On August 31, 2019, SHAPE America - Central District lost one of our most dedicated and passionate physical educators and leaders. Originally from Austin, Minnesota, Nancy Raso-Eklund coached and taught health, physical education, special education, and wellness at all levels for more than 45 years in Green River, Wyoming. Nancy had been the Central District Executive Director for the past 4 years. She was also the Executive Director of the Wyoming Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance for 23 years. In addition, Nancy was the Green River #2 district’s Wellness Director, PEP Grant Coordinator and most recently the state of Wyoming’s IHT Heart Rate Monitor Grant Coordinator.
In 1996, Nancy was recognized as the AAHPERD (SHAPE America) National Elementary Physical Educator of the Year and Disney Educator of the Year. In 2016, Nancy earned the President’s Council on Sports, Fitness and Nutrition’s Community Leadership Award. In 2017, I had the honor of presenting Nancy with the SHAPE America - Central District Mark Harvey Legacy Award, which acknowledges individuals who, by performance, style, humility and wisdom have personified the personal and professional attributes of the late great Dr. Mark L. Harvey of Colorado. In September 2019, Nancy was inducted into the Green River High School Hall of Fame where she coached swimming, basketball, and volleyball.
I first met Nancy as a member of SHAPE Colorado’s Executive Committee. Since then, Nancy and I have been recruited to participate in numerous local, regional, and national committees and initiatives. Nancy and I also engaged with many affiliated non-profit organizations boards and special events together. Some of these include; the President’s Youth Fitness Program Task Force, Let’s Move Active Schools Physical Activity Leadership Program, The Cooper Institute’s Fitnessgram Professional Development Task Force, and one of her absolute favorites, Physical Best Specialist Program. We attended many Gen-Youth, Fuel Up to Play 60 and Jump Rope for Heart events. We shared many ideas between the Colorado Governor’s Council for Active and Healthy Lifestyles and the Wyoming Governor’s Council for Physical Fitness and Sports. Her dedicated engagement with all of these activities provided her with a very broad perspective and valuable voice towards the advocacy and promotion of quality health and physical education programs locally, regionally and nationwide.
Nancy would greet everyone with a huge, bright, and caring smile. She considered everyone she would meet to be family and was a compassionate, trustworthy listener, and mentor to so many teachers nationwide. As an innovative planner and organizer, Central District and Wyoming health and physical educators benefited greatly from Nancy’s open door policy and networking abilities. She would bring in the nation's very best speakers and presenters to their state and regional conventions as the convention manager.
Nancy had an “old school” work ethic and a “just get it done” attitude. She was “ALL IN” on every SHAPE America initiative placed in front of her by the national office. Every summer, Nancy would pack up her car to drive to attend nearly all of the Sally Scherrer Leadership Summits whether they were in Sioux Falls, SD or Mahoney State Park outside Omaha, NE. We would spend hours on the phone brainstorming ideas for the implementation of a variety of initiatives. Nancy would often drive six hours to Morrison, CO to babysit and spend time with her grandchildren. While in the Denver area, she would often call me to get together for an impromptu Central District meeting. These meetings would usually begin with her sharing all the activities that her family and grandchildren were participating in at the time. We would then review and visit the next steps for our strategic plan and/or future effort implementations. We would brainstorm ideas and when we thought of a good one, Nancy would light up and say, “I love that, let’s do it!” She believed as a professional educator, engagement in our professional organizations and conventions were something that should be expected of everyone and the sky was the limit for new ideas. Nancy would often revisit and remind me of past ideas and ask, “can we do it now?” During many of these meetings with Nancy two words would usually come up in our conversations, “moving forward”. As a result, #MovingForward became the theme for my SHAPE America - Central District Presidency and the 14th Annual Sally Scherrer Leadership Summit.
As such a strong advocate for quality health and physical education programs, Nancy was a regular attendee at SHAPE America’s Speak-Out day, most of the time as the sole representative from Wyoming. Gay Hughes of Wyoming has stated, “Nancy is the face of Wyoming AHPERD. She is devoted to the cause of advocating for physical education like no one else in the state of Wyoming.” Nancy and Gay were Co-Convention Managers for the 2013 Central District Convention. Nancy often carried with her bookmarks and cards from the keynote speaker James P. Owens, who is the author of the bestselling books The Code of the West-Cowboy Ethics, Cowboy Values and The Try, Reclaiming the American Dream. Nancy would often hand out the bookmarks to the many new friends she would make at SHAPE America events because she lived and believed in the values they included so strongly. #MovingForward we should keep these values in mind in honor of Nancy for our professions future efforts!
The Code of the West - Cowboy Ethics:
- Live Each Day with Courage
- Take Pride in Your Work
- Always Finish What You Start
- Do What Has To Be Done
- Be Tough, But Fair
- When You Make A Promise, Keep It
- Ride For The Brand
- Talk Less And Say More
- Remember That Some Things Aren’t For Sale
- Know Where To Draw The Line
The Try, Reclaiming the American Dream - Steps to Success:
- Start with a Dream
- Turn Your Dream Into A Measurable Goal
- Create A Game Plan and Timetable
- Make a Commitment
- Take Full Responsibility
- Expect Adversity
- Give It 110%
The Joy of Effort Award honors individuals who, by performance and style, have personified the concept that the effort made to enrich the goals and objectives of health and physical education, physical activity, dance, and sport is a labor of love, inspired by commitment and dedication. I am in AWE of every SHAPE America Joy of Effort Award winner that I have had the honor to meet. I am not on the awards committee, but I don’t believe there is any other individual that exemplifies the characteristics of “Joy of Effort” as does Nancy Raso-Eklund. Nancy will be sorely missed by our entire national health and physical education community.