Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich
Long time Daphne, Alabama, resident Dr. Thomas P. Rosandich was called to eternal life on Saturday, 29 August 2020, having passed due to natural causes. He was 88 years old. Rosandich was preceded into death by his parents, Toma and Lousia (nee Vlahovich), brother John (Pat), his beloved wife Sally (nee Gentile), and his son Gregory (Reba). He is survived by his brother Ronald (Elaine) and children Thomas “TJ” (Janice), Steven (Jayne), Mark, Michele and Nicki (Matthew); six grandchildren and six great-grandchildren. Rosandich was born and raised in Sheboygan Falls, Wisconsin, where he was an Eagle Scout and a gifted athlete which sparked his life-long interest in sports. He excelled in football and track and received a football scholarship to the University of Wisconsin – La Crosse from which he took a degree in physical education and history in 1954. He went on to get a master’s degree from the National Sports University of Indonesia and a PhD from the Union Institute in Ohio. The University of Wisconsin – La Crosse recognized his contributions to sports and physical education by his induction into the UW-La Crosse Athletic Wall of Fame in 1983, naming him the Maurice O. Graff Distinguished Alumnus in 1989, and honoring him annually by presenting the Rosandich Thesis Award, which recognizes the physical education student with the best master’s degree thesis of the year. Following graduation from UW-La Crosse, Rosandich began a 20-year career of service in the United States Marine Corps Reserve, where he coached numerous world record and Olympic track and field athletes. He was the founder and director of the inaugural Marine Corps Schools Relays in Quantico, Va., and was named the All-Marine Track and Field Coach, All-Marine Cross Country Coach and All-Service Coach in 1956 in which capacity he coached the military track and field athletes in the 1956 Melbourne Olympic Games. This assignment began a life-long relationship with the Olympic movement in which he served several countries an Olympic track and field coach; official observer for national teams; a long serving member of the International Olympic Committees’ (IOC) Commission for Culture and Olympic Education; member of the U.S. Olympic Committee (USOC) and President of USA Team Handball during the Atlanta Olympic quadrennial. For his many years of work in the Olympic movement, Rosandich was awarded the USOC President’s Award and in 1997, he was conferred with the highest IOC award, The Olympic Order. After the 1956 Olympics, Rosandich accepted an assignment with the U.S. State Department’s Sports America program as a “Goodwill Ambassador of Sports”. He embarked on a coaching and sports education tour of several Southeast Asian nations, an effort that helped to lay the foundation for the many sports program in those countries in which he was engaged for the next 60 years. Through his efforts, both as an individual and through the United States Sports Academy, Rosandich has served to raise the standard of sports in some 60 countries around the world. After service as the national track and field coach and sports advisor to the Ministry of Sports in Indonesia, Rosandich returned to the United States where he founded and developed the first all-season sports camp in northern Wisconsin in 1964. While there, he also launched the Paavo Nurmi marathon in 1969, an annual event that has since become the longest continuously run marathon in the mid-west that celebrated its 50th anniversary last year. Rosandich subsequently was tapped to serve as director of athletics in the University of Wisconsin system at Parkside and Milwaukee. Active in the professional organization for athletic directors, the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA), Rosandich and his fellow athletic directors realized that sport in America, particularly at the collegiate and national levels, was not realizing its full potential because of poor administration and coaching. Rosandich concluded that the answer to the problems lay in education. It was an insight that was to lead to the founding the United States Sports Academy in 1972 in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Rosandich relocated the Academy to Alabama in 1976 as the only free-standing and accredited sports university in the United States. Over the past 48 years, the Academy has conferred thousands of sport-specific degrees to its students and has enriched the lives of countless more through its education and outreach programs that have been delivered in some 67 countries around the world. The Academy now offers bachelor’s, master’s and doctoral degree programs as well as a wide array of non-degree sport education programs. The Academy campus, located in Daphne, Alabama, which has won architectural awards for its beauty, also houses the American Sport Art Museum and Archives (ASAMA). Founded in 1984 by Rosandich, ASAMA embodies the enduring connection between sports and art. Through tireless effort, Rosandich built the collection into a world-recognized museum housing more than 1,700 pieces in all mediums. It is thought to be the largest museum of the sport genre in the world and is open free-of-charge as a public service to the community. Rosandich’s impact in Southwest Alabama has transcended sport and education and has included initiatives such as the creation of “Operation Bounce-back”, the first cardiac rehabilitation program in Mobile. Through the Academy’s outreach programs, the institution is the only enterprise in the area that has brought six foreign heads of State to the Port City. Rosandich’s contributions to sports have been widely recognized through honors and awards. Beside those already cited, his contributions to track and field earned him induction in the Helms Track and Field Hall of Fame, the Order of Bahrain-First Class, induction into the International Sports Hall of Fame and Mobile Sports Hall of Fame. He was particularly gratified to recognized by the Ellis Island Medal of Honor bestowed on individuals who have made it their mission to share with those less fortunate to uphold the ideals and spirit of America. Rosandich could also give as well as he got. He created the Academy’s Awards of Sport program, which each year serves as “A Tribute to the Artist and the Athlete.” The Academy presents the awards to pay tribute to those who have made significant contributions to sport, in categories as diverse as the artist and the athlete in several different arenas of sport.
Rosandich was a member of Christ the King Catholic Church in Daphne, Alabama. A mass in celebration of his life will be held at Christ the King Catholic Church at 4 p.m. on Thursday, 3 September, 2020 followed by a reception on the campus of the United States Sports Academy. Interment at Fairhope Memorial Gardens will follow at a later date.