June 26, 2001 11:00 pm
CLEANED OUT: Peggy Anderson has cleaned out her desk and will pass administrative responsibilities for Eastern Oregon University's athletic department to her successor, Rob Cashell, this week. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).
CLEANED OUT: Peggy Anderson has cleaned out her desk and will pass administrative responsibilities for Eastern Oregon University's athletic department to her successor, Rob Cashell, this week. (The Observer/PAT PERKINS).

By Pat Perkins

Observer Staff Writer

Peggy Anderson sat in her makeshift office in the Mountaineer Room of Quinn Coliseum when the alum and his wife walked in and thanked her for the pictures posted in the halls.

The displays include team photos from past Mountaineer teams, all those Anderson could muster over her last 15 years as the schools athletic director.

When I got here in 1986, I rescued a box about to be disposed that contained all these team photos from over the years, Anderson said.

The conversation with the former baseball player then turned into a tour of Quinns new fitness center and lockerroom, another of Andersons projects, one she worked to make sure was finished before she retires this week as athletic director.

Anderson does not consider the Quinn remodel her legacy, although she shows off the facilities with pride. Rather, shes more proud about the stability in the athletic program, the historical perspective shes promoted including those photo displays and the moves to increase opportunities for women.

Im pleased weve made significant progress, but we still need to be sensitive to the needs of our female student-athletes, she said.

Anderson departs this week for a year-long sabbatical that will take her east, south and west before she returns in September 2002 as a full-time physical education professor. Since 1986, Anderson has been a full-time athletic director with an often full-time teaching load. Anderson would prefer to teach, and the sabbatical will give her the opportunity to catch up on the innovations in biomechanics, exercise physiology, sports nutrition and special education.

I dont call myself a bad teacher, but I want to be a better teacher, she said.

She hasnt been a bad administrator, either. She was twice named the NAIA Athletic Directors Associations athletic director of the year, in 1993 and 1995, and was the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics athletic director of the year in 1999. Earlier this year, she was named a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame.

Her last week has been spent filing or discarding the paperwork of 15 years. A sticky note outside one binder said, Why are we keeping this? Anderson has had to answer that question countless times. The Mountaineer Room was full of folders and files and organizers and more paper than the fire marshal should allow.

We just didnt have the time every year to go through and throw out, so we got stacked. We have 15 years of stacks, she said.

Im really not going to miss anything about the administrative duties, she said. Im going to be able to have my weekends to choose to do what I want to do. Ive been looking forward to having some time to myself.

Over the next year, Anderson will spend her sabbatical taking classes at Penn State, studying exercise physiology in Taos, N.M., and developing graduate work opportunities for physical education students in Eugene and Corvallis.

Starting next week, she will have her first free summer since 1981. A lifelong fitness fanatic, Anderson will spend that time outdoors, either fishing or hiking, mountain biking or golfing. Her parents encouraged her to be active; not many parents would let their young children ride their bike through the streets of Portland so they could use the Lewis & Clark College athletic facilities.

From the smallest stages I can remember I was always interested in sports, so I played them when I could, she said.

As a girl, however, she faced the prejudices of a male-dominated sporting world. She was a Little League starting catcher for a week until told she couldnt play.

That kind of blew my mind, she said.

She played just about every sport offered, and she even climbed mountains, reaching the peaks of all major Cascade mountains. When she got to the College of Idaho (now Albertson College) in 1959, she played field hockey the only sport offered women.

Her first teaching job was at Eastern Oregon in 1963. Over the next 10 years, she coached womens basketball, field hockey, track and field and volleyball. In 1973 she moved to Tucson, Ariz., and eventually became the University of Arizonas first intercollegiate womens track and field coach.

With that background, its no surprise that softball and womens soccer have been added in Andersons tenure. She has also led the City of La Grandes Parks Advisory Commission and was named the citys citizen of the year last week.

Anderson is also proud of her work in establishing the Mountaineer Hall of Fame and putting up displays in Quinn of teams from over the years.

Her biggest disappointment was the failure to come up with an NCAA Division III schedule for the athletic teams. Eastern offers no athletic scholarships but competes in the NAIA, where most schools provide financial aid for student-athletes. Division III schools, including the private school Northwest Conference, offer no financial aid specifically for athletes.

We worked very hard with the athletic directors and presidents and the majority of the Northwest Conference schools wanted us as a scheduling partner, but it wasnt unanimous, Anderson said. We try to follow the Division III philosophy and we havent been able to compete with Division III.

That issue she leaves for her successor, Rob Cashell, who arrived this week from his previous job as athletic director at Western Montana. Cashell will be a full-time athletic director with no teaching load.

Its time for a change, Anderson said. We need to do a better job of fund-raising and having a full-time athletic director will free up time to do that.

If its Friday, we must be in Tulsa

When Peggy Anderson travels, she packs her clothes, her toothbrush, her bike.

Rent a car? Anderson carries her mode of transportation in a suitcase. Her traveling partner is a Bike Friday, a collapsible bicycle named after Robinson Crusoes companion.

For me, having gone to so many conventions, there are things you want to see, said Anderson, who is retiring this week as Eastern Oregon Universitys athletic director.

Tulsa (Okla.) has nine miles of bike paths along the Arkansas River. I have ridden that numerous times.

Anderson not only has taught physical education at Eastern and will teach when she returns from a year-long sabbatical she exercises wherever she goes. When the schools softball and track and field teams participated in national tournaments in West Palm Beach, Fla., Anderson rode her bike in the hallways of the hotel.

Well, you have to take it from the room outside.

Anderson has two Bike Fridays, and they fold down into an unassuming suitcase. They can travel with you and no one knows theyre a bike.

Some friends in New Mexico introduced her to the Bike Friday, which has allowed her to explore the country when she travels.

I did have some longer treks than I expected, she said. For instance, when the track and field and softball teams participated in national tournaments in West Palm Beach, Fla., in 1999, Anderson assumed the venues were near her hotel.

I rode 80 miles that day, she said, remembering the humid heat. I really got acclimated right away.

Pat Perkins