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Celebrating Black history

Posted 7:04 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 5, 2023

Prior to his graduation from high school in the late 1950s, Orby Moss Jr. was told that he shouldn’t pursue his dream to become a high school physical education teacher and coach because of the color of his skin. Instead, he should pursue elementary education.  

Moss says he was stubborn and “hardheaded,” and he wouldn’t let go of his goal. He didn’t. He graduated from UWL in 1963 and went on to a career that included teaching high school physical education and later becoming the athletic director for seven different college campuses over 30 years. The National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics added Moss to its 2009 Hall of Fame. 

Moss was recipient of the Dr. James Parker Multicultural Alumni Award at UW-La Crosse in 2014. The award recognizes graduates from UWL who have significantly contributed to or advanced multicultural understanding.

His story

Moss graduated from Logan High School and later from UWL in 1963. Prior to graduation he was told by some "well-meaning instructors" that he needed to change his major and goals to be hired. His goal was to become physical education teacher, coach track and work his way up to joining the U.S. Olympic Movement.  

"I was told in Wisconsin in those days you need to go into elementary education. They are not going to hire a Black — as we were called in those days — in high school athletics." 

Moss says he was "hardheaded enough and stubborn enough" that he stuck with his goal and was hired at a junior high school in Racine, Wisconsin. He taught there for four years and then was among a select few to go to teach at a new high school, the Jerome I. Case High School.  

He taught at the high school for six years until he was convinced to try working in administration, taking a job as assistant personnel director at the Racine Unified School District, traveling to southern schools to recruit teachers.  

Moss was later hired as assistant athletic director at UW-Parkside. The position helped him see how he wanted to become an athletic director to help weed out coaches who were not serving as a positive influence in athletes' lives. He spent more than 30 years serving in the athletic director position at seven different campuses, including several historically Black colleges.  

He was chosen for the 2009 Hall of Fame Class by NACDA (National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics). He is now retired and living in Florida. 

See more videos celebrating La Crosse’s black history on the Enduring Families Project website


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