The adventure ends: A farewell to the College’s beloved kinesiology activities courses

Kinesiology lecturer Kim Whitley finished his first outdoor hike in Merchants Square at the age of 14, tired, hot and covered in mosquito bites. Disenchanted with the outdoors, he returned home uninspired by what nature had to offer. Almost 50 years later, he sits in a small office in the corner of Adair Hall’s gym, planning for his next rock-climbing class under the light of a wooden canoe lamp.

In a similar fashion, kinesiology lecturer Randy Drake arrives to his square office in the entrance of Adair to the background music of Ballroom Dance. He organizes his last semester of courses at the College of William and Mary surrounded by photos and memorandum of adventures past.

Whitley and Drake are two of the three full-time faculty members at the College who will be leaving campus along with the kinesiology activity program next year.

Tracing its beginnings deep into the history of the College, the kinesiology activity program began as a physical education requirement for a bachelor’s degree at the College.

“When I first came here in 1984, that was the first year that men’s physical education and women’s physical education were combined,” Whitley said. “It used to be physical education, and around 1990 or ‘91 physical education became … kinesiology. So, it’s the study of human movement.”

The original activity requirement dropped from four credits to two, and then it dropped all together in 2002. As previous full-time activity faculty retired, they were not replaced.

Kayaking, Adventure Games and Rock Climbing are three of the courses that define the kinesiology activity program now. However, these courses are only a small fraction of those offered back when activity was a degree requirement.

Thumbing through a course catalog from 1992, Randy recounts the adventure courses offered on and off campus.

“Synchronized Swimming, all kinds of swimming stuff, Swimming I through Swimming III, Competitive Fitness Swimming, Lifeguarding, Water Safety Instructor, Life Guard Instructor, all kinds of racket sports, Squash,” Drake said. “Racquetball I and four levels of Tennis, Triathlon Training, all kinds of weight training courses.”

Having made their living at the College passing on their adventurous spirits to students, Whitley and Drake were upset to hear their positions were being cut.

After working for the College for almost 27 years and being only three years from retirement, Drake said the program cut could have been better timed.

Within three years of my retirement they’re going to eliminate my job, they’re going eliminate my health care, and they’re going to eliminate my retirement. At 64 years of age it’s going to be relatively difficult for me to find another job that’s going to have those kinds of benefits.

“I’m doing what I love,” Drake said. “This is this is the best job I’ve ever had … I’m 63 years old, and when I retire I’ll be 64, and so I’ll still be two years from my full retirement age of 66 … within three years of my retirement they’re going to eliminate my job, they’re going eliminate my health care, and they’re going to eliminate my retirement. At 64 years of age it’s going to be relatively difficult for me to find another job that’s going to have those kinds of benefits.”

Both Drake and Whitley received the news in different ways, but both said there was very little official communication. Whitley said he still hasn’t had the opportunity to have a formal conversation with the dean who made the cut.

“The dean of the faculty never had a conversation with us,” Whitley said. “She’s never taken the time to speak to us to let us know that our positions were being eliminated. She’s taken it down the food chain and put that responsibility on professor Deschenes, the department chair, to do that.”

Whitley acknowledged that he and Drake aren’t eligible for tenure, and it’s the administration’s right to end the activities program and cut their positions, but he wishes the decision could have waited just a few more years.

They’re just dumping us out like a pair of old shoes, and three more years was all it would’ve taken for us, and we could’ve gotten out gracefully and dealt with it. I’ll be fine, but still it’s not how I wanted to depart.

“It’s their privilege I guess,” Whitley said. “You know, I’m not a professor; I’m a lecturer or an instructor. They call us NTEs, non-tenure eligible. So, it’s their right to do that, and I think that they probably could have handled that a little better. … They’re just dumping us out like a pair of old shoes, and three more years was all it would’ve taken for us, and we could’ve gotten out gracefully and dealt with it. I’ll be fine, but still it’s not how I wanted to depart.”

Drake said that while it’s hard for him to get past his hurt at the College’s decision, his fond memories of past adventures with students are what make the sorrow worth it. Reminiscing about an adventure to Camp Huntington in the Adirondack Mountains of upstate New York, which he first visited as an outdoor education major at the State University of New York Courtland, Drake said his favorite class to teach has been winter camping.

“Because of a very wonderful set of circumstances, I’ve been able to take students to Camp Huntington for a week of winter camping over spring break,” Drake said. “I think I started in about 1994, and so we spend a week, and I teach them how to cross-country ski, how to snow shoe, we build and sleep in snow shelters.”

After hearing about the cuts, Carolina May ’18 and two of her friends began a petition last spring to keep the activities classes. While the petition did not save the program altogether, the administration did take note of the student pushback and is working to develop an alternative program.

May said the courses are the best way for students to fit activity into their already busy schedules.

“I think that when students get busy, the first thing they cut out of their day is exercise and being outdoors, so these classes, people sign up for them and then it sort of ensures that they’re going to spend one hour Monday, Wednesday, Friday or whatever, outside enjoying nature, being active,” May said.

Having completed Kayaking last year, May said the skills she learned have given her resume a boost.

“I’m hoping to go into environmental field research, and so saying that I’ve taken kayaking, I feel comfortable in the water, and I’ve been trained through this class is kind of an asset to looking for a job where I might be in the field on the water taking data,” May said.

Adventure isn’t Whitley’s only passion. Being on the water or in the mountains teaching students how to climb cliffs and paddle through boulder beds is where Whitley said he is the happiest.

“[T]eaching students — that’s my passion,” Whitley said. “That’s my love. I’ve been honored to have been able to work with some of the finest students on the planet for the last 30 years.”

So, after the photos are taken down and Drake’s and Whitley’s offices are turned over to new faculty, memories of the one-credit kinesiology courses will remain with students who paddled down the James River in the wake of Whitley’s kayak or students who climbed the face of Luray’s cliffs to shouts of encouragement from Drake.

Though the cuts have been made and the activities program as students know it is reaching its end, Whitley and Drake’s lives of adventure will continue long past their departure from the College.

“My adventures don’t end with class. You know, I live my dream. I live the metaphors of life,” Whitley said. “They’re talking about achieving their goals in life and trying to get somewhere and do things. ‘Climb that ladder of success, climb that mountain, there’s more than one way to the top.’ I live the metaphors of life. Forge that river, cross that stream, still waters run deep…”


  1. This is terrible news. I was fortunate enough to take rock climbing and kayaking from Kim Whitley in the 90’s, and they are still some of my favorite memories from W&M. Then having the opportunity to TA those classes in grad school gave me a wonderful leadership opportunity. This really is a sad day for W&M.

  2. Is there something we can do? Is there some sort of action we as students could take to help out their situations? I’m in Adventure Games right now with Kim Whitley and it breaks my heart knowing that his future is unclear, especially since he was so close to retirement.

  3. I am so saddened to hear of this – as an alum of the ’90s these activity courses gave me an opportunity to take risks and try new endeavors (without the stressors of academic grades at peril). They fostered my now love of hiking and kayaking (which I would not have otherwise been exposed to) and helped me to realize that modern dance was not my forte’ :-). With increasing mental health issues across college campuses and ample research supporting the value of activity related to mitigating some of the intensity of those issues (as well as increasing healthy behaviors & the the brain’s ability to function) I feel it is not only short-sighted but misguided to end such a program. What is MOST disappointing of my alma mater is the lack of support, communication, and respect granted these professors who have given W&M students so much over the years. Kim & Randy please know that your students are eternally grateful and disheartened at this treatment.

  4. This is absolutely terrible. I’m a ’12 grad and these courses were the highlight of my time at WM. As a current military officer and fighter pilot these helped me develop confidence and leadership, and I worry that future students will not get that opportunity.

  5. I’m appalled that the administration finds it necessary to cut these courses. These were some of my best memories from undergraduate- I was lucky to travel up to Maine for the ski/snowboard course FIVE times, plus I was able to enroll in rock climbing and adventure games. After leaving school, I did not pursue graduate school; instead, I became a skydiving instructor, and later a ski instructor/ski patroller. I can say that my time in these Kinesiology courses influenced my decisions, and my knowledge and appreciation of the outdoors and of adventure. Not everything worthwhile comes from a textbook, and there have been many of us that were inspired by the classes that we took with Kim and Randy.

    What a complete shame. This is how you educate a generation of students who lack multi-faceted personalities and interests. This should be a complete embarrassment to William and Mary.

  6. Has the administration commented as to why they are ending the activity courses? Was it a liability issue? A comment from the administration is the least they could do. Professors Drake and Whitley deserved more than to just be dumped after decades of service to the William and Mary community!

  7. The Virginia Gazette should pick up this story and run with it. As a 2012 graduate I majored in marketing with a concentration in management and leadership and minored in psych. I graduated Magna Cum Laude. These classes reduced my stress and these instructors (Whitley and Drake) were part instructor part therapists. I am so sad to hear this news because the school can afford to not only keep the classes but at minimum allow these teachers to retire with their full benefits.

  8. This is very disappointing. Add me to the list of alums who remember Kim Whitley and Adventure Games as key parts of my liberal arts education. I agree with the above commenter that, in light of the increased importance given to mental health and physical activity in our society, it seems indefensible to cut such a beloved and successful program.

  9. Ugh this is terrible news! Just this past weekend I was on campus, walking along the edge of Lake Matoka, reminiscing about Kim’s Kayaking class. I agree with all of these commenters that the Kinesiology/Physical Education requirement was an absolute gift to students, and today’s college students need it more than ever! What a disappointment – and cutting the program three years out from a natural “sunset” seems unnecessarily callous.

  10. As the mother of a 2012 graduate, I am appalled by the callousness with which Drake and Whitley are being treated. Cutting the program just in time so that they don’t get their retirement benefits is cynical and brutal. How does this fit with the humanist values which the College purportedly espouses? I guess those are just lip service. Let the program phase out organically when these men retire.

  11. This is heartbreaking. I was a shy and risk-averse kid from a small town with limited active opportunities, and Adventure Games was one of the single most impactful courses I took while I was in college. The experiences I had in that class did — and continue to — help me grow as a person, as a creative thinker, and as a leader. They were the basis of a confidence I had never had before, and opened my eyes to incredible activities and adventures I still enjoy 25 years later. I sincerely hope the College will reconsider this decision.

  12. So when the phonathon callers ask about my favorite class, the answer is Randy Drake’s paddling courses. I live by a lake and use the skills from those classes as often as anything I learned in Art History or Religious Studies. How’s that next fundraising conversation going to go?

    Even if KINE gets removed as a major, keeping these talented, dedicated staff on the payroll as activities instructors or club advisers seems pretty obvious. Like many of Drake’s students, I worked a few shifts at the boathouse, helping other students enjoy the lake safely. The lake is less of an asset to campus without the related classes.

    Bad move, W&M.

  13. I took triathlon as my PE class in 1989. That has been followed by 26 years of competing in triathlons and marathons. I’ve completed 2 Ironman triathlons, multiple half-Ironman races, and 12 marathons, including 2 in Boston. I met my husband running while training for my first marathon. I also started a 5k race in my neighborhood that attracts kids competing in their first running race and has over 1,000 participants. To say that that PE class altered the course of my life would not be an understatement. Please give others the opportunity to have a similar experience.

  14. Kim Whitley was my Kayaking instructor in the spring of 1989. He had such a passion for teaching students about outdoor adventures. I remember flailing around in the pool trying to Eskimo roll — he made it look easy. We had several great whitewater trips on the upper James and elsewhere. My daughter is now a student at W&M and I’m sad that she won’t be able to have similar experiences. I am deeply disappointed the administration is taking this decision and would strongly encourage these officials to reconsider. Mr. Whitley — thanks for your dedication and for giving me and many other alumni and students great experiences and fond memories!

  15. Dale Gattis William and Mary parent, It’s a shame what the college leadership is doing to these instructors. While they preach about embracing diversity and create programs to deal with addictions they just kick these beloved leaders to the curb. Well I will say that I don’t feel they are creating any goodwill amongst the alumni who help support the. college. I will also take that into consideration when I talk to other student who might be interested in attending the school. I will steer those individuals toward a school that practices more consideration to their staff and students.

  16. I learned to snowboard, white water canoe and scuba dive with these two professors. The trips to Maine will always have a special place in my heart. I now have a passion for snowboarding that I share with my girlfriend who also learned to ski in the class. It’s sad to know that while I’m booking this years ski trips other students won’t be able to learn the same way I did.

  17. I am an alumnus of the college and I am very disappointed to hear the manner in which this change was handled. What a disservice to loyal faculty, especially so close to retirement. William and Mary is fully capable of addressing changes in a more considerate, thoughtful, and forthcoming manner. I wish these staff members the very best as they transition away from the college they have faithfully served for many years.

  18. For myself and many of my peers, these courses are one of the lasting collective memories that we have at William and Mary. I can see how they don’t stack up very well “in the books,” but they are definitely part of fabric of the school that makes W&M so unique and wonderful. I’d be surprised if there ever were a student tour guide who had taken one of these kinesiology courses and didn’t mention it to their tour group of prospective, paying students. Perhaps that was something that the administration didn’t consider when looking at their numbers and figures.

    Furthermore, it’s despicable the way Drake and Whitley described how the administration addressed the termination of the program and their jobs. If anything, William and Mary taught me how to look out for others and my community, and the administration’s actions are the antithesis of that. These guys were dedicated to the school and its students through decades of campus development and emotional and physical education. The least the administration could do was ensure that they can have a respectable transition with a respectable retirement. They should be ashamed.

    Thanks, Flat Hat, for keeping us up to date with campus news!


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