Q&A with Dr. Roger Hughes
Q: How are you feeling about coming back to lead your alma mater?
A: I’ve got mixed emotions, but I’m obviously very excited. We built a unique program at Stetson, and it’s bittersweet. But the opportunity to come back and to see where Doane is at, and help get Doane ready for the coming 150 years, I’m really energized by that opportunity.
Q: What about Doane made you love your undergrad college experience — and what made you want to come back to campus?
A: Doane gave me opportunities outside the classroom that a lot of places didn’t. For example, Dr. [Dick] Dudley from the education department had me on his accreditation team when we had to evaluate Dana [College]. Later I learned that most of the students on the committee sat in the back and didn’t do much. That was not him. He made me go interview the athletic directors and the head of the physical education teaching department, and he made me write the report myself.
So coming back, two things — one, I really valued the experience that I had. I also valued the way that my professors would make extra effort to become an advocate for me.
Like Tom Hood, I would never have gotten into grad school without him making a phone call. But one of the things he had done was he had gotten me into the exercise lab at the graduate school in Lincoln, so they knew who I was. I got to use the machines that we didn’t have at Doane, I got to see the experiments that we didn’t have at Doane. Because of Tom’s mentorship and advocacy, I was able to get there and going forward, that really launched my career. And everywhere else along my career, there has been a Doane influence that has helped me get a job.
And that’s why I’m back here at Doane, because I really felt that the experience that I had was really first-rate. And if I could give the current students and the faculty a similar experience, then I’m making the place better, I’m making them better, and by default, making the world better.
Q: When was the last time you saw the Crete campus and how much had changed since you graduated?
A: I hadn’t seen much of it between 1982 and probably around 2013-14. Because of my line of work, I was always busy during Homecoming. I came back once around 2009-10 when I was given the Honor D award, then I was invited back to speak. So just those two times until my daughter went here. It’s changed dramatically. I’m still walking around, trying to find my way around. But the campus is absolutely beautiful, and I think they’ve done a great job of designing it.
Q: When you were a student, what dorms did you live in?
A: I was always in Quad One at Burrage, my whole time.
Q: What was your go-to “hangout” spot on the Crete campus when you were a student?
A: This is going to sound crazy, but it was the library where we used to go to get study time. And then we always hung out in the lounge of one of the quads. And the unique thing about Doane was, while I was an AO, I had a lot of friends in different fraternities and we didn’t form silos because of that. You’d end up finding different lounges of different quads that you could go hang out in.
Q: What about off of campus? Did you have a favorite place in Crete or Lincoln?
A: El Toro lounge was a big deal, downtown. That’s probably what I remember the most. The “in” bar to go to changed once in a while, but El Toro was always the mainstay while I was there. And during football, the AO socials at Tuxedo Park were a big deal. A lot of campus life revolved around that after-game get-together out there.
Q: What was your favorite class?
A: I was a biology and physical education double major with a math minor. I really liked exercise physiology, I really liked biology classes. Genetics class sticks out, with [Dr. Robert] Bob Muckel, because we had fruit flies and had to make sure they reproduced at the right time. He also had a very good microbiology class where he really taught technique — techniques that I could still go in and do because he just drilled it into us.
On the physical education side, the exercise phys class was really good. I had thought about going into medicine at one time, so I liked the way the body adapted to exercise and how exercise could be a great health promoter.
Q: Who were some of the people you looked up to at Doane?
A: In the sports world, I looked up to the coaches, I looked up to Tom Hood [assistant football coach] both as a coach and an instructor. Brian Naber as a head football coach, who taught me a lot about leading people. Dr. Bob Muckel, Dr. Todd Georgi, Dr. Rob Wikel, they were all my professors in the biology department.
Betty Walters, who was the volleyball coach and instructor, she was hard, but a great coach. I learned so much about volleyball under her leadership and what I found later on as we went to conferences for physical education, was that she had a softer side, too. And you got to see that at Doane. You got to see professors be people and not just professors, and I think that was a very — maybe it’s not as unique to Doane as I thought it was — but I really enjoyed it.
Q: What was your favorite food to grab from the cafeteria? Would you still it eat today?
A: I think I try to forget about cafeteria food. Actually, ours wasn’t bad. I remember they would custom cook your breakfast, so if you wanted eggs over easy, they made them for you. I was always one of the earliest ones up because I had to student teach the latter part of my career. Of course, the big thing at that time was steak night. You had the little ticket and you only got one steak. That was always a big deal at the cafeteria.
Q: What is your favorite professional sports team?
A: Being from Nebraska, there aren’t any professional teams, so the one in closest proximity when I was younger was Denver. And so the Denver Broncos and the Nuggets were my favorite teams.
Once I got into the coaching profession, rather than base it on teams, I based it on coaches. I’m not a fan of the New England Patriots, but I have so much great respect for what Bill Belichick has done there and how he finds ways regardless of the talent level he has to make things work.
After coaching in Wisconsin and seeing how the Wisconsin people follow the Packers, I have great respect for the passion those fans have for the Packers. I can remember being at the University of Wisconsin-Whitewater coaching and it was 6:30 on Sunday morning. The Packers were playing. I drive over to the Safeway grocery store. The keg’s already tapped and brats are on the grill, and we’re ready to yell “Go Packers.”
I was a big San Francisco 49er’s fan because I was a Bill Walsh fan, as well. Baseball teams, my favorite would be the Cubs, simply because of the influence of one of my colleague’s colleagues, which was Pete Shelstraete and his brother, Paul. The other part was, in small-town Nebraska, we didn’t get cable TV until I was in college. Cable had WGN, which was Chicago-based, and so I kind of developed an affinity for the Cubs.
Q: How about your favorite musician or band?
A: In college, Bob Seger was big to me. The song that everyone loved to get out and dance to was “Taking Care of Business” by Bachman-Turner Overdrive — that was a big thing at the socials. As I matured a little bit, I’ve kind of gone toward the country, which is really the new pop, so Luke Bryan, Carrie Underwood, Sam Hunt, Luke Combs.
Q: Your favorite book?
A: I read all the time. My favorite leadership book is “Extreme Ownership” by Jocko Willink and Leif Babin, and it’s about how Navy SEALS lead and win. It’s really the book that I have based the premise of the culture that I built within the football organization and we’re actually reading that book with my leadership team and deans here at Doane as we go forward. I just think it does a great job of giving you the characteristics of what great leaders do, how great leaders react.
The reason I like the Navy SEALs is because they win a lot under very adverse conditions, and they’re some of the best team builders of any organization in the world. And rarely when you look at someone do they do anything alone, it’s always really a function of the team.
Q: What’s your favorite movie?
A: I think the best Western ever done was “The Outlaw Josey Wales.” Clint Eastwood starred in that. Probably “Ghost” with Patrick Swayze and Demi Moore, that’s one of my wife and my favorite “chick-flicks.” Those are probably the two that stick in my mind. And probably more recently, “Deadpool.” I’m a big Marvel, DC Comics, superhero movies — I’m watching them over and over again because the good guys always win. They always face adversity, but eventually good triumphs over evil, and I really like that.
Q: Your favorite snack?
A: Probably the Cape Cod Reduced Fat potato chips, wavy. That is my favorite snack, no question. And the only other thing that would maybe top that is a chocolate malt.
Q: And finally — what’s your favorite song to sing in the car or the shower?
A: Well, when this mouth opens, there’s not much song coming out. I will say “All Summer Long” by Kid Rock, I like that one a lot because it’s genius how he brought both songs together. Now Warren Zevon, “Werewolves of London” was big when I was in college and my college roommate played that a lot. And of course, “Sweet Home Alabama,” everybody knows that song. And here we go back to that favorite song because my wife’s and my song is “Feel So Right” by Alabama — when we were dating, that was our song.
And then there are some songs, you just can’t be in a bad mood. Like “Walking on Sunshine” or “Build Me Up Buttercup,” your head just starts bobbing. Those are the songs when I feel like I need a pick-me-up, that’s what I go to. And here’s the other one, “Beer Never Broke My Heart” by Luke Combs.