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Face of FitRec to Retire

PERD’s Dexter to leave after nearly four decades

Warin Dexter, Boston University PERD

Warin Dexter, executive director of physical education, recreation, and dance, will retire in December after nearly four decades at BU. 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. Now 65, he plans to retire 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.

Three pairs of reading glasses are tossed atop the files, papers, and notepads littering Dexter’s desk. He dangles a fourth pair in his left hand as he talks about coming to 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 has 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 has. 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.” (This may explain the amount of toiletries lining a shelf behind his desk.)

PERD dance director Micki Taylor-Pinney says Dexter may not be a dancer himself (he prefers football, basketball, baseball, and tennis—among others), but he always listens 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 runs 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, even after he’s gone. 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 number-one 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.”

Leslie Friday, BU Today, Boston University
Leslie Friday

Follow Leslie Friday on Twitter at @lesliefriday.

7 Comments on Face of FitRec to Retire

  • Laura De Veau on 09.20.2011 at 6:55 am

    Warin was one of my very first professional colleagues when I started working at Boston University in 1989. He is a blessing to the University and made an impact to the day to day quality of life and spirit of the campus that is immeasurable. While FitRec will be a physical tribute to Warin’s dedication and hard work, he and his tremendous staff create “moments” each and every day that make for a unique experience for every member of the Boston University community (students, staff, faculty and alumni) who take advantage of the PERD programs.

    I’ve played co-rec summer league softball, danced, ice skated, swam, and spent countless hours in facilities that PERD has managed, and have been treated on occasion by the caring first aid staff. Now, my daughter considers FitRec “her pool” where she has received top notch swim training by one of the most attentive and professional swim instructors we have ever had the opportunity to work with.

    Here’s to you, Warin – enjoy retirement. You have worked so hard, so that so many could have fun and be champions on their chosen field of competition.

  • shelley tregor on 09.20.2011 at 10:17 am

    Wow. Warin, you have been a fantastic colleague and a great advocate for students. I am very sad to think of you leaving, but I thank you for all of your years and your tireless commitment to co-curricular athletics and recreation at BU. You are a role model and friend, and you will be sorely missed. I wish you every good thing in Phase 3!

    • Jim Newman on 10.13.2011 at 12:29 pm

      Hi Warin,
      Wishing you a great retirement! I fondly recall meeting you as a young high school student working summers at BU and when I matriculated at BU.
      Jim Newman

  • Andy Burke on 09.20.2011 at 11:25 am

    It was a great pleasure working with you during Commencement for over twenty years. I wish you all the best in your retirement and most of all stay busy doing the things you and your wife want to do….Best

  • Tim on 09.20.2011 at 7:00 pm

    Hi Warin. I am a student here, and I use FitRec every day. It sounds like you were responsible for this high quality facility, so on behalf of the students here at BU I’ll say thank you, too. It’s been an amazing gift from my perspective.

  • Ann Richie on 12.08.2011 at 1:25 pm

    It was Ralph Waldo Emerson who said, “Hitch your wagon to a star.” and you did just that! For the almost-eighteen years that I worked under your supervision, your commitment to expand programs and improve facilities for Boston University students never wavered. You filled your “wagon” with staff members who identified with your vision. You took the reins and achieved the building of the FitRec Center and the development of renowned programs at a prestigious university. Who can measure the positive effects your work has influenced for the physical, emotional, and social well-being of so many over your career? Well done and congratulations!

  • John Burtis on 03.21.2016 at 2:37 am

    Good luck to you in your retirement. Of all the many pleasures I had in my three decades at Boston University, our friendship, first shared during the Bush/Mitterand Commencement and for fifteen years after, through construction projects, myriad meetings, discussions, and decision making processes, was one of my most enjoyable. Please extend my best wishes, late as usual, to your family and staff. You were Mr Boston University to every class you interacted with. So long.

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