Sapora Speakers Offer Sound Advice

Ryan Gower

RST alumnus Dr. Ryan Gower, president of Lincoln Trail College in Robinson, IL, told students to lean on their strengths to solve problems.

“How you interact with people is a big part of success.”
“Be curious, and don’t be afraid to fail.”
“Pay attention; recognize opportunities.”
This is some of the advice speakers offered more than 150 student participating in the 2017 Sapora Symposium. Sponsored by the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism, the event provides students with the opportunity to learn from and network with professionals in the leisure industry.
This year’s speakers included Harry Statham, whose 52-year career as head basketball coach at McKendree University has resulted in more wins—more than 1000—than any head coach at a four-year college or university in the United States. He attributed much of his success to putting the players and their academic success first.
RST alumnus Ryan Gower, formerly Associate Dean for Academic Affairs in the College of Applied Health Sciences and current president of Lincoln Trail College, shared what he called his life lessons. His undergraduate career at Illinois got off to a rocky start because, as he put it, “I wasn’t studying anything I was passionate about.” He found he was happiest when he was helping others, and when he took a class on society and leisure, he discovered that he could impact lives and improve communities through studies in recreation, sport, and tourism.

“There’s always a bigger picture,” he said. “If you help others succeed, your life will be a success.”
Other speakers included entrepreneur Carmen Rossi, who attributed his success to hard work, luck, and timing. His advice to students was to build a good network and draw on others’ strengths. Will Syring, global media sales director for the Chicago Bulls, told symposium participants, “It’s just as important to know what you don’t want to do in life as to know what you do want to do.” Jay Blunk, executive vice president of the Chicago Blackhawks, congratulated the students on being at the University of Illinois. “If you’re here, you’ve done something right because the University of Illinois is one of the best in the world,” he said. He encouraged students to seek out internships and to make sure that when their internships ended, “the office can’t function without you.”
“Be the first in to turn on the lights, and the last to leave and turn off the lights,” Blunk said.
The Sapora Symposium is named in honor of recreation education and research pioneer Allen Sapora, who was instrumental in creating what is now the Department of Recreation, Sport and Tourism.