Cal State East Bay professor helped build department

  • November 21, 2008

By Kristofer Noceda
The Daily Review
Updated: 11/22/2008

HAYWARD - When Calvin Caplan was in high school, he forged his parents' signature so that he could play football. He also didn't tell them when he changed his major in college from biology to exercise physiology.

"They wanted me to become a doctor and now they thought I was just going to be a P.E. teacher," he said.

But as it turns out, Caplan, now 66, has taken his passion for athletics and done more than just send kids off on laps around a track.

The professor emeritus at Cal State East Bay is credited with playing an integral role in molding the university's Department of Kinesiology and Physical Education to what it is today.

"We don't want students who leave this department to be only teachers, but the best teachers," Caplan said. "These students are going to be department chairs who are creating curriculum that is meaningful, rather than just teaching kids how to throw a ball."

Caplan, a Pleasanton resident, has spent 40 years at the university and will retire at the end of next school year. The longtime educator has held a number of positions on campus, starting as a professor of exercise physiology and head coach for the water polo team. He now serves as coordinator for the department's graduate and undergraduate programs.

In addition, Caplan has been active in the Academic Senate and faculty governance on campus, and was honored last year by the Faculty Affairs Committee for his outstanding service.

Don Sawyer, who serves as the university president's chief of staff, has worked with Caplan and praises him for always putting students first.

"Cal really has a true love for students and is very committed to them," he said.

Sawyer also refers to his longtime friend as a "triple-threat" faculty member.

"He's a true renaissance man and is just exceptional in his teaching, research and service," Sawyer said.

Colleagues also credit the longtime educator with helping raise people's opinions of the department.

"Historically, there has been this negativity toward physical education and a lot of people were not giving the department faculty the respect you would expect," said Richard Rivenes, who worked with Caplan for many years before retiring from the university in 1999. "Cal, who has become an ambassador for the department, is involved in so many things - especially at the university level - and has showed that we are knowledgeable and academically oriented people."

But Caplan won't take all the credit, as he said the committed and respectful department faculty members over the years have helped raise the program's quality.

"The culture here from all these people allowed us to develop the program," he said. "We're now able to get students into high-level research, in addition to the physical experience. And that's very different."

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