Dr. Don Brandon and Dr. Suzanne Rubino Walker ended the 2010 school year looking forward to their retirement years. Brandon, professor of kinesiology and head baseball coach, had been on the faculty at AU for 38 years. Walker finished a 15-year stint as professor of early childhood and elementary education.
Brandon first became involved with Anderson athletics in 1959 as a student athlete. In 1968 he began teaching and coaching at the university. Over the years he has served as an assistant coach for football, basketball, and baseball; as the athletic director; as the head coach for football; and as a club coach for various men’s sports. But he is most recognized as the head baseball coach. In fact, for many it is hard to imagine Raven baseball without him.
Brandon played for former Brooklyn Dodger Carl Erskine as a student and was an assistant coach under him before becoming the head coach in 1972. As head coach, Brandon built the baseball program into a powerhouse. He won 1100 victories, 14 conference championships, 12 National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) titles, one National Christian College Athletics Association (NCCAA) national championship, and made five World Series appearances. He was named NAIA District 21 Coach of the Year nine times, Heartland Collegiate Athletic Conference coach of the year five times, and NCAA Division III Mideast Region Coach of the Year three times. He is in the NAIA Hall of Fame and the Indiana High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame.
Brandon has viewed coaching as his ministry, and while his success brought attention from other schools wishing to hire him, AU was where he wanted to be. “I believe in this place,” says Brandon. “I love the people in this place. I love the mission of this place and never really considered leaving.”
Known affectionately as “Bama” because of his Alabama roots, Brandon was recently honored with having the baseball field named after him. In his retirement he hopes to help with the upkeep of Don Brandon Field under the direction of the new head coach, David Pressley. “That’s one of my passions,” says Brandon. “I think a beautifully manicured, groomed baseball field is just as pretty as Niagara Falls and the Grand Canyon all rolled into one.” He and his wife, Janet, also plan to spend more time at their log cabin in Louisiana and visiting with their grandchildren.
Walker also leaves having enjoyed her time at AU. “I have really appreciated the opportunity of working here,” says Walker. “[AU] was a wonderful fit for me. I feel like it has made me a much better person and a much better Christian. It was as much a growth experience for me as it was for my students.”
Teaching early childhood and elementary education classes gave Walker the chance to have a lot of fun in the classroom. “I had a very animated classroom and had the kids get very involved. I really enjoyed trying to motivate them at 8 in the morning,” she says with a laugh. “I’d make them get up and sing and dance. We’d sing children’s songs — songs that they could use in the classroom. Then they’d wake up, and I could lecture. They were very cooperative with me. They would look at me a little weird, but they would do it!”
Walker says she enjoyed the small, Christian environment of Anderson University and the opportunities that it offered. “The environment made it possible to build relationships and model your faith,” she says. Her class work often reached beyond the campus. “I was able to go out and work in the community. I worked with Head Start teachers, I worked with Park Place Children’s Center, and I worked with a lot of teachers in the public schools.”
During her retirement, Walker plans to continue working with both Park Place Children’s Center and Head Start. She also plans to spend more time relaxing at her lake house in Canada.
— Heather Lowhorn is a freelance writer for Signatures magazine.
Anderson University is a private Christian university of 2,700 undergraduate and graduate students in central Indiana. Anderson continues to be recognized as a top Christian college: in 2010, U.S. News and World Report ranked Anderson University among the best colleges and universities in the Midwest for the seventh consecutive year. Established in 1917 by the Church of God, Anderson University offers more than 65 undergraduate majors and graduate programs in business, education, music, nursing and theology.