BY ANDREW BLOM // NOV. 8, 2012 //
Everyone knows the term “dumb jocks.” You know, athletes who emphasize their sport over their academics. Brawn over brains. Bench pressing over book reading.
Sure, it’s a stereotype. But here at Curry, there’s little evidence of its truth.
Bruce Weckworth takes great pride in that fact.
As the college’s student-athlete recruitment and welfare coordinator for the past nine years, Weckworth has worked to help raise the academic bar among those who play sports at Curry. He began serving the broader college community in 1982, when he joined the Admissions Department after graduating from Curry. Weckworth spent the next 21 years in Admissions, rising through the ranks before eventually becoming its director.
But it’s his work in Athletics that has made Weckworth something of an institution on campus.
“I freakin’ love Bruce!” said Lynn Zlotkowski, the college’s academic success coordinator. “He would do anything he can for a student to have the best academic and athletic experience they can have. He has an amazing responsibility and he works so hard for student-athletes, and I hope they appreciate it.”
In his later years in Admissions, Weckworth began coaching softball, first at Mount Ida College in Newton, Mass., and then at Curry. In 2003, he moved into the athletic department full time thanks to a new position—under then Athletic Director Steve Nelson—that married his two great interests: student recruitment and athletics.
“Because there was no standards set prior, you just had to work as hard as you could to create what you thought would be the better of the (Athletic) Department, the student and the coaches,” said Weckworth, who became head softball coach in ’96. He has amassed a record of 397-283-5, making him the winningest coach in Curry softball history. “I love the contact with the student and making sure they go to class and [are] being responsible. Just being their day-to-day guardian, I love.”
Weckworth, who has no children of his own, said he has come to care for the student-athletes of Curry—past and present—as if they were his sons and daughters.
His job responsibilities in Athletics are many. Weckworth assists the college’s coaches with student recruitment and student retention, as well as handling the day-to-day little things, like coordinating study halls, making sure students don’t miss assignment deadlines, and serving as a liaison of sorts between faculty and student-athletes. Study halls, which take place Monday and Wednesday nights for an hour and a half, is mandatory for all first-year athletes as well as any returning athlete whose GPA is below 2.5. It’s a necessary step, Weckworth said, to get their attention.
“They realize ‘I have to get my act together. I’m wasting my time and my parents’ money,’ ” he said. “Curry athletes are hearing loud and clear just how important academics are to the athletic department. Even though it would be great to just practice all day, that is just a small part of their college experience.”
According to statistics provided by the Athletic Department, along with Zlotkowski, there were 335 student-athletes at Curry at the end of last spring. Of those, only 14 (13 males, one female) were on academic probation. A student is placed on academic probation for a number of reasons, most notably for having a GPA of less than 2.0.
Weckworth is quick to point out that the student-athletes do the real hard work. He and others on campus provide the support, but the students must follow through.
Nonetheless, some students are equally fast to acknowledge the role Weckworth has played in their academic lives. Garrick Vermeal, a senior criminal justice major who plays on the football team, said his relationship with Weckworth is a huge reason for his success
“Every time I see him on campus he asks how I’m doing in class,” said Vermeal. “I don’t want to lie to him, so to prevent that I do my school work so when he presents questions like that I have an honest, truthful answer.
“When you talk to Bruce,” Vermeal added, “it’s like talking to a very close friend that you have known all your life.”
And like a good friend, Weckworth wants what’s best for them.
“I want to win games, but I want to make sure they graduate,” said Weckworth. “If they’re winning in the classroom, those are championships that mean the most.”