Denis Tallini – Health & Physical Education, 1977
1977 – Health and Physical Education
I first came to Lafayette and USL from Vernon, NY in 1972. At that time the university was adding a wrestling program in order to reach A Division I status. Why my junior college coach had a catalog from USL is unknown; however, he knew that I wanted to move up to a higher level of competition and needed financial help to continue my education and encouraged me to at least check out the school. After several phone calls from coach John Demko, I decided to make the trip to Lafayette, sight unseen.
To say that coming to Lafayette was a culture shock is an understatement. There were many times when I was ready to pack up and head back home. Without the companionship of the other athletes and the challenge posed by a few key people, I probably would have left. The facilities (the second floor of McNaspy Stadium) were significantly less than promised and the support for the program from the athletic administration was minimal. There seemed to be a lot of resentment from others primarily because many of us were from out of state (in particular the north).
If it weren’t for the talks I had with Dr. Louis Roth about my situation and his words of encouragement, things might have turned out differently. Eventually, I came to realize that he was right about USL and the community. Meanwhile, in the classroom, the challenge was to survive courses such as exercise physiology with Dr. Birdie Eason. This lady was tough, fair and an inspiration. She encouraged us to think about the future and the “non-traditional” options that were out there. Although I did start out as a health and physical education teacher, I eventually went to graduate school (at another university), earned a masters degree in exercise science/cardiac rehab and began a new career. This brought me back to Lafayette where I have been living and working ever since.
Finally, there was/is Dr. Ed Dugas. Along with his genuine passion for his work and his desire to help others, he seems to have a knack for getting people to perform. As a student, I did not feel that Dr. Dugas felt I could really cut it in his classes and after earning an “A” in one of those classes, he even told me that my performance surprised him. Well, this just kept me pushing to prove that I was capable and to prove him wrong. Looking back, I wonder if that was just the method he chose to get me to do my best. In the years since, I have had several opportunities to work with Ed and they have all been great.
Now I’m sure that I would have learned from any college experience, but the exposure to the culture and people of southwest Louisiana has been great. I would not change things one bit. This is especially true since I met my future spouse there as well. The wrestling program was very successful because all the athletes were determined to make it so. We were fighters and the nature of our sport helped us develop the determination to overcome adversity and the personalities to establish us as a social entity. We had some great trips in school station wagons to places, such as Atlanta and Chattanooga and those memorable meets against LSU.
It must have been destiny that I came to USL. I had the chance to make many friends (several “special” ones are still a major part of my life), learn about a different culture, gain knowledge and establish myself as a leader in my field (locally). I have had the opportunity to be involved with the Alumni Association and the Centennial Celebration and look forward to staying involved for years to come. Thanks,
Class of 1977