Bob Rider served as dean of the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences from 2004 to 2019. Prior to coming to Knoxville, he served as dean of the College of Education at Butler University (2001–04) and as professor, center director, and associate dean for research and graduate studies in the College of Education at Florida State University (1979–2001). Rider received his BS in physical education in 1972 from the State University of New York at Cortland. He received his MA in health and physical education in 1973 from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and went on to receive his PhD in 1978 at the same institution.

Rider’s heart belongs to the children. His famous quote is “It’s all about the kids!” He enjoys the opportunity to interact with students, especially those with special needs. His experience includes extensive research, teaching, and the publication of numerous articles about the physical activity and fitness needs of individuals with disabilities.

“He set a wonderful example for the rest of us with his high ethical and professional standards, his Volunteer spirit, his skill as a motivator, and his warm personality,” said Joe Johnson, University of Tennessee president emeritus.

In his time as dean, Rider oversaw the creation of centers and the implementation of initiatives that have affected the lives of thousands of people around the world. One such initiative was born while Rider was volunteering at a local elementary school about 10 years ago.

He was reading to a young girl named Aliya who told him that she had recently lost her mother. Rider was inspired to launch the college’s Grief Outreach Initiative, which provides university students with training to work as mentors with children who are coping with grief from a loss or death.

Take a look below to see more milestones from Rider’s time at the College of Education, Health, and Human Sciences.

Timeline of Dean Rider's milestones

“Dean Rider is a tireless champion for students. He genuinely enjoys interacting with students, encouraging them to engage with him through his open-door policy and the student advisory boards he initiated. Under his leadership, students were the center point of our college. He serves as a role model to all of us through his efforts to provide students with quality instruction, exposure to current research initiatives, and opportunities for meaningful community outreach and engagement. Dean Rider never refused a request to help a student in need. From scholarship assistance to an encouraging conversation when a student was struggling, Dean Rider was committed to promoting student success and achievement.”

— Dulcie Peccolo, former director of student services

“Dr. Bob Rider positively influenced my career in several ways. When he was hired to lead our college, I began watching how he developed relationships and sought to bolster the confidence of those around him. He was quick to compliment others and he was always focused on the positive and the possible. He did not waste time being negative. Over time, I sought to bring similar leadership principles to my daily work. When I was a department head and later associate dean, Dr. Rider was both a mentor and friend to me. He gave encouragement and guidance on tough matters, and he was always a willing listener. I will always be grateful for the opportunities he gave me to grow as a leader. Those experiences helped prepare me for the role I have today.”

— Dixie Thompson, dean of the Graduate School

“Dean Rider’s accomplishments have been a tremendous asset to the university and the college. He was the ultimate manager. He developed programs, staff, and students that have benefited the college, university, and state of Tennessee. His door was always open for those with opportunities or issues. We were fortunate to witness his ability to formulate a program. We came to Dean Rider with an idea to create a program for special needs students. He ran with our idea and created the KLASS (Korn Learning, Assessment, and Social Skills) Center. It focuses on students with academic challenges. It serves the students, their parents, and teachers. He also developed the FUTURE program that enables students on the autism spectrum to attend college. The KLASS Center has been recognized nationally as a pioneer in the field of special education. The success of the center is attracting the top MBA and doctoral candidates. Dean Rider’s leadership has made this program viable and successful. We are most grateful to Dean Rider.”

— Thomas and Pamela Korn, KLASS Center donors         

“Dean Rider, you are a man of great courage. You took a huge risk by supporting our vision to create the country’s first-ever center devoted to the intersection of sport, education, and peacebuilding. With no funding and no real prospects for funding, you placed your bets on the power of possibility. And you empowered your people. You trusted. You encouraged. You celebrated. You listened. Now, eight years later, we celebrate the success of the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society. Your courage and leadership have directly impacted 196 women and men from 84 countries fighting for social change through the power of sport and education. The exponential impact can be counted by the hundreds of thousands of lives changed as a result of the work of the CSPS. Without you, none of this would have been possible. High fives, always!”

— Sarah Hillyer, director of the Center for Sport, Peace, and Society

“Bob Rider’s leadership has been a true blessing for our college and university. Bob is a visionary, giving us a picture of what our college can become, but he also has the wonderful quality of being an implementer, knowing just how to make a plan and execute it. However, all who know and have had the privilege of working with Bob Rider know that the real power behind this special man is his great heart of love for our college and university, and for each person—students, faculty, staff, alumni, all. And, Bob Rider, we love you right back!”

— Ann Skadberg, CEHHS Dean’s Board of Advisors

“Bob Rider recognizes that we are defined by a sense of belonging to a larger whole. He knows that our work has greater impact when we seek to improve everyone’s lot. This is why he is so committed to work focused on children and underserved groups—those who often cannot effectively advocate for themselves. Bob’s support and leadership helped so many of us grow into who we are now and has positioned the college to move forward with energy, enthusiasm, and great effect.”

— Jeff Fairbrother, Associate Dean for Academic and Faculty Affairs

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