In the early days of the Agricultural and Mechanical College of Texas, physical education was under the Athletic Department. The head football coach was listed as Department Head, and the faculty was comprised of other coaches.
In 1937, the Board of Directors separated physical education from athletics and placed it in the School of Arts and Sciences. W.L. Penberthy was the first Department Head. The Bachelor of Science degree in physical education was approved at this time through the School of Arts and Sciences.
World War II brought significant changes in the department. Four hours of physical training were required of all students, plus the department also had the responsibility of providing physical training to a unit of Army Air Force pre-flight cadets attending classes at Texas A&M. Faculty members, entirely separate from athletics, were added immediately after the war. Enrollment at Texas A&M jumped from 2,718 in 1945-46 to 8,418 in 1946-47. To meet the needs of this increased enrollment, Texas A&M took over the Bryan Air Force Base (now known as Riverside Campus) to house and educate incoming freshmen.
Mr. Penberthy was named Dean of Men and Carl E. Tishler succeeded him as Department Head (1947-1967). During Tishler's tenure, the physical education curriculum was revised and expanded. The department name was changed to Department of Health and Physical Education. Health education courses were listed separately and a Bachelor of Science degree was offered in health education as well as in physical education. A corrective therapy option was offered in cooperation with the Veterans' Hospital in Houston. Graduate courses were approved and a minor in physical education was approved. The Master of Education in Physical Education was first offered in 1964. New facilities, including G. Rollie White Coliseum and Wofford Cain Pool, were built.
Carl E. Tishler retired in 1967, and Carl W. Landiss became Department Head (1967-1979). This was a period of rapid growth for Texas A&M. In 1967, the university had an enrollment of 11,800; in 1979 the enrollment had grown to 31,000. The number of health and physical education majors rose from 150 to 700. Enrollment in the Physical Education Activity Program went from 5,000 to 14,000. Department faculty increased from 13 to 55. In 1969-1970, the College of Arts and Sciences separated into several colleges. The Health and Physical Education Department was moved into the newly formed College of Education.
The Doctor of Philosophy degree was first offered in health education and physical education in 1972, with several areas of specialization in each field. Other areas of specialization were added. At the undergraduate level, a separate major in health was approved, with area of emphasis in teacher education and community health. At the graduate level, areas of emphasis were added in exercise physiology, cardiac rehabilitation (offered in cooperation with the Cardiac Rehabilitation Center of the Methodist Hospital in Houston), and allied health teacher education and administration (offered in conjunction with the Baylor College of Medicine in Houston). The Institute of Outdoor Education was approved in 1978. The number of graduate courses offered increased from 4 to 17 in health education and from 12 to 25 in physical education.
Regarding facilities expansion, in 1973 a three-story expansion was added to G. Rollie White Coliseum, which included locker rooms and dressing facilities for women students and women faculty. The expansion also housed special facilities for handicapped students, a large lecture room, dance studio, and gymnasium areas. The Kyle Field expansion for physical education was completed in 1980 under the east stands of Kyle Field in what is now known as the Read Building.
Upon the retirement of Dr. Landiss, Leonard D. Ponder became Head of the Department of Health and Physical Education and served from September 1, 1979 through May 1992. In response to state legislation regarding education courses, the department's name was changed to the Department of Health and Kinesiology. For most of this period, the university continued to grow at a rapid rate increasing from 31,000 students to more than 42,000. Students majoring in all departmental programs increased from 700 to more than 1,300. Much of the growth was in health as majors in this field increased from approximately 150 to well over 700.
With the growth of the student body, more faculty members were required. Total faculty full time equivalents (FTE's) increased from approximately 55 to just over 75. Tenure track faculty increased from slightly over 16 FTE's to 26.5. Total faculty in health increased by 7 FTE's, and kinesiology faculty increased by almost 5. Perhaps the most striking growth was in the recreational sports program where there were large increases in student use and tremendous demands on facilities and staff.
Curricula in the department began to evolve toward more specialization. Teacher education continued to dominate undergraduate kinesiology, but new specializations in exercise technology and sport management were developed. Motor learning was required of all undergraduate kinesiology majors for the first time, and previously required coaching classes became elective. In health, teacher education became much less significant, and community health became the dominant specialty. A College of Education reorganization brought safety education into the department's health division. Graduate specialties in exercise physiology, motor development and motor learning were officially recognized in kinesiology. Allied health teacher education and administrative leadership, community health and safety were the recognized specialties in health. At the end of this period it was still possible to earn a generalist doctoral degree in kinesiology, but plans were being made to eliminate that option.
During the mid 1980's, the university adopted a comprehensive core curriculum. This presented a major challenge to required physical education activity courses. The acceptance of these courses as core courses was of major importance to the department. Other major accomplishments included the acquisition of two endowed chairs. The Omar Smith Chair, the first in the college, was pledged in February 1985, but not fully funded until several years later. Nationally, it was among the first chairs awarded to a department of health and kinesiology. The Tom and Joan Read Chair for Disadvantaged Youth, awarded in 1990, became the first funded chair in the College of Education.
In 1980, the department moved into new facilities that were planned during Dr. Landis's tenure as Department Head. These facilities added over 90,000 square feet of new space and significantly relieved the pressure that rapid student growth had placed on inadequate and aging facilities. The facilities also provided excellent space for exercise physiology, motor learning and biomechanics laboratories. In addition, the department was able to acquire significant space in the Netum Steed Laboratory, which was constructed a few years later. Numerous improvements were also made in outdoor teaching space for physical education activities.
In late spring 1992, the department accepted a plan to administratively separate recreational sports from the Department of Health and Kinesiology. As this period ended, the department could perhaps be characterized as poised for change. In kinesiology, the exercise sciences had matured to the point where they no longer were content to just be support areas for physical education. In health, the graduate programs needed to more closely match the undergraduate program, which was arguably, among the strongest in the nation.
Robert B. Armstrong took the position of Head of the Department of Health and Kinesiology when Dr. Ponder stepped down in the fall of 1992, and served in the role until fall of 1997. During these five years, increased emphasis was given to research, scholarship and extramural research funding while attempting to maintain quality undergraduate and graduate instructional programs. For example, by the academic year 1996-97, grant funding in the department exceeded $1 million, and the faculty and students were publishing 40 to 50 peer-reviewed journal articles per year.
In 1997, the department employed 80 full-time faculty members, 26 permanent staff members and 38 graduate assistants. There were about 1,300 undergraduate majors in the department and approximately 100 graduate students (about 45 doctoral students). The department typically ranked second or third at the university in student credit hour production, totaling 55,000 scheduled credit hours per year. In 1997, the Board of Regents approved the Center for Alcohol and Drug Education Studies, the first university center located in the department. Dr. Armstrong also spearheaded a major effort to improve technology within the department that included development of the HLKN information and technology (IT) department.
In the fall of 1997, Jack H. Wilmore assumed the position of Department Head. During his tenure, the department implemented a new health and fitness course that is required of all students and a number of dance courses that are included as Visual & Performing Arts electives for the university's core curriculum for all undergraduate students. The health and safety division faculty completed a proposal for a new EdD degree in health and streamlined the undergraduate degree in community health.
The kinesiology division faculty developed a new undergraduate emphasis in exercise science, to include applied exercise physiology, basic exercise physiology and motor behavior. The Institute of Sports Medicine and Human Performance, now known as the Sydney and J.L. Huffines Institute of Sports Medicine and Human Performance, was approved by the Board of Regents in 1999.
Robert Armstrong returned to head the department on an interim basis in 2000-2002. He was followed by Steve Dorman, who held the position until 2006. During Dr. Dorman's tenure, the Sydney and J.L. Huffines Institute for Sports Medicine and Human Performance received endowment funding, and a number of faculty members were hired under the university's signature hire program.
Also during these years, the Center for Sport Management Research and Education was approved, and the Center for the Study of Health Disparities was launched. Looking toward the future, the Office of Health Informatics was created to develop a number of online course offerings.
Significant efforts were also made to improve facilities, enhance the departments visibility and enhance interaction among divisions and camaraderie among faculty members.
Dr. Dorman left Texas A&M University to become Dean of the College of Health and Human Performance at the University of Florida in 2007. Dr. Armstrong served a second term as interim head in 2007. During this time, the Division of Sport Management was formed, and several important faculty hires were made that provided facility improvement as part of the TAMU's faculty reinvestment plan. In 2008, Jim Eddy served as interim head. Dr. Eddy made significant contributions to the department by developing a more transparent budget process, encouraging faculty and staff shared governance, and submitting an online master's degree program in health education. He also made a significant impact while he was Chair of the Health Education Division by developing the Office of Health Informatics and numerous online courses and programs.
The department is now under the leadership of Richard B. Kreider, who was hired in 2008. Dr. Kreider came to the Department of HLKN after serving as a highly successful Chair of the Department of Health, Human Performance and Recreation at Baylor University. Dr. Kreider has brought a renewed spirit of cooperation, respect and energy to the department. Significant accomplishments during the first year of leadership included a complete overhaul of the department website; development of processes to enhance communication and transparency; increased marketing efforts; revision of annual merit evaluations; development of enrollment management plans; approval of new academic programs; a reconstitution of the promotion and tenure committee to include tenured Associate Professors; a 44% increase in grant expenditures; a 45% increase in new grant awards; upgrading classroom technology and facilities; improving teaching and research lab facilities; provision of additional resources for student and faculty travel; moving the Exercise & Sport Nutrition Lab to TAMU; and, submission of an NIH C06 facility grant to build an integrative biomedical and behavioral research lab.
The Department of HLKN is a vibrant department with a long tradition of outstanding faculty, staff, students, and facilities and has been consistently recognized as one of the nation's top programs. It is now home to over 2,400 undergraduate majors and minors, 200 graduate students, 90 faculty members, 30 staff members, and 85 graduate assistants. The Divisions of Health Education, Kinesiology and Sport Management house undergraduate and graduate programs that include applied exercise physiology, basic exercise physiology, community health, motor neuroscience, safety education, school health, sport management, and sports pedagogy. The Physical Education Activity Program offers health and fitness activity classes that service all Texas A&M students as part of the university core curriculum. The department generates over 150,000 student credit hours each year, which ranks the department 3rd at Texas A&M. In addition, HLKN faculty and students are actively engaged in the practice and study of physical activity, sport and health. It is upon this rich tradition of excellence that the Department of HLKN strives to become among the best Health & Kinesiology programs in the nation.