A Gold(en) Medal Career

Curt Hamakawa L’84 reflects on his tenure at WNE

After a 20-year dream career in sports, first with the NCAA and subsequently the U.S. Olympic & Paralympic Committee, I was fortunate to land an even “dreamier” opportunity at Western New England University, where I found my calling in helping students prepare themselves for their lives ahead. I graduated from the School of Law in 1984 and returned to WNE in 2006 to teach in the College of Business, aiming to replicate a semblance of the educational experience that I once enjoyed as a student.

As a professor of Sport Management, I leveraged my industry contacts as well as those of my colleagues to create two popular speaker series: an evening program titled “For the Love of the Games” and a brown bag lunch program called “People Who Inspire.” Through the Center for International Sport Business, we brought a diverse cross section of prominent personalities from the world of sport and business to campus. I remember a standing-room-only crowd amazed by the measure of 29 feet, 2.5 inches that I marked with strips of tape on the floor of Wood Auditorium after announcing that our guest, Olympic long jump champion Bob Beamon, leapt that distance at the 1968 Olympic Games in Mexico City — distance which, 56 years later, is still an Olympic record. Imagine the reaction when I asked Beamon if he would be so kind as to repeat his feat for our students that evening!

The on-campus presence of this array of high-profile speakers enabled WNE students to meet, hear, and learn from these influential leaders, and in many cases engage in conversation at pre-event receptions and intimate post-event dinners.

Another popular program that I initiated was a unique travel course that took WNE students to the Olympic Games in Beijing (2008), London (2012), and Rio de Janeiro (2016), as well as to the FIFA World Cups in South Africa (2010), Brazil (2014), and Russia (2018). Students witnessed the highest level of athleticism at these events and gained behind-the-scenes perspectives into the business framework from the people producing these mega sport events. A memorable highlight from the Beijing trip was waking up our first morning and opening the pages of the China Daily, the country’s national English language newspaper, and finding, to my utter surprise, a full-color photo of one of our WNE students laying a smooch on a young – and smiling – Chinese woman! The photo, taken on opening day of the 2008 Olympic Games, was labeled a “crosscultural kiss.”


Curt's Legacy

KRISTEN BREEN ’19 (Sport Management) There are truly not enough words to describe the impact that Curt had not only on my life, but on the lives of every student who had the pleasure of crossing paths with him at WNE. Curt was kind, caring, generous with his time, involved, dedicated to his students, and passionate about learning — at home and abroad. Most importantly, Curt cared about the little things that made a difference in his students’ lives. From (not) getting lost on a run in Richmond Park while studying abroad, to spending Friday mornings in Chautauqua, to participating in mock international relations cases, my story is not unique. It is the story of every student who was lucky enough to interact with Curt during their time at WNE. Curt Hamakawa is the embodiment of WNE. He personifies the culture, values, commitment, and passion that defines this incredible university. WNE will not be the same without Curt, but the impact he has had and the lives he has touched go far beyond the walls of Churchill Hall and will live on not only in Springfield, but across the world.

TIM CONROD ’11/G’13 (Sport Management/MBA) Curt’s impact on my development, career, and life has been immeasurable. When I met Curt in 2008 during my sophomore year on campus, I lacked direction. As my advisor and professor, he quickly became my mentor. And as a mentor, he took extra time to teach me a few things that nobody else ever thought to. Curt taught me to be genuine, to be a diplomat, and that nice people can win in the business world. He’s a first-class educator and a good example for us all. He’ll be sorely missed by WNE in his well-deserved retirement.

DAN COVELL, (Professor of Sport Management) [Through these trips]... Curt provided what I have come to realize was the most remarkable course-based experience for any student ever enrolled in our institution. I wouldn’t have gone on them with anyone else, and I’m sure the students would agree.

A highlight of this role was being interviewed by NBC Sports courtside reporter Craig Sager at a USA women’s basketball game during the 2012 London Olympics. He filed an on-air report during the live telecast with a shoutout to “a group of boisterous students from Western New England University, located in the birthplace of basketball in Springfield, Massachusetts.” He then signed off with “Now how’s that for a field trip!”

My greatest joy at WNE, however, was the opportunity to interact with students inand out of the classroom on a near-daily basis. To emphasize my purpose as an educator, I kept a desk plate in my office with “IATSS” written in bold letters as a daily reminder that “it’s about the students, stupid.” As a professor, and during my three-and-a-half years as a member of the University’s leadership team, I found deep satisfaction in engaging students and guiding them along their paths. I like to think that I played a small role in impacting their life journey — hopefully for the better.

I am grateful to the hundreds, if not thousands, of WNE students, faculty, staff, administrators, alumni, and trustees whom I have been privileged to know over my nearly 20-year association with the University. As a Western New England student, alumnus, professor, administrator, and now retiree, I am proud to have been a member of this extended family whose enduring hallmark is the genuine culture of care and concern for its fellow members. It is my fervent belief and hope that past, current, and future generations of Golden Bear Nation will uphold this ethic in the finest tradition well into WNE’s second century.

Free HTML5 Bootstrap Template by
Free HTML5 Bootstrap Template by
Free HTML5 Bootstrap Template by
Free HTML5 Bootstrap Template by
Free HTML5 Bootstrap Template by
Free HTML5 Bootstrap Template by