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UNC Asheville named its fitness area in honor of Samuel Schuman, the university’s third chancellor (1991-1993), in an August 24 ceremony that brought together present and former faculty and staff, Schuman’s family and friends, and even some of his former students.
Schuman recalled that he first came to the UNC Asheville campus in the 1970s to use the library and the outdoor track – then the university’s only fitness facility. Four decades later and now enjoying retirement in Asheville, his habits remain similar. “I’m so very proud that UNC Asheville has put my name on this fine fitness area to which I repair so regularly that I get irritated if someone is on my elliptical machine – it’s the last one in the row,” joked Schuman.
Turning serious, Schuman underscored the connection between the physical and the intellectual. “The past decade or so has seen definitive proof in the field of neuroscience that vigorous physical activity stimulates the creation of new brain cells and significantly enhances learning,” said Schuman, a scholar of college administration and literature. “Having a splendid fitness area like this and making it inviting, welcoming and fun is a step in the right direction.”
UNC Asheville Chancellor Anne Ponder thanked Schuman for his contributions to the university and higher education, describing him as “a bicycling buddy,” “a close friend,” and “a champion of liberal education … setting a standard to which the rest of us might aspire.” Noting his books on America’s colleges, on Shakespeare and Nabokov, books he wrote while serving as an administrator, Ponder said Schuman was and is, “at all times, a professor, a professor always.”
“When he was chancellor and I was here, I got to see an absolute exemplar of an ethical leader,” said Koren Bakkegard, a 1996 UNC Asheville graduate and now an associate dean at Stanford University. Bakkegard came all the way from California for the dedication ceremony, showing the importance she still places on the mentoring she received from Schuman after he stepped down as chancellor and returned to the literature and language faculty – mentoring that continued long distance after he left UNC Asheville. “He had agreed to advise my undergraduate thesis and although he left for the University of Minnesota Morris, he honored that commitment,” said Bakkegard.
“He’s Mr. Liberal Arts,” said Eric Iovacchini, UNC Asheville vice chancellor emeritus, who served the university for some 30 years. “He was the epitome of what we’re all about – a wonderful teacher.”
The Samuel Schuman Fitness Area in the Sherrill Center is open to the campus community 6 a.m.-11 p.m. Monday-Thursday; 6 a.m.-8 p.m. on Fridays; and 12-4 p.m. on weekends.