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Face of FitRec to Retire

PERD’s Dexter leaves after nearly four decades

| From BU Today | By Leslie Friday

Warin Dexter, executive director of physical education, recreation, and dance, introduced noncredit physical education courses as well as club sports, which now number 34. Photo by Kalman Zabarsky

Talk to Warin Dexter about his staff in the department of physical education, recreation, and dance (PERD) and he’ll effuse for hours. Ask him about the thousands of students involved in club or intramural sports and he’s equally generous in his praise. But ask him to talk about the growth and accomplishments during his tenure as executive director and he demurs, crediting everyone but himself.

After nearly four decades at BU, however, Dexter deserves some well-earned recognition. He retired on December 31, leaving behind his corner office at FitRec—a complex built, incidentally, on his watch—and a swath of PERD programs he created or greatly expanded over the years. And while still deeply involved in his work, he says he’s looking forward to what he calls phase three of his life.

“If I enjoy the next phase as much as I’ve enjoyed this one, I’ll be in good shape,” he says.

Dexter arrived at BU in 1973 as the assistant director of intramural club sports under J. Bertram Kessel, then director of PERD. The University, he recalls, was a different place then, with programs and offices scattered across campus.

Dexter took over as director 10 years later and has since expanded the department significantly. The number of physical education courses has doubled under his leadership. He introduced noncredit physical education courses as well as club sports, which now number 34, with more than 1,000 active members fundraising, traveling, competing, and winning championships nationwide. Participation in intramural sports has jumped from 4,500 students a year to the current 7,500 students. And the Emergency Medical Services program, begun with his support, today is ranked one of the best in the country.

All these programs are now housed in FitRec, the six-year-old multipurpose complex that might not have come to fruition had it not been for Dexter. Talk of building such a facility had been kicked around since Kessel’s time.

“Maybe it took over 30 years, but who’s complaining?” he says.

Tastes have changed in the four decades Dexter had been at BU, requiring constant tweaking and refinement. Tennis and racquetball were hot classes in the ’70s. Nowadays, ballroom dancing and boxing are the big hits among BU students. Club sports have included more traditional options like lacrosse and rugby, but students recently petitioned to add quidditch (that one didn’t make the cut).

“These are the types of things you really need to acquaint yourself with,” Dexter says. “You really have to do your homework.”

And Dexter did. He’s described around the University as a tireless advocate for students, an attentive and approachable boss, and a man who is passionate about what he does. He has belonged to at least three national organizations in his field, all the while juggling his University commitments, for which he received an honorary Scarlet Key in 2010.

“Warin is his profession,” says Peter Smokowski, vice president for auxiliary services and Dexter’s supervisor for nearly 10 years. “He’s in a job that really is 24/7. It never stops.”

PERD dance director Micki Taylor-Pinney says Dexter may not have been a dancer himself (he prefers football, basketball, baseball, and tennis—among others), but he always listened to her perspective. “Because of all his support we’ve really been able to create an impressive program that is now on the map,” she says.

For Dexter, physical education isn’t just a way for students to tone up or blow off steam—it allows them to form friendships and connect with BU in a new way. “I’ve always been highly energized about the programs and about our instruction,” he says, “and the value that I feel these types of programs bring to students outside of the classroom and the academic rigor that they’re facing.”

Dean of Students Kenneth Elmore (SED’87), who has worked with Dexter since 1985, calls his friend and colleague a “great chatter,” someone who really enjoys life, and a guy who ran FitRec like a community center.

“That’s how Warin thinks about it,” Elmore says. “He’s a great advocate for the student experience.”

That’s not surprising, considering Dexter’s career path. After earning a master’s degree in exercise science and physical education at Texas Tech University, he continued graduate study in higher education administration at Temple University. While there, he says, he worked in north and south Philadelphia community centers that provided outlets for kids to develop confidence and self-esteem.

“Students here at BU are not dealing with that, but boy do they have a need for these types of activities,” he says.

Thanks to Dexter’s hard work, students will continue to have a wide range of activities to choose from. Soon to enter the third phase of his life, he looks forward to spending more time with his three children—Matthew (MET’02), Kasey, and Allison (SMG’06)—and his wife, Sharon. His priorities now, he says, are to live healthily and to do the things with his wife that they couldn’t do before, “because our jobs have gotten in the way.”

But, he says, he has no regrets: “I really did love every minute of it.”

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