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Aug. 30, 2005

CHARLOTTESVILLE – After 43 years in the University of Virginia athletics department, 36 of them as head athletic trainer, Joe Gieck retires on Aug. 31.

How long has the 66-year-old Gieck been a part of UVa athletics? He arrived at Virginia in 1962, when the University’s student body was all male and the basketball team played in Memorial Gymnasium, built in 1924. He leaves a co-educational institution prior to the final basketball season in University Hall, the successor to Mem Gym, and a year before the opening of the 15,000- seat John Paul Jones Arena.

While many will remember Geick for his years as Virginia’s head athletic trainer, his contributions to the department, the University and the community, go well beyond those responsibilities. He served as Virginia’s director of sports medicine from 1998-2004 and was director of life skills this past year.

He also was a professor in the Curry School of Education and in clinical orthopedic surgery at the UVa Health Sciences Center.

“It is not a stretch to say Joe Gieck has reached the level of `icon’ in the world of athletic training and sports medicine,” said Virginia Athletics Director Craig Littlepage. “It is also not a stretch to say Joe has touched the lives of more Virginia student-athletes than any person associated with the program. Whenever a student-athlete or staff member needed words of encouragement or inspiration to come back from a setback, or a funny story during a difficult moment, we could count on Joe.”

The athletics department is planning to honor Gieck the weekend of Nov. 4-5.

A native of Altus, Okla., Gieck graduated from the University of Oklahoma in 1961 with a degree in physical therapy. After one year as an assistant athletic trainer at the U.S. Military Academy, he moved to Virginia in 1962 and never left.

“I came to Virginia as a result of a conversation with Gene Corrigan,” Gieck said. “Gene was coaching UVa lacrosse at the time and Virginia was playing at West Point. He told me about the job and I applied.”

Gieck earned his master’s degree in physical education at Virginia in 1965 and was awarded his doctorate in counselor education at UVa in 1975.

When asked about the changes he has seen during his career, his response is brief.

“A basic change is the growth in the number of team sports from nine to 25,” Gieck said. “The sports have also changed from seasonal and recreational, to year round and vocational.”

Gieck has worked with college athletics departments around the country through the project APPLE-Athletic Prevention Programming and Leadership Education. The APPLE model was developed by Susan Grossman, late director of the Institute for Substance Abuse Studies at UVa, and Gieck. Funded by the NCAA, its purpose is to provide an educational forum for college and university athletics departments and their athletes to evaluate and update their policies and programs in tobacco, alcohol and drug prevention and education. The Susan J. Gross SAM of the Year Memorial Award is given annually to UVa’s outstanding student-athlete mentor.

As he looks back over more than four decades of work at Virginia, his favorite memories are of the people he worked with in the athletics department.

“My favorite memories are of the people,” Gieck said. “Close friends like Dr. Frank McCue and Jim West, and the student-athletes. There is no greater profession than one that is involved in the positive development of young people. People like Barry Parkhill, Al Groh, Andy Selfridge and the many students, residents and fellows who have gone on to become leaders in the sports medicine field.”

Gieck received a special commendation award in the spring of 1989 from the National Intercollegiate Administrators Association for his service to high school athletics. He was the 1986 Professional Educator of the Year as selected by the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA). In 1979, he was honored by the NATA as the “Trainer of the Year” in college athletics. In 1990, he was inducted into the NATA Hall of Fame.

Gieck received the Distinguished Service Award for Athletic Training from the American Orthopedic Society for Sports Medicine in 1993. He has served on the Virginia Board of Physical Therapy, as a member of the Governor’s Council for Physical Fitness and the Board of Health Professions for the Commonwealth of Virginia. In 1999, the University established the Joe Gieck Professorship in Sports Medicine.

As you would expect from a long and successful professional career, there are many highlights for Gieck as he looks back through the years.

“The establishment of undergraduate, masters and doctoral educational programs in the sports medicine field, and the honor of having a chair in sports medicine named after me are certainly highlights,” Gieck said. “Coming to Virginia was a highlight for me as well as watching the football and basketball programs become top-rated programs, being elected to the National Athletic Trainers Hall of Fame, and co-developing the ongoing NCAA substance abuse educational program and the UVa Life Skills program.”

Now retirement looms for Gieck, but he won’t be slowing down.

“My wife Sally and I have a summer house in Montana to get ready for next summer,” Gieck said. “I will be doing some patient care as a physical therapist with Lloyd Givan at Performance Plus in Charlottesville, and will be managing our farm and other properties. I am very excited about being involved with the Charlottesville Area Community Foundation as a board member. It is similar to Virginia athletics, something you are proud of and also excited about where it can go in terms of meeting community needs.”

While Gieck looks back fondly on his career at UVa, he’s ready to move on.

“It’s time to get on and do other things,” he said. “I’ve enjoyed coming to work every day, but it’s time to quit following 18-year-olds around and leave that to the younger generation.”

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