Ron Dingle's lasting impact: honoring a leader in recreation education
The Ohio University community mourns the passing of Assistant Emeritus Professor of Education Ronald Dingle on July 1, 2023.
Dingle was a dedicated recreation studies educator who had a profound and enduring influence on the lives of numerous students. He was known for his unwavering commitment, his generosity with his time and his willingness to share his expertise. Affectionately called “Mr. D” by his students, Dingle was also a respected mentor, leader and friend.
Dingle's life philosophy was succinctly captured in a phrase he frequently repeated: "Today is a grand and glorious day. Every day is a holiday, and every meal is a feast." These words perfectly encapsulate his enduring spirit of embracing life to the fullest and valuing the opportunities it presents.
Dingle obtained his Bachelor of Science degree in education from Ohio University in 1965. He joined the university's faculty in 1966, teaching recreation studies. He played a pivotal role in shaping the Recreation Studies program from 1976 to 1999, significantly contributing to its growth and development. He was instrumental in the development of the adventure recreation curriculum, now encapsulated in the Outdoor Recreation and Education major in the Patton College of Education.
Dingle's teaching philosophy is characterized by its clarity, as evident in his own words.
“I believe in sharing as much knowledge about my profession as possible with my students. My goal is to prepare my students to be the best they can in their chosen fields. I am strongly committed to experiential learning. I love to teach and consider it a privilege to a be a teacher,” wrote Dingle.
Recognized for his instructional excellence, Dingle was awarded the Provost Teaching Recognition Awards in 1990, 1991, 1993, and 1995. Additionally, he received nominations for the "Class of 1950 University Teaching Award" from the College of Health and Human Services in both 1998 and 1999.
In 1999, Mr. Dingle was bestowed the title of Assistant Professor Emeritus of Recreation and Sport Sciences by the Ohio University Board of Trustees, underscoring his enduring contributions.
Integral to Dingle's legacy was his approach to experiential education. He seamlessly integrated traditional classroom teaching with immersive off-campus labs and field trips, providing students with a comprehensive understanding of activities such as canoeing, kayaking, white-water rafting, backpacking, adventure programming, and expedition management. Through these opportunities, he imparted invaluable life lessons to his students.
“Ron was quietly confident in all his passions, and he taught us to do the right thing because it was the right thing. This applied not only to packing, cleaning, storing equipment, and making safety a priority, but thinking ahead to consider the consequences of our actions in both a wilderness setting and our lives. Ron’s presence and teaching taught me how to use judgement and decision-making skills individually and in group settings,” said former student Joan Samsel.
Dingle played a pivotal role in establishing the Ohio Wild program in 1997, showcasing his dedication to involving students in outdoor exploration. His comprehensive boating program empowered students with expert instruction, enabling them to establish their own rafting and kayaking ventures.
Dingle's contributions extended beyond academia as he actively engaged with the local community, sharing his expertise with nearby schools, collaborating with the Boy Scouts of America, and conducting workshops. His commitment to professional growth was evident through leadership roles within the Ohio Association of Health, Physical Education, Recreation, and Dance.
Testimonials from students echoed Dingle's commitment to professional competence and his creation of a secure and dynamic learning environment.
“Professor Dingle as a teacher was the combination of his extensive knowledge and experience together with his passion and personality. That is what made him such a talented and effective educator. He knew what he was talking about, he loved to share his knowledge, and his personality pulled students in and made them want to learn. And, again, he wasn’t a ‘hey, look at me,’ show-off kind of person. He just exuded a quiet competence and confidence that made people know intuitively that Ron was a person to learn from,” said former student Tom Tesar.
“He saw you as an individual person and when you had success or the lightbulb finally went on - you could see the joy in his eyes - not that it was his success - but he was proud of your success - proud of your accomplishment,” said former student Susan Jividen. “He didn't just get students to move through his program. He developed them and nurtured them. He was a mentor. He became your friend.”
Even long after their graduation, Dingle's students cherished his unwavering friendship, which left an enduring mark on their lives. Karen Muench, the first recreation studies graduate student within the Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation, remembered his presence throughout her life.
“After talking with Mr. Dingle about my teaching options at Ohio University he encouraged me to apply for a position as a Watercraft Officer with the Ohio Department of Natural Resources. I used a lot of what I learned through my time at Ohio University and Mr. Dingle. In fact, Mr. Dingle and his wife Barb surprised me when I retired from ODNR by attending my retirement party! That meant more to me than many of the speeches and accolades I received,” said Muench.
Dingle's legacy at Ohio University will endure for many years to come, exemplified by the generation of thoroughly prepared students he taught. His timeless life lessons will continue to inspire and guide them throughout their lives.
An alumni reunion celebrating Dingle’s legacy will be held on the Youghiogheny River in Confluence, PA, during July 2024. In addition, an endowment is in the process of being established in his memory. Please reach out to Caryn Bailey at firstname.lastname@example.org and/or 740.566.0233, for further information regarding this memorial endowment.