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In Memoriam: Influential former athletic director passes away

By Connor Novy

Section: Sports

October 14, 2011

Nick Rodis, former director of athletics at Brandeis University, died at Newton-Wellesley Hospital on Oct. 7, leaving behind not only a devoted family, but many Brandeisians who were influenced by Rodis as well. He was 87.

Born in 1924, Rodis attended Nashua High School, where he is now remembered in its Hall of Fame. He served in the Army Air Corps during World War II from 1943 to 1945 and played on the third Air Force Football Team as an offensive guard. A graduate of Harvard University’s class of 1949, he was an All-American honorable mention in both football and baseball, where he played both offensive and defensive line and center fielder respectively. In 1948 he played in the Harvard Blue-Gray All-Star game and was the only athlete to play twice for different universities, the first time being in 1944 for the University of New Hampshire. Despite offers to join professional teams, Rodis went on to bring renown to Brandeis’ athletic programs.

Prior to his time at Brandeis, Rodis was the first American vice president of the International University Sports Federation, coaching basketball in Greece, where he wrote the first Greek-language book on basketball. He was instrumental in involving the United States in the World University Games, second only to the Olympics, during his time as executive director of the United States Collegiate Sports Council. He also served under presidents Kennedy and Johnson from 1962 until his time at Brandeis as the special assistant for the Athletic Program in the State Department Bureau of Education and Cultural Affairs.

In 1967 he joined Brandeis as the Director of Athletics and under his guidance the university won the only two NCAA Division III championships in the school’s history: the 1976 men’s soccer crown and the 1985 men’s cross country. During his 17 years as athletics director, seven women’s intercollegiate sports were introduced and the university won many regional championships.

Even after his retirement from athletics director, Rodis was involved in the university. He was key in obtaining fundraising for the Gosman Sports and Convocation Center, which is now one of the largest multi-purpose athletic centers in the eastern half of the United States. He was responsible for hiring many of Brandeis’ current coaches, including Mike Coven and Denise Dallamora, men and women’s soccer coaches, respectively; fencing coach Bill Shipman; baseball coach Pete Varney; and those already inducted into the Hall of Fame, like basketball coach Bob Brannum and baseball coach Tom O’Connell.

In 2000 Rodis himself was inducted into the Brandeis Hall of Fame, to rest with those he had mentored. Last year he received the Eastern College Athletic Conference James Lynah Distinguished Service Award for his contributions to the athletic world during the past 50 years.

Rodis was a role model and mentor to hundreds of athletes during his tenure at Brandeis and will be remembered fondly. He personally illustrated the university’s commitment to international social dialogue through his work overseas and has been a mentor to thousands of athletes, in the United States and elsewhere.

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