DePaul Hall of Fame Class of 2013: Otis Dunson
Jan. 16, 2013
(Fifth in a series of feature stories portraying the Class of 2013 inductees into the DePaul Athletic Hall of Fame)
Otis Dunson remembers thinking it odd that DePaul University was recruiting him for track and field, especially considering the lack of space for a facility in downtown Chicago.
Then he visited the Lincoln Park campus for the first time as a high school senior.
No on-campus track? No problem.
"I was sold on the atmosphere," said Dunson. "It was funny, I had always seen DePaul downtown but I had never seen the Lincoln Park campus. When [former head coach Bill Leach] started talking to me about track, it was like `how is there going to be a track in the middle of downtown Chicago?'"
The lack of a home track didn't deter Dunson from coming to DePaul. And once he arrived, it definitely didn't stop him from breaking records during four memorable years. For those reasons and more, Dunson will be a part of the 2013 DePaul Athletics Hall of Fame class. The induction will be held Sunday in Lincoln Park.
On the track, Dunson remains the school record holder in two different events. As a senior, he broke the 55m hurdle dash record with a blazing mark of 8.08 in 1996.
Dunson also recalls his junior meet at the Great Midwest Conference Outdoor Championships to be one of the defining moments of his career. At the meet, he placed first overall in the 110m hurdles with a time of 14.39. That time still tops the DePaul record books but, more importantly, solidified his spot as the last 110m champion in the history of the Great Midwest Conference.
"My ultimate goal was to finish as the last hurdle champion in the Great Midwest and then come out in the first Conference-USA meet and be the first champion there," said Dunson. "You know you have to put your name in the book because they remember the first and they remember the last, but not in between."
A Chicagoland-native and Farragut High School alum, Dunson competed in many sports in high school but found track to be his passion. He ran in first position in four races as a junior, teaming up with roommate and fellow Hall of Famer Dave Dopek- now the head coach of the Blue Demon track and field program - in several sprint medleys and, "whatever coach Leach put me in."
An elementary education major, Dunson would go on to a career in the classroom beginning as a teacher in Chicago Public Schools. After earning a master's degree in supervision and instruction from Concordia University in 2003, Dunson got out of the blocks quickly and began to rise as an administrator.
Now a principal of George Armstrong International Studies Elementary School in Chicago's Rogers Park neighborhood, it has become his life's work attempting to get kids to take the same path he did - from Chicago Public Schools to a college atmosphere like DePaul.
"Coming from Farragut, an inner-city school, and going to a major university like DePaul was the greatest thing that ever happened to me at that point in time," said Dunson. "And then being in the city as a teacher and a principal, I'm constantly pushing kids into those arenas."
"We have our struggles in the city, but it doesn't dictate your entire life. It's your decisions and your work ethic. You have to have a work ethic"
Dunson finds himself still applying many of the principles he learned from his track days at DePaul.
"Being a part of education, where you always hear test scores, test scores, test scores," said Dunson. "You never want to be the status quo and you want to be competitive to get better, so you're trying to find an edge and build teams. As a principal, you have to motivate your squad."
Next: Vic Cacciatore, Special Service Award