Education’s 100: Athletic Excellence
Barbara Howard, BEd '59
Athlete, educator and community leader, Barbara Howard was the first black female athlete to represent Canada in international competition. In 1948, when most ethnic minorities were barred from teaching, Barbara Howard became the first person of colour to be hired as an educator by the Vancouver School Board, teaching physical education at Lord Strathcona Elementary School.
In 1938, in grade 11, Howard ran a 100-yard sprint in 11.2 seconds to qualify for the British Empire Games, a time that beat the Games’ record by a tenth of a second. But despite winning silver and bronze medals in relays at the Games, she came sixth in the 100-yard dash. Her next chance would have been the 1940 Summer Olympics in Tokyo, but the Second World War derailed the Olympics for the next decade and ended Howard’s running career.
Howard earned a Bachelor of Education at UBC in 1959 and she took a new path in education. Howard taught at Hastings, Henry Hudson, Lord Strathcona and Trafalgar elementary schools in a career spanning more than forty years. At Trafalgar, Howard worked with brilliant, but underperforming kids. In a 2010 Burnaby Now interview, she recalls being told to do “anything” to keep the children stimulated. She had them plan day-trips, sent them to work with their fathers, and had them film movies. Her strategy seems to have worked; like Dr. Patricia Hoy of the UBC School of Music, many were later successful, earning advanced degrees. “The child,” Howard argued, “is more important than the curriculum.”
In 2010, Howard was recognized by the Vancouver Park Board with a Remarkable Women Award for “her passionate dedication to inspire others to make a positive difference in their community.” She was inducted into both the Burnaby Sports Hall of Fame and the BC Sports Hall of Fame, and in 2013, received the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal. In 2015, she was welcomed as one of “The Legends” in the Canada Sports Hall of Fame.
Howard passed away on January 26, 2017 at the age of 96.
David Stadnyk, BPE '86
Leading venture capitalist and philanthropist in British Columbia, David Stadnyk has a lifelong passion for the promotion and development of sport in Canada. Earning his Bachelor of Physical Education from the University of British Columbia in 1986, Stadnyk went on to become a stock broker, and later established Stadnyk and Partners Venture Capital, an investment firm in start-up pharmaceutical and energy companies.
Though he found his professional success in the field of finance, Stadnyk always maintained the same affinity for sport that led him to study physical education at UBC. Believing that visibility was key to the long-term success of sport in Vancouver, he formed Starlight Sports and Entertainment in 1998 and launched an all-sports radio station, TEAM 1040, in 2001. At that time, he was a co-owner of the Vancouver Ravens, a lacrosse team he helped establish. He saw the club through a period of financial hardship to preserve professional lacrosse in Canada.
In 2000, he acquired the Vancouver Whitecaps. Under Stadnyk’s ownership, the organization was reintroduced under its original 1970s brand, kicking off a resurgence of the club that continues to this day. During this time, he started ProWave, a youth soccer initiative offering instructional camps, year-round academy training, youth leagues, and prospect management.
Stadnyk’s leadership in professional athletics was a major force behind the growth of soccer, lacrosse, and tennis in BC. He continues to build on this legacy through the Stadnyk Foundation, a non-profit organization that supports children’s participation in sport. For these efforts and his success as an entrepreneur, Stadnyk was named to the prestigious Top 40 Under 40 list by Business in Vancouver magazine.
George Puil, BA '52, BEd '57
Athlete, George Puil is known as a prize football and rugby player and was a coveted newcomer when he arrived at UBC in 1949. Despite his slight 140-pound frame, Puil led the football team in scoring, responsible for exactly half of the team’s touchdowns. He then moved to the rugby team for the remainder of the season, where as part of a McKechnie Cup-winning squad, he quickly established himself as a top player.
By 1951, Puil had established his reputation on both the football and the rugby pitch. Ubyssey sports reporter Allan Fotheringham declared Puil “the most dangerous broken field runner ever to pull on a Thunderbird sweater.”
Puil helped to claim two more McKechnie Cup championships. In his final season as a Thunderbird in 1952, the team beat California-Berkeley in a four-game series to bring home the World Cup. The same year, Puil was named to the Evergreen Conference All-Star Football team. He graduated with a Bachelor of Arts and earned his Bachelor of Education in 1957.
Puil retired following another decade representing British Columbia and Canada internationally. He didn’t leave the field entirely, though: he coached while educating in the Vancouver School District. He later entered municipal politics and spent twelve years as a commissioner for the Vancouver Park Board; his time as a commissioner was followed by 26 years as a Vancouver City councillor.
In 1994, Puil was inducted into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame, and received the UBC Alumni Achievement Award in 2000.
Jama Mahlalela, BHK '04
Varsity basketball star, community leader, and assistant coach to the Toronto Raptors, Jama Mahlalela’s enthusiasm and positive energy continues to deliver results both on and off the court.
As a student at the University of British Columbia, Mahlalela was recruited to the Thunderbirds varsity basketball. Mahlalela was co-captain in 2003, and during his fourth year was elected to be president of the Thunderbird Athletic Council, the representative council for all varsity teams. Mahlalela graduated in 2004 with a Bachelor of Kinesiology from UBC and the Jama Mahlalela Award was created in his honour. The award is presented in recognition of excellence in the areas of selfless dedication, leadership, and spirit as a student-athlete and citizen of UBC. Notably, the award is not given out annually, but only when a candidate worthy of the honour is present: in the decade since Mahlalela received the award, it has only been presented twice.
After his time at UBC, Mahlalela served as assistant coach for the University of Toronto varsity basketball team, and worked for the National Basketball Association in various capacities. He began with the association in a community relations and development role, before moving to Hong Kong in 2009 to take a position with NBA Asia. There, he spent two years as the director of basketball operations, before returning to Toronto where he was named a member of the Toronto Raptors’ coaching staff. He is currently assistant coach, and is responsible for many aspects of training and player development.
Mahlalela is founder of Concrete Hoops Basketball Camps, and runs international exchange camps between Toronto and Swaziland to promote youth engagement and AIDS prevention. He stayed connected to his UBC roots, acting as master of ceremonies at UBC alumni events in Toronto.
Joy Fera, BRE '72
Canadian Olympian and medal-winner, Joy Fera inspired community sport initiatives in British Columbia for over four decades.
Graduating in 1972, Fera earned her Bachelor of Recreation Education from the University of British Columbia. During her time there, she competed on the UBC Alpine and Cross Country Ski Teams, and volunteered on the UBC Women’s Athletic Directorate as ski team manager and a member of the executive.
In 1976, Fera competed at the Olympics in Montreal as part of Canada’s rowing team, and took home bronze in the 1977 and 1978 World Rowing Championships. Her contributions to the Olympics are numerous: she served as member of the board of Olympians BC from 1998 to 2006, and the committee for the Olympic Academy of Canada, hosted at UBC, in 2008.
Through volunteer and recreation work, Fera’s contributions routinely enriched the lives of those in her community, and many across the province. As co-founder of the Delta Deas Rowing Club, she organized a Scholastic Regatta for children from the Lower Mainland. She expanded its reach to include clubs from BC Interior and Washington state.
As a leading athlete and community volunteer, Fera’s contributions have been recognized by many organizations. She is the recipient of the 2014 In Her Footsteps Award from ProMotion Plus for the advancement of girls and women in sport, and was awarded the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal in 2012. In 2015, she was inducted into the Canada Games Hall of Honour.
Lee Eisler, BEd '74
Celebrated Canadian athlete, artist and educator, Lee Eisler was the nation’s number-one long jumper before she was 20 years old.
Earning her Bachelor of Education from the University of British Columbia in 1974, Eisler was a varsity track and field champion, setting the BC record for senior women’s long jump in 1971, a record that held for over 30 years. Over the course of her athletic career, Eisler set records at UBC and at the national level. As an internationally decorated athlete, she won bronze at the 1969 Pacific Conference Games and 1975 World Student Games, gold at the 1971 Pan American Games, and silver at the 1974 Commonwealth Games. In 1972, she proudly represented Canada as a long jumper and a member of the 400 meter relay team in the Munich Summer Olympics.
At the age of 24, following a wave of athletic accomplishments, she discovered a passion for dance and moved to New York to pursue it as a career. This move began her evolution into the critically-acclaimed dancer, choreographer, artist, and storyteller. In 1984, Lee Eisler and Nelson Gray co-founded a dance theatre company Jumpstart Performance and established a history of work in new opera, interdisciplinary art, and dance theatre. Over the last three decades, they have produced some of the West Coast’s most notable theatrical movement art.
Teaching has been at the heart of Lee’s pursuits and she has been a lecturer in dance at Simon Fraser University and a professor in theatre at California State Long Beach. Today Lee has taken her passion for teaching, theater and storytelling into the business world of Silicon Valley where she teaches ‘Finding Your Authentic Voice’ and ‘Improv-ability for Business’ at Stanford University. Through her company Presence Delivered she coaches high level individuals and teams in the business world of technology, wealth management, construction, sustainable foods, fashion and design.
Manuel Sobral, BPE '92, BEd '93
Champion boxer, passionate educator, and promoter of athletic charities, Manuel Sobral has had an important influence on the sport of boxing in British Columbia and Canada.
Starting as an amateur boxer at the age of 20, he soon began representing Canada at international competitions, and has since brought home five gold medals. His hard work repeatedly placed him among the top boxers in the country, ranking three times as Canadian Amateur Champion. Following these successes, Sobral competed as part of the Canadian national team in the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, Korea.
After the Olympics, Sobral enrolled at the University of British Columbia, where he completed his Bachelor of Physical Education in 1992 and his Bachelor of Education in 1993. At the age of 25 he began his career as an educator in the Burnaby public school system. During this time, he continued his boxing career and rose to the top of Canadian professional boxing as Canadian Super Welterweight champion from 1996 to 1998.
Sobral consistently ranked among the top 10 boxers in the world during the 1990’s and fought some of the world’s best welterweights. He retired from professional boxing with a record of 29–2 at the age of 34, and went on to coach up-and-coming boxers in Vancouver. Today, he promotes charity athletic events in Vancouver, such as the World Police and Fire Fighter Games boxing events, and serves as a mentor and boxing coach to at-risk youth through the Boys Club Network.
Between Sobral’s record of community service, coaching activities, and his status as one of the country’s greatest boxers, he helped elevate the sport of boxing within Canada and redefine what it means to be a world-class athlete.
Marilyn Pomfret, BPE '54
Award-winning athlete and university administrator, Marilyn Pomfret has been a leading force for girls and women’s athletics in British Columbia.
Pomfret arrived at the University of British Columbia in 1951 as a volleyball and basketball athlete. She earned the Intramural Block award in her second year and was elected to the Physical Education Undergraduate Society executive for 1952-53 school year. As president of the Women’s Athletic Directorate, she created and organized several women’s sporting events. Also while at UBC, she was a member on UBC’s Women’s Undergraduate Society council and in her last year, a member of the UBC students’ council. Pomfret graduated in 1954 with a Bachelor of Physical Education.
She taught high school for nine years before returning to UBC in 1963 to teach, coach and serve as women’s athletic director from 1963 to 1969 and again from 1972 to 1986.
As director, she successfully lobbied for better funding for women’s athletics and presided over an era where the Thunderbirds dominated in track and field, basketball, swimming, diving, and field hockey. As coach of the Thunderbirds volleyball team, her squad won two national titles.
Pomfret established the Canadian Women’s Intercollegiate Athletic Union. She served as its first president, and later helped amalgamate it with the Canadian Intercollegiate Athletic Union, now Canadian Interuniversity Sport. After retirement, Pomfret received the CIAU Austin-Matthews Award for outstanding contribution to the development of university sport in Canada and the YWCA Woman of Distinction Award. In 2004, Pomfret was inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame.
Dr. Rick Hansen, C.C., O.B.C, BPE '86, LLD '87
Renowned Paralympic athlete, sport advocate and prominent fundraiser, Rick Hansen is a leader in breaking down barriers for people with disabilities through his organization, the Rick Hansen Foundation.
Hansen graduated from University of British Columbia with a Bachelor of Physical Education in 1986, and in 1987 he was awarded an honorary Doctor of Laws. Hansen was the first person with a physical disability to graduate with a degree in physical education from UBC. During his time at UBC, Hansen was recruited by coach and mentor Stan Stronge to be part of the Vancouver Cablecars, a well-known wheelchair basketball team. Hansen competed in wheelchair racing at both the 1980 and 1984 Summer Paralympics, winning a total of six medals: three gold, two silver and one bronze.
The Man in Motion Tour, for which Hansen is best known, began in 1985 in Vancouver. The two-year, 40,000-km journey spanning 34 countries across four continents raised $26 million for spinal cord research and quality of life initiatives. The high-profile fundraising effort helped Hansen to launch the Rick Hansen Foundation in 1988. Since then, the foundation has raised more than $300 million to improve the lives of people with disabilities and raise awareness for the barriers they face. The goal of the foundation is to create an inclusive world where people with disabilities can reach their full potential. Hansen was also the driving force behind the International Collaboration on Repair Discoveries Centre at Vancouver General Hospital, contributing $8 million from his namesake foundation.
Hansen continues to work with UBC on the Faculty of Medicine’s Brain and Spinal Cord Research Centre Campaign. Additionally, he holds honorary appointments to both British Columbia’s and Alberta’s Advisory Councils for Persons with Disabilities and the Ontario Neurotrauma Foundation. Hansen was appointed to Companion of the Order of Canada in 1987, given the Order of British Columbia in 1990, inducted into Canada's Sports Hall of Fame in 2006 and into BC Sports Hall of Fame in 2007.
Dr. Ted Hunt, BPE '57 MPE '61 MA ’64 EdD '76
Athlete and educator, Ted Hunt was inducted into the UBC Sports Hall of Fame, the BC Sports Hall of Fame, and the BC Rugby Hall of Fame. He is one of British Columbia’s greatest all-around athletes and captained the BC's provincial rugby team to victories over the famed British Lions and Australia's Wallabies.
Hunt served the Vancouver school district for 30 years as educator, department head, administrator, and coordinator of academic curricula.
At the age of 17, Hunt was Western Canadian nordic combined ski champion, and the following year, he was named to Canada's Olympic ski-jumping team. While a student at UBC in 1954, he went to the World Championships for ski jumping, and in the same year, at age 20, took eighth place at the National Championships in Sweden.
Hunt is renowned for his skill in multiple sports, notably rugby, skiing, boxing, box lacrosse and football. He graduated from the University of British Columbia in the School of Physical Education with a bachelor’s degree in 1957, earned his Master of Physical Education in 1961 and his Doctor of Kinesiology and Education in 1976. His ground breaking dissertation: “A Serial Electrocardiograph Study of Thirty Champion Athletes Before and After Actual Competition” was published in four medical journals.
While at UBC, Hunt won a Golden Gloves title; captained the UBC rugby team; was a member of the UBC water polo team; and was awarded the Bobby Gaul Trophy.
Hunt played for the BC Lions, was Rookie of the Year in his first season, and was named Outstanding Canadian Player the following year. In the 1960s, while still a student, he played box lacrosse with the Vancouver Burrards, when they won two Canadian Mann Cup victories in 1961 and 1964.
In retirement, he served nine years as School Board Trustee, and for 20 years as director of The Students' Emergency Fund which he began with Brenton Kenny. They distributed more than half million dollars in honour of their first donor, Jack Diamond.
Hunt has authored several books: In The Company of Heroes, which became the Indigo Finalist for Dramatized History. It is currently being examined by Channel One Russia. He has also authored three books on golf, Ben Hogan’s Magical Device, Ben Hogan’s Short Game Simplified, and Ben Hogan’s Tips For Weekend Golfers. His most recent work was written for Canada's national seven a-side rugby teams: Creative Backfield Rugby Canadian Style. And, getting ready for the printer is an historical thriller, A Long Road Home: 1919.
Timothy Frick, O.B.C., BPE '75, MEd '80
Professional coach and community leader, Timothy Frick has been leading medal-winning teams for over 30 years. Frick has served locally, regionally, provincially, and nationally with unparalleled influence in women’s wheelchair basketball in Canada.
As a University of British Columbia volleyball player Frick earned his Bachelor of Physical Education in 1975. His volleyball team won the CIAU gold in 1976. In 1980, Frick completed his Masters of Education. He went on to become a physical education instructor at Douglas College. He served as head coach of the BC Breakers Women’s Provincial Team for ten years. Frick led the Canada’s national women’s wheelchair basketball team for nearly 20 years, taking them to four consecutive world championships and three Paralympic Gold medals. Under his management, the Canadian team developed into one of the most dominant teams in the history of Canadian amateur sports. Frick’s passion for coaching led him to pioneer the National Team Training Centre for Basketball in BC.
In his early years, he coached Rick Hansen during his Man in Motion World Tour. According to Hansen, Frick was a difference-maker who helped him find excellence within himself. Frick’s ability to inspire and motivate his athletes to excellence has been recognized by several awards and inductions, including seven Coaching Association of Canada Excellence Awards, the BC Wheelchair Sports Coach of the Millennium, induction into the Wheelchair Basketball Canada Hall of Fame, the Basketball BC Hall of Fame, and Canada’s Sports Hall of Fame. He is also an appointee to the Order of British Columbia.
Valerie Jerome, BEd '76
Canadian athlete, educator and political candidate, Valerie Jerome has built a legacy of contribution to Canadian athletics, Black Canadian Studies, and environmental politics.
In 1959, at the age of 15, Jerome set Canadian track records, winning a bronze medal at the Pan American Games. The following year, she joined her brother, legendary Canadian track and field runner Harry Jerome, on Canada’s Olympic team in Rome, Italy. Jerome has competed in Pan American, Commonwealth and Olympic games. Her family’s athleticism runs deep beginning with her grandfather, John Armstrong Howard, Canada’s first Black Olympian to run in the 100 and 200m at the 1912 Stockholm Olympics.
Jerome attended UBC to become an educator, graduating with a Bachelor of Education in 1976. During her 35-year teaching career, she worked for the advancement of Black Canadian Studies, spearheading a $2.5 million fundraiser within the black community. Alongside Leon Bill, Emery Barnes, Paul Winn and Ron Rogers, they established a chair of Black Canadian Studies at Dalhousie University. After retiring from teaching, Jerome worked with the BC Teachers’ Federation on two projects in Namibia.
Jerome continued her leadership in athletics, spending 35 years as a track and field official taking on roles of chief judge in Olympic, Commonwealth and World Championship competitions, being a panelist for the Sports and Inclusion Dialogue at UBC in 2010, and was honoured as a torchbearer at the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver.
In the wider community, Jerome has worked with Jerome Outreach, an athletic club for inner-city children named in honour of her brother, as well as the Harry Jerome International Track Classic. She initiated the establishment of the Harry Jerome Statue that is located in Stanley Park along the seawall with a committee that later became the Harry Jerome Commemorative Society.
Jerome pursued her political activism formally between 1985 and 2000 where she ran in seven elections for the Green Party, federally, provincially, and municipally. In the 1990s, she attended Green Party Congresses in Europe. Her passion for the environment grew from her son, Stuart Parker, who led the BC Green Party from 1993 to 2000.
For 15 years, she worked as a volunteer at the Vancouver Writers Festival and has worked with the BC Cancer Agency on fundraising initiatives. She currently serves on the board of directors of the Vancouver Junior Professional Division Ballet Society.