Dr. E. Ronald Dreher was a professor and chair of the Department of Physical Education and Recreation for 32 years, from 1980 to 2012. He passed away on June 22 in Anchorage, Alaska, at age 83. 

In the aftermath of his passing, many members of the university community have shared with Hi5 what Dr. Dreher meant to them. A sampling appears here; full statements will be posted on our website. 

Wrote retired professor Barbara Pomeroy: “I have so many fond memories of Dr. Dreher. Don Padden had retired, and the chairperson position was being advertised. I had read Dr. Dreher’s resume and was very impressed by his humanistic approach to teaching and administration. As it happens, I was heading to Colorado to present a workshop at the Experiential Education Conference in Rocky Mountain National Park. Dr. Dreher was living in Colorado at the time. I asked him to join me for lunch so I could meet the man behind the paper resume.  I was immediately impressed to see his mild professional manner, and his enjoyment of providing a lesson through a story. I knew then that he would be a great addition to our department.”

Dr. Gina Oliva, G-’77, another retired professor, wrote, “Dr. Dreher was a great man who gave of himself extra-generously to everyone he met, including each and every one of us in the Gallaudet University Department of Physical Education and Recreation. He was the best boss I could have had.” 

Retired professor Anne Simonsen added, “I was so fortunate to be a faculty member of the Department of Physical Education and Recreation at Gallaudet University when Ron was the chair. He was a true educator — a person who supported and provided many opportunities to learn for both faculty and students. Thank you for supporting my many experiences during my tenure at Gallaudet.”

Professor Emeritus William J. A. Marshall, G-’65, said: “Dr. Dreher commanded a larger-than-life presence on campus. His demeanor was even-handed, level-headed, and professionally exemplary. He personified for me the comment once made by a noted author and winner of the Pulitzer Prize for Poetry, Mary Oliver, who mused:

When my life is drawing to a close,
I don’t want to wonder if I made a difference or not,
because if I have failed in making myself a positive influence on others,
then I will be remembered as only having passed through their lives without any lasting effect.

Arguably, some people do indeed pass through our lives as if they were never here; whereas others come into our lives, no matter how briefly or for however long, and bring us something that we need to learn while reminding us to cherish the simple joys in life. These are the real people who we truly miss when they are gone. Why? Because they were all here when here.

Such was the life and work of Dr. Dreher, a true professional and a wonderfully compassionate human being, who will be truly missed by all who had the good fortune of knowing him.”

Jean Buchanan, a retired administrative secretary, wrote, “Dr. Dreher was my boss (a great one) for over 20 years, but he always made me feel I was a “team player,” working with him, not for him.”

Jessica Schultz, ’08, wrote, “I took several classes with Dr. Dreher. I especially loved his Sports Psychology class. His famous quote, “Practice makes perfect” has always stayed in my heart. He will be so enormously missed!” 

Added Jason Coleman, ’08, “Dr. Dreher was one of my favorite teachers at Gallaudet University. His famous ‘Why you should never say ‘try your best’ to your athletes’ speech during his Physical Education philosophy class had a great influence on me. I still practice his philosophy in my work today.

Tracy Acuff, ’93, perhaps summed it up: “What a great guy to study and work under. I always admired and held great respect for him. He had such a calming attitude and always made me feel that everything would be all right whenever I saw him around the Field House.”

Read the family-written obituary

A memorial service will be held on Saturday, July 31 at 10 a.m. Mountain Time at Olinger Crown Hill Mortuary and Cemetery, 7777 West 29th Avenue, Wheat Ridge, Colorado. If you have any comments or stories you would like to share with the family, please visit the Dignity Memorial website

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