Four KSR professors leave a legacy in retirement

Professors Donna Goodwin, Brian Maraj, John Dunn and Billy Strean will all retire in 2022

Jon Pullin - 22 June 2022

Four long-time Faculty of Kinesiology, Sport and Recreation professors will retire from the University of Alberta this year. While each of them took different paths in academia and research, all made tremendous contributions to the faculty and their craft.

Donna Goodwin, Brian Maraj, John Dunn and Billy Strean will retire at different times in 2022.

Faculty of KSR dean Nick Holt says each faculty member will be missed.

“Congratulations to our academic faculty members who are retiring this year. Drs. Goodwin, Maraj, Strean, and Dunn have made incredible contributions to KSR over many years. Each is an inspirational teacher, researcher and mentor. Although they will be sorely missed, I am sure that exciting adventures await them! On behalf of KSR, I would like to thank Donna, Brian, Billy, and John for their dedication to the Faculty and wish them all the very best in retirement,” says Holt.

Donna Goodwin

Donna Goodwin is retiring at the end of June. She has been with the faculty since 2006. She taught adapted physical activity and physical activity for individuals with developmental impairments. Her research interests include ethical professional and research practice in adapted physical activity and the physical activity life experiences of people experiencing disability.

One of her research aims was to raise awareness of the “invisible labour” by parents to get their disabled children access to community programming. Goodwin sought to make changes at the policy level.

“Donna made a huge contribution to the field of adaptive physical activity through her thought-provoking presentations, scholarly articles and book chapters — she challenged a lot of the taken-for-granted knowledge to push the field forward,” says KSR colleague Janice Causgrove Dunn.

Brian Maraj

Brian Maraj is retiring in August and has been a faculty member in KSR for 23 years.  His research investigates motor learning, control, understanding the mechanisms involved in the acquisition of motor skills and the appropriateness of transfer between skills. He won the SALUTE teaching award in 2011 and the Rutherford Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in 2015.

He enjoys playing squash and organized and participated in a squash marathon fundraiser for 10 years (affectionately known as the Marajathon). The event honours former students who have suffered spinal cord injuries and all funds raised support programs for kids and teens with disabilities.

“One of my very cherished memories is being voted by the undergraduate student body to deliver the University of Alberta Last Lecture in 2015. It was a magical evening with family and friends in the audience,” says Maraj.

To his students and colleagues, Dr. Maraj paraphrased the words of the late Maya Angelou: “I may not remember what you did and I may not remember what you said. But I will never forget the way you made me feel.”

His plans for retirement? “Eat. Play. Laugh. Sleep. Repeat.”

“Brian leads with heart and passion,” says colleague Dave Collins. “He is the person who is going to hug you, not hurt you, that is, unless you’re on a squash court. To see enthusiasm and passion, get him talking about family, a controversy in track and field, questions he’s asking in the lab, or of course, his teaching. Students will not forget ‘Dr. Maraj’ jumping on the desk to make a point, or his heartfelt and compassionate approach to teaching and learning. A lot of those students, and others Brian touched at the U of A, will take that with them and insert a piece of it into their own lives, and that’s a pretty good legacy.”   

John Dunn

John Dunn is retiring in September. He came to the U of A from Scotland to complete his master's degree in 1989 and then completed his PhD while playing for three years for the Golden Bears soccer team. He was hired as an assistant professor in 1998 in the Faculty of Physical Education and Recreation (now KSR) where he specialized in sports psychology.

During his time at KSR, he received the faculty's Undergraduate Student Teaching Award three times, as well as a Faculty Research Award and a Faculty Core Values Award.

“One of my fondest memories is providing sports psychology support to the Golden Bears hockey team from 1998-2002 during which time the team won two national championships and two Canada West championships. Following the Golden Bears Hockey motto, ‘It's amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit’."

In 2003, Dunn’s master’s of arts student Jeff Vallance won the Masters Thesis Award and in the same year, his PhD student Nick Holt won the Doctoral Dissertation Award from the Association for the Advancement of Applied Sport Psychology. 

“Jeff and Nick went on to surpass me tenfold in terms of the research careers they established,” says Dunn.

Both of his daughters played for the U of A Pandas soccer team. 

“Watching them play together on the same field was special, but seeing them both graduate from the U of A with a world-class education was even more special,” says Dunn.

Dunn says he was also fortunate that the Faculty of KSR always facilitated opportunities to wear the Maple Leaf while providing sport psychology support to Canadian athletes at international events including world championships and the Olympic Games.

“To my students,” he says, “most of you will forget 95 per cent of the course material you were taught in the classroom. (I've forgotten 95 per cent of the things I taught you). University is not about remembering facts, figures and course content. It is about learning how to think, how to communicate and how to develop time-management skills that will help you navigate the challenges of life beyond the walls of the university. Ask for help when you need it (because life is a team sport where we rely on each other to achieve our goals). Work hard, play hard, have fun.”   

“To my colleagues: Take time out of your day to develop and foster social relationships with your colleagues, and don't forget to mentor new faculty who come through the doors. I could not have survived academia without the mentorship I received when I was a junior faculty member.”

In retirement, Dunn hopes to finally find the time to write a book about performance psychology based on the lessons he learned from working with high-performance athletes and members of the Canadian Armed Forces over the last 25 years. He also hopes to invest more time and energy into fostering trainee service dogs and play a small part in helping the dogs develop the skills that will enable them to enhance the lives of individuals who need their support. Finally, he hopes to improve his golf game.   

“John is animated, passionate, and full of experience…  and has the type of wisdom that is just awe-inspiring,” says colleague Amber Mosewich. “Thus it goes without saying that John has made huge contributions to sport psychology from both research and applied perspectives. He has a way of prompting critical thinking that encourages and supports students, athletes, colleagues, and others lucky enough to cross his path. He has had a positive impact on me both personally and professionally, and there are heaps of others who feel the same. His influence is known and will persist!”

Billy Strean

Billy Strean is retiring in December. He arrived at the U of A in 1993. In his first year, he taught six courses and since then has taught a wide variety of undergraduate and graduate courses. His mainstay courses have been the structure and strategy of games, communication skills and strategies, and play: the foundation of recreation, sport and physical activity.

Strean is a 3M National Teaching Fellow — Canada's most prestigious recognition of excellence in university teaching and educational leadership. He wrote or contributed to several U of A editorials including Keeping gym-class dropouts in the game and he provided articles for University Affairs, such as Is sitting the new smoking?, and Tales from the Zoom.

“The most memorable and best part of my career, bar none, has been the relationships with students. I really consider it a privilege to have had the opportunity to make a difference with so many students over the years. It has been incredibly rewarding to see former students go on to wonderful accomplishments,” says Strean.

“To my students, I am grateful for their willingness to trust me and to engage in ways of learning that challenged them personally and not just academically. It has been one of the most wonderful and fulfilling aspects of my life to have had the relationships and to have been able to make a difference,” he says.

“To my colleagues, some of whom I’ve known since we were grad students together at the University of Illinois, I’d like to say thanks for allowing me to pursue my atypical passions and approaches to teaching and learning; thanks for the many hallway conversations that enriched my life over the past 28-plus years.” 

Although Strean is retiring from the Faculty of KSR, he will remain active professionally. With a move to Victoria, BC, he’ll be working with both Royal Roads University and the University of Victoria, as well as being involved in coaching, speaking and other entrepreneurial endeavours. 

He’s looking forward to lots of hiking, kayaking and long walks on the beach.

"When I think of Billy, two words come to mind: Passionate and blunt,” says KSR colleague Angela Bayduza. “In the many hallway conversations we had, he generously shared his time and wisdom through intense conversations on ‘pedagogically bankrupt assessment and grading practices’, invitations to ‘join us for some laughter yoga’, and personal check-ins on ‘how is your son?’. As a mentor, a teacher, a friend, a colleague, Billy challenged me to think deeper, go further, become something bigger. He cared more deeply for his students and his colleagues than he was ever given credit for. I thank him for helping me to see the beauty and depth of my own thinking and showing me how to follow through on it. I will always be grateful for and will miss seeing Billy in our hallways. Happy retirement Billy!"