Play it forward

Rec Sports: 100 years of playing

Those gearing up for Rec Sport’s 100th anniversary include, from left, retired Director Sue White, ’85, current Director Jeff Keenan, ’12, and Associate Director Mo McAlpine, ’91.

Posted 11:55 a.m. Wednesday, Jan. 26, 2000

It’s not a matter of whether you could take part in UWL Rec Sports. It’s a question of if you did — and how many activities.

Recreational Sports began in the early 1920s, shortly after the campus opened in 1909. Activity stepped up when Physical Education Professor Emma Lou Wilder founded the Women’s Athletic Association to promote intramurals in 1923. 

For 100 years, Rec Sports has enhanced the UWL experience by offering diverse programs, innovative services, employment growth and welcoming facilities, says Jeff Keenan, ’12, Rec Sports director.  

“That’s a century of working toward our vision of a thriving community enjoying active and healthy lives,” he says. “We've helped hundreds of thousands of students play, and that’s definitely something worth celebrating.”

Keenan says Rec Sports has been integral in making the university’s motto, Mens Corpusque, Latin for "mind and body," a reality for countless students. 

“No matter what you are interested in, Rec Sports has a way to get you engaged and active,” he says.

A campus Women’s Athletics Association group posed for this photo in 1926. Physical Education Professor Emma Lou Wilder founded the Women’s Athletic Association to promote intramurals in 1923. Photo courtesy Murphy Library Special Collections/ARC.

Keenan worked in recreational sports at four other institutions before returning to UWL in July 2021. He says UWL is unique.  

“At no other institution has recreation been so centered,” he notes. “Students and administrators alike value recreation and understand its benefits. UWL sees campus recreation as an integral component of the student experience, which leads to academic success. It also provides individuals with the opportunity to belong to a community and develop lifelong, physically active habits.” 

A smiling group of intramural participants with their prized T-shirts is one of the benefits of winning in Rec Sports. This group is from the early 2000s. Photo courtesy Murphy Library Special Collections/ARC.

Retired director Sandy Price agrees recreational activity is key.

“There needs to be an opportunity for students to release tension from the stresses of their academic career,” Price explains. “Sport and activity are wonderful ways to do that and to make friends.” 

The Rec Sports centennial is an excellent opportunity to share the story of the program’s origin, growth and evolution, says Keenan, adding that it also set the stage for the future. 

“Our focus will remain on providing welcoming facilities, programs and services for the campus community,” says Keenan. “We will continue to evolve to meet these students where they want to play.”


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An on-campus centennial celebration for Rec Sports is set Saturday, April 30. Alums can gather virtually or in person. Virtual activities, contests and more are planned. Stay connected at: uwlax.edu/recsports