than speak; however, both his colleagues and students appreciate his dry wit and knack for saying the right thing at the right time.
This year’s honoree is also a great advocate for students and has served as a valued advisor to many in both an official and unofficial capacity. Steve Windell, one of his former advisees from the class of 1983, said, “He was instrumental in ensuring my acceptance to the colleges of my choice, and he helped guide me through my ultimate decision. Of all the great memories I have about him, what brings me the most joy is that he is now my son’s advisor. Thirty-plus years later, and I still have that same confidence and trust in him.”
Although this year’s honoree can be kind to a fault, do not let his unassuming manner fool you – he is a determined competitor. Over the years, he has coached hundreds of Country Day athletes in baseball, basketball, and football, and he established and developed our golf program into one of the best in the state.
With gentle, yet persistent, encouragement, he instills confidence in his students-athletes. And he ensures they are prepared, both physically and mentally. As a result, his teams have won numerous state and conference championships, and many of his players have gone on to play golf at the collegiate and professional levels. But as one of his former players explained, “He never let his players lose sight of the fact that our first priority at Country Day was our education.”
One fond and funny memory shared by many of his former basketball team members is that when he would get frustrated with the team during games, he would put his hands in the air and shout, "Jiminy Cricket, what are we doing?”
Ed Walton, longtime friend, coach, and faculty member, shared, “If I had to describe him in one word, it would be loyal. He is steadfastly loyal to Country Day and the students and athletes he has taught, advised, and coached, as well as those with whom he shared his teaching and coaching duties.”
Other words used to describe this year’s honoree are dedicated, hardworking, consistent, and intentional. But perhaps his two most distinguishing traits are his positive energy and humble charisma. He takes a genuine interest others and is always available to listen, guide, and encourage those around him. Al Dickens, one of his former students from the class of 1981 who later coached JV football with him, shared, “His daily examples of selflessness were both instructional and inspiring. He showed us the importance of lifting up others by our words and actions, and that we should always do whatever we can to make those around us successful.”
Truly, this year’s honoree is a coach in every sense of the word — in the classroom, on the athletic fields, and in life. When I first began coaching my children’s sports teams, he was the coach I most wanted to emulate.
“Be prepared. Work hard. Little mistakes turn into big mistakes. Perfection is what we strive for but cannot achieve. We can always improve. Be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. You can do more than you think you are capable of doing.”
These are the lessons I learned from him. Some of these he told me, some of these he showed me by his actions. And these are the lessons that I try to pass on to my own children and those I coach. I can think of no better legacy or no one more deserving of this award.