The stillest water at greatest depth has much in common with a recent retiree at Sul Ross State University in Alpine. Dr. Chet Sample also runs deep, having provided exemplary leadership that encouraged scholarship ahead of intercollegiate athletics.
That said, he’s as rare as a spotless leopard, helping students focus first on the goal of college graduation, then on athletics. Along the way, he earned the respect of EVERYONE — student athletes, parents, colleagues, alumni and the rest — even opponents on the basketball floor.
On the big canvas of life, he painted potential in vivid colors, with scoreboards and statistics relegated to the background.
His 42 years in education included almost 40 at SRSU — 20 as both Chair of the Physical Education Department and Athletics Director. He was men’s basketball coach for five years and women’s mentor for 15, winning or tying for conference championships six times.
Sample’s skills were called into play early when he directed the transition from scholarship to non-scholarship sports two years after arrival. The Lobos were among the first in Texas to compete without athletic scholarships.
The university’s remote location complicates travel. The closest opponent is more than 300 miles away; some are almost a thousand. Merely arriving at some destinations should count for something.
Traveling a million miles or so provides many memories, and some cause Sample to redden on the retelling. Arriving in Stephenville with his women’s team well after the midnight hour, he distributed motel room keys, wearily urging them to retire immediately, hoping they could be as fresh as possible for tournament play a few hours later.
He hastened to his room, first removing contact lenses from tired eyes. Feminine voices, laughter and general revelry in the adjoining room made sleeping impossible. Rapping on the wall didn’t help, so he slipped on his clothes and knocked on their door. Explaining the cow’s methodology in cabbage-eating, he made it clear that the girls should begin the quiet game immediately, and they did.
Hours later at breakfast, the same girls were seated at the next table. Their voices were familiar, but their faces weren’t. Oh, how he wished his contacts had been in place when he’d threatened them earlier. Turns out they were members of another team from another university.
Proof positive of his commitment to academic excellence came with his recommendation that grade point minimums be INCREASED for athletes. It was so ordered, much to the delight of the faculty.
The requirement that players take their classes seriously worked. Thus, SRSU student athletes earn the right to play sports. Some 40 graduates of his programs now have doctoral degrees. Hundreds more are teaching and coaching.
Several years ago, he underwent a medical procedure performed by one of his former students.
Born in Athens and a graduate of Seminole (Texas) High School, the 6-3 Sample was an all-state selection in basketball. At Wayland Baptist University, he made NAIA All-District three years — once was named an NAIA All-American —a nd set a school career scoring record of 1,726 points.
Following graduation there, he served two years in the U.S. Army before becoming a men’s basketball graduate assistant while completing his master’s degree at SRSU. He received his doctorate at East Texas State University in 1975.
No one in Alpine is more respected than this man whose values, goals, integrity and character are beyond reproach.
Sample has received a ton of honors, and with his wife, Belinda, has initiated a number of endowments throughout the university.
He’s served as scoutmaster and as a board member of both AISD and the Wesley Foundation. Sample has been a Lions Club member for more than 30 years.
Dr. and Mrs. Sample are members of Alpine United Methodist Church. She is a former SRSU student and was payroll supervisor there for 25 years. Their children, Michael of Austin and Denise Dusek of Wall, are SRSU graduates, and grandchildren Jake, 14, and Melanie, 9, say they’re SRSU bound.
He’s been my friend for 30 years; I admire no one more.
The Samples plan to remain in Alpine, helping as they can as volunteers.
Students won’t find Sample’s name in the catalog. He’s listed in the phone book, however. He’ll help them “do life.” Dr. Chet Sample is as good as it gets.
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