Weekly Feature

2013-01-09 / Front Page

Athletic community mourns loss of Dr. James Rusin

by DAVID F. SHERMAN Managing Editor

Rusin Rusin Whenever Williamsville Central School District athletes compete in the future, there will be one empty seat on the sidelines.

Dr. James F. Rusin, its director of athletics for the past 33 years, died Sunday, Jan. 6, 2013, after a lengthy and courageous battle with cancer. He was 64.

He graduated from Depew High School where he played basketball, football and baseball. He went on to play Division I baseball at the University of Buffalo. Dr. Rusin was a three-time graduate of the university, completing his doctorate in 1981.

It was on the collegiate baseball diamond that he met longtime friend Kevin Lester, now athletic director at Williamsville South High School. Lester played for St. Bonaventure University.

“We were friends for over 42 years,” Lester said. “Williamsville high school sports were his passion. You name it — nothing in athletics in

Amherst wasn’t touched by him.”

Dr. Rusin was a 43-year employee of the Williamsville Central School District, serving as a teacher and coach before being named director of athletics. In addition, Dr. Rusin was responsible for the district’s physical education and health programs. His passion and energy for creating health, wellness and athletic opportunities for students were limitless.

During Dr. Rusin’s tenure, the district’s interscholastic program grew to 187 teams with 240 coaches. His creativity and collaborative spirit were instrumental in starting many new programs including boys and girls ice hockey, boys and girls lacrosse, girls golf, and the addition of numerous modified boys and girls programs.

He reveled in cheering the teams on to victory from his lawn chair and knew the players by name.

Dr. Rusin was very active in Western New York and New York State on various projects including writing a book on the dangers of athletic performance drugs in 1982. He was a sought after consultant on this issue, working with the FBI and NCAA and traveling throughout the country speaking on ergogenic drug abuse. He proved to be ahead of his time in addressing this topic.

His most recent work was focused on the important issue of head injuries. He was a part of a team that developed a cutting-edge protocol to safeguard Williamsville athletes from the dangers of head injuries. This protocol is now being replicated and used nationally.

Dr. Rusin taught in the graduate school at Canisius College for 18 years and enjoyed tutoring young teachers and administrators. Nothing made him happier than seeing his students succeed in the profession.

Dr. Rusin was active in all aspects of youth athletic programs in the Town of Amherst. He served on the boards of Amherst Hockey and Lou Gehrig Baseball and was closely associated with the creation of the Amherst Basketball Association and Amherst Lacrosse Association.

In addition, he had strong ties to Amherst Girls Softball, Amherst Soccer and other organizations throughout the town. He was a longtime sponsor of the Amherst Avenue of Athletes program, which honored top high school athletes and adult volunteers in the town. He also was heavily involved in the building of the Northtown Center hockey rinks.

Over his career, Dr. Rusin received various professional awards including the Amherst Distinguished Citizens Award, the Western New York Administrator of the Year Award, the New York State Distinguished Physical Educator Award and the National Council for Leadership of Physical Education.

The Amherst Chamber of Commerce awarded him the Town Sportsmanship Award, and he was also a member of the Amherst Avenue of Athletes.

“Jim inspired a great deal of support from this community. He was the main driver in a lot of new programs,” Lester added. “His motor was always going.”

He is survived by his wife of 37 years, Dr. Mary Lou (State) Rusin, and his beloved son, Dr. John S. Rusin of San Diego.

The three Rusins loved to travel and recently visited China and Scotland. They also shared many good memories staying at their homes in Florida for the past 28 years.

Dr. Rusin’s life will be celebrated during a Mass at the Newman Center at the University at Buffalo on a date to be announced.

Flowers are gratefully declined. Memorials may be made to Daemen College, External Relations Office, 4380 Main St., Amherst, NY 14226.

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