Dustin barneburg for the Mainstream
The Mainstream Alumnus
Walking into Cheryl Yoder’s office can be a bit overwhelming. Thirty years of Umpqua Community College history surrounds you on all sides. Framed photographs of countless faces, representing decades of memories, line and dot nearly every inch of her office.
Yoder, UCC’s athletic director, seems apprehensive about having to clear her office walls which are covered in the moments that meant so much during her three decades at Umpqua — not because of the amount of actual time she knows it’s going to take her, but because it means she is saying goodbye.
“I just love Douglas County. I love the college. This was the perfect job and a great place to raise kids.”
After 30 years, UCC’s longtime athletic director, coach and educator has announced her plans to retire at the end of the school year.
“I’ve been teaching for almost 40 years, and when you think about how all of the sudden you’re not going to be teaching, it’s tough,” Yoder said. “It’s going to be a big lifestyle change. It’s bittersweet; I love the interaction with students, and I love just being around the students. That’s why I never moved up into administration. That is something I’m really going to miss. I’m just ready. My body is ready, and my mind is ready.”
In 1986, UCC president James Kraby hired Yoder full-time, fulfilling a number of needs on campus. In addition to being a faculty member, Yoder worked as the summer recreation director in charge of all aquatic activities at the college. She also took over coaching responsibilities of the women’s volleyball team, a sport Yoder was familiar with before coming to UCC.
Yoder coached two seasons at Northern Arizona University as part of her graduate program; she also spent a year at Corona Del Mar High School and three more at Lane Community College before landing at Umpqua. Coaching is something that left an indelible mark on Yoder during her time at the college.
“I miss the athletes,” Yoder said. “As a coach, you have the ability to really create bonding memories with your athletes that are forever.”
With a quick smile, Yoder recalls how she always seemed to find herself in trouble so-to-speak with Kraby during her early years at UCC.
“He (Kraby) could be tough,” Yoder said. “After every game, he was my first phone call. Not to the media, but to him. And if you lost that night, he wanted to know why.”
On her first road trip as UCC’s volleyball coach, Yoder lost the bank bag that housed all of the money needed for the trip. Thirty years later she laughs, but she still cringes about the plight she put herself in.
“I was always in trouble with him,” Yoder said. “I was young and just kind of a renegade, I think. I’m surprised I didn’t get fired.”
There is little doubt that Yoder was doing something right since she continued coaching women’s volleyball for 16 straight seasons.
“When I first got this job, I thought, ‘Oh, maybe I’ll be here for a few years and move on,’ but I never did.” Yoder said. “I just love Douglas County. I love the college. This was the perfect job and a great place to raise kids.”
UCC also ended up providing her with the opportunity to meet the love of her life, Dan Yoder. In 1993, Cheryl began dating Dan while he was the IT department’s senior program analyst. In September 1996, the two were married.
“Jacky Hagan, our former vice president, used to say we were UCC sweethearts,” Yoder said. “It’s nice to have someone to bounce work stuff off of at home after a long day. But, we don’t just drag on about it.”
Twenty years later, Dan Yoder offers perspective on the family the college has provided him.
“Our professional careers do not have many points of contact. Because of UCC, we developed a friendship that led us to where we are today. I don’t think there would have been a chance of us ending up together without this college,” Dan Yoder said.
Two years after retiring as UCC’s volleyball coach, Yoder was hired as athletic director, a position she’s held for the past 12 years. While the college has experienced a number of administrative changes over the past decade, the athletic department boasts some of the college’s longest tenured employees. Yoder, Rod Snook and Dave Stricklin provide a combined 82 years of experience in athletics. With 22 years coaching women’s basketball, the short-timer of the group is Stricklin. He reflects on what Yoder has meant to the athletic department.
“Athletics are constantly changing,” Stricklin said. “Dealing with young athletes, it changes day-to-day; it can be a rollercoaster. With this department, there has been some continuity. During my time here, we’ve seen such an influx of administration. Anytime someone new comes in, they have somewhat of their own way of doing things. Sometimes it’s major changes, sometimes it’s minor changes, but there always is something different. She’s had to always adjust to that, to I don’t know how many presidents or administrators. While our department has had that continuity, there hasn’t been that elsewhere on the campus at times, and she has certainly done a great job of keeping us intact.”
As athletic director, Yoder has been proud to watch a number of programs flourish, notably, the creation of the weight room’s Fitness Tech program, providing a one-year certificate for personal trainers. She has also watched over the continued growth of the school’s many outdoors programs. However, there are projects Yoder wishes she could have seen come to fruition.
“I really wanted to get baseball and softball going,” Yoder said. “I kept saying, ‘I’m going to die before I’ll let that go.’ I’ll still push it. There has been some pressure in the community. I think financially some people don’t think it’s the right time. But I disagree. I think adding sports brings students, FTE (full-time enrollments) and tuition to the college. What other programs can bring 50 to 75 students right now on campus? We are one of the few.”
While there is no indication that baseball and softball programs will be added at UCC in the immediate future, the prospect of adding the sports falls on the lap of the new athletic director to champion. Applicants for the new position have not been gathered at this time.
“I don’t know if I can offer any advice to my replacement,” Yoder said. “I would say really spend time making community connections. Spend time in the community because these are the people who are going to support your program.”
With Aug. 31 slated as Yoder’s last official day at Umpqua, Yoder will soon start what she calls “phase two” of her life, closing a 30 year chapter, only to start a new one. Many of her colleagues reflected on how much she would be missed.
“Cheryl is someone that everybody loves on this campus,” UCC men’s basketball coach Daniel Leeworthy said. “Everyone respects her, and she is a friend to everyone. Her opinion definitely matters at this school. To me it’s more than that. She has been welcoming and been a friend to me and my family ever since I got here. Even though she is from California, she is what I call the true definition of an Oregonian. She loves this area, loves Douglas County and has given her heart and soul to this campus.”