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Failure, Phys Ed and Faith – Finding Life Lessons with R.C. West

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When Richard C. West earned five failing grades and one “A” his sophomore year in high school, his life was changed forever. His only “A” was in Physical Education. A coach took him under his wing and Richard became, in his own words, “a different person.” With renewed focus on academics, his grades improved and upon graduation he was accepted into college. His academic career would not be completed until he reached the age of 88.

West attended Springfield College in Massachusetts. An only child, Richard said his biggest adjustment was learning to live with a roommate. He played baseball and football for the college’s Pride football team. His second football season was interrupted and another major adjustment was on the horizon. Following the sixth game, Richard and his teammates received notices to report for military duty. World War Two was calling.

Richard was assigned to the Infantry Medical Corp and shipped out to France, and then Germany, where he spent two years. He then served a two-year stint in England and was about to be shipped to the Asian theatre when the atomic bomb ended the war.

Richard returned to college and earned a tryout with the St. Louis Browns baseball team, and was faced with a dilemma. The minor league team offered to take him on to become a coach/manager – but he would have to sacrifice his college degree. Richard opted to finish his degree.

After serving with the athletic department at Otterbein College for eight years, Richard took on a new challenge, moving to Kettering, Ohio for a teaching and coaching position. “It was one of the most frightening experiences I’ve ever had,” he recalls. “I was assigned to teach American and World history. I had no background in either, so I spent the whole summer studying the subjects.” Richard would teach physical education and become a guidance counselor, “the greatest experience I ever had,” he says. It was also the link that led to the love of his lifetime.

Near the end of the school year, a knock came to his guidance office door. In walked a “beautiful lady in a summer dress, with a wide brimmed hat,” Richard recalls. “ She wanted to confer with the counselor about the enrollment of her son. In less than two years, Richard would marry Nancy. And when Richard retired from counseling after twenty years of counseling, the couple launched a new counseling service together. “The church needed pre-marital counselors, so my wife and I took on that challenge.”

Richard and his wife actually did retire and move to Florida for a time. They found themselves returning to Ohio regularly to watch grandchildren play spots, so they decided to return to Ohio. When he was diagnosed with abdominal lymphoma, Richard experienced an epiphany that sent him back to pursue a degree in theology. He earned his doctorate of divinity at the age of 88.

As Richard reviews his life, he says his opportunity to be a counselor was his “gift from God.” He shares his faith these days and urges Christians to live as children of God. Everyday, he observes, we have the opportunity to choose to do what is right. God, in his wisdom, choose wisely when he touched Richard’s life and invited him to counsel others.

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