Wrestling is more than just a sport to Sandy Stevens (B.A. '62, English teaching). It's a vehicle for saving lives.
"This may sound dramatic, but I've seen wrestling change the way people look at the world and themselves," said Sandy, a nationally known wrestling tournament announcer who lives in Glen Ellyn, Illinois. "I believe so strongly in the sport that I didn't want anything to ever happen to UNI's wrestling program. We have such a phenomenal legacy here. Giving to UNI was one way to continue this legacy."
UNI alumna Sandy Stevens created the Bear and Sandy Stevens Head Wrestling Coach Endowment to support the salary of the UNI wrestling coach position.
In April, Sandy created the Bear and Sandy Stevens Head Wrestling Coach Endowment. Funds from this endowment will be used to support the salary of the UNI wrestling coach position.
"I would not have done this had I not believed in Doug Schwab and the kind of coach he is and the kind of coaches UNI has had and will continue to have," said Sandy. "He has the same high expectations and standards for his wrestlers off the mat as he does on the mat. He is an outstanding example of teaching life lessons but also of caring about the individual, whether that individual is an All-American or someone in the wrestling room working his tail off."
"Sandy's gift is the ultimate legacy," said UNI Director of Athletics Troy Dannen. "Her passion for UNI wrestling is unmatched. There is no doubt that her personal investments in our program will enable UNI wrestling to achieve and sustain long-term success."
Sandy's late husband, Bear (Bob), a UNI alumnus (B.A. '64, biology and physical education; M.A. '65, science; Ed.D. '76, Indiana University) wrestled from 1959-63 under head coach Bill Koll. After graduation, Bear taught science and was an assistant wrestling coach at the Stevens' alma mater, Washington High School in Cedar Rapids. He later became a science teacher and was the first wrestling coach at the newly opened Kennedy High School in Cedar Rapids. During his career Bear also served as a junior high and high school administrator.
"UNI provided Bear with the knowledge and the philosophy of teaching and coaching this sport," said Sandy. "Bear was able to take that and touch the lives of students. And if he hadn't been a coach, I would never have started announcing."
Sandy became a wrestling tournament announcer quite by accident. "Bear came home and said he didn't have an announcer for the night," said Sandy. "He told me, 'Since you know about wrestling and will be there anyway, can you just sit at the microphone and welcome the wrestlers to the mats?'"
Her decision to help Bear has led to a nearly 45-year career behind the microphone at NCAA tournaments, the Olympics and other major tournaments. Sandy has received numerous accolades during that time, including the Order of Merit from the National Wrestling Hall of Fame, the Meritorious Service Award from the National Wrestling Coaches Association and the International "Exceptionnelle" ranking from United World Wrestling.
"I believe so much in the sport of wrestling and what it does for those who wrestle and their futures," she said. "My husband gave credit to wrestling for helping to save his life because of his growing up in extreme poverty and not being expected to do anything but work in a plant of some sort. I am so proud of UNI's wrestlers and coaching staff and being able to give back to UNI."
Learn how you can help save lives, just like Bear and Sandy Stevens, by contacting the UNI Foundation at https://www.adv.uni.edu/foundation/pledgeform.aspx or 319-273-6078.
In October, Bear will be posthumously inducted into the Elinor A. Crawford & William R. Thrall Hall of Excellence within UNI's School of Health, Physical Education and Leisure Services. The Hall of Excellence recognizes meritorious graduates who have distinguished themselves professionally and encourages currently enrolled students to strive toward this recognition.