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Corps to the core: Myers' Marine-style 'ah-ten-hut' to detail lets him leave HCC in better state

March 15, 2013|By BOB PARASILITI | bobp@herald-mail.com
  • Hagerstown Community College faced challenges when Bo Myers took over as athletic director in 2006. But by using a straight-on approach and his Marine training, the school's educational and athletic programs have improved as he heads into retirement.
By Kevin G. Gilbert/Staff Photographer

HAGERSTOWN — Bo Myers would like his career to be summed up in one sentence.

“I just want to be known for getting something done,” the Hagerstown Community College athletic director said.

But to do Myers any justice, his time in the Washington County educational system is best signified by two words:

Hooray and Oo-Rah.

They are the best adjectives to describe the paths and methods he chose to follow in his life, as an advocate for education and a coach of track disciplines. He has attacked each with passion.

And he has “done something” by drawing from his experience in the U.S. Marine Corps, which fuels his demand for focus, discipline, order and teamwork.

Myers, 64, will end his long educational career on June 30, when he retires as HCC’s AD and chairman of the school’s Physical Education and Leisure Studies department. He announced his intentions in January, trying to keep any fanfare to a minimum.

It’s the Marine Corps way.

“I care about my staff,” Myers said. “The key to the whole thing is that I take responsibility for their success. I’ll get them all they need so that they can be successful. What we do is simple. It is personal interest and communication and I monitor it all. It is KISS: Keep It Simple, Stupid.”

Basic Training

Myers’ Marine background is the thread that keeps his ideas and purpose together.

He is straight forward and looks people in the eye. Without saying it, the approach demands order, belief, focus and teamwork.

It is a civilian and educational version of the Corps mantra: “Leave no man behind.”

“(The Marines) was obviously a big part of my life,” Myers said. “It taught me first, that leadership is a simple thing and if you have an objective and that when you go into something, know what you are going into and research it. The key is to have the right people.

“I have to understand they have the ability to do the job. In the Marine Corps, there is always turnover. So, everyone is trained the same and everyone is able to fill in. Things go wrong when you don’t have the right people. Programs fade because a lack of firm leadership.”

In the trenches

When Myers steps down, he will be ending his second stint at HCC — this one lasting seven years.

Research and leadership, along with a Marine approach, have carried through his career.

Myers, who graduated from Shepherd College in 1972, returned to the area after ending a three years of active duty in the Corps in 1974 and receiving his master’s in educational administration from Pepperdine. He served as a captain in the Marines from 1968-79.

He worked at Williamsport High School and did a short stint in Martinsburg, W.Va., before his first stop at HCC.

The school split the position of AD and Physical Education chair into two positions. Jim Brown became the athletic director, while Myers became the educational chairman and served as the school’s track and cross country coach, raising the program to new heights.

He has spent a combined 16 years teaching health, physical education and leisure studies at HCC. As a coach, he trained 87 NJCAA all-Americans and seven national champions.

In 1988, Myers decided to take a new course. He left HCC and took his leadership skills to the Washington County Public School system as an administrator.

The first stop was Hancock, where he started as a substitute teacher to do the research for the job he was accepting.

“I went back and started over,” Myers said. “I want to be sent to the most difficult situations because I know that when I’m finished, it will be no worse than when I started.”

Myers spent three years as principal at Hancock Middle-Senior High School before stops at South Hagerstown High, Western Heights Middle School and North Hagerstown High, always with the goal of making each one better.

“I always went in knowing my mission would be,” he said. “I made sure the personnel had the knowledge, the trust and the training. In the Marine Corps, you lead by example and take care of your people. I carried it through and I’m proud of it.”

Second Tour of Duty

Myers had moved into the school board’s central office when he chose his next assignment: A move back to HCC in 2006 because of an intriguing offer.

“(HCC president Guy Altieri) approached me about combining the academic and AD jobs again,” Myers said. “I was at the school board, but I missed being here. I knew I had a few more years left. I knew that in less than 10 years, I could set up the objectives and get the right people in place to get the school back on track.

“Most people with 30 years in would probably want to start taking the easy road. That’s not me, knowing that I was coming back here. There were some discrepancies and morale problems with the program and I was coming in to fix them. It was intriguing.”

Myers’ goal became HCC’s athletic motto. He wanted the school to be known as “a national program with class.”

“We were talking about winning national championships,” he said. “We weren’t going to give up doing that, but we didn’t have the money to do it. But did I have the kids here that can go out and compete for regional titles with the possibility of getting to the nationals? You bet I did.”

The first objective was to get the educational house in order, which would help take care of the athletic side.

Like in the Marines, image is everything.

“Academics have always been a primary focus of mine,” Myers said. “I’ve always hated the ‘dumb jock’ image. When people say just stick a kid in phys ed, I get so mad. There is so much math and science in physical education.”

For that reason, teaching, coaching and the Marine philosophy went hand in hand.

“From a coaching standpoint, I love working with young people who are trying to learn,” he said. “Track and field is one of the most difficult sports to master. You can’t have people doing everything, but you can have them studying everything.

“You never know all the answers, but kids know all the BS. Kids don’t have a terrible need to be led in a direction. Society has changed. They want boundaries and they want to understand. We need to get them to grow up, make mistakes and learn from them.”

That also became HCC’s ground rules for athletics as Myers tried to add stability to the program.

Role call

During HCC’s transition years, Myers has helped stabilize the basketball programs, hiring men’s coach Barry Brown and bringing in former U.S. Olympian and Martinsburg star Vicky Bullett to lead the women’s program after the retirement of Marlys Palmer.

Nearly every sport has had a change in coaching. The Hawks have made huge strides in the soccer program while maintaining high standards in track & field, cross country, volleyball, softball and baseball.

“If I did anything, I convinced people to take care of the program,” Myers said. “I got them believing. The soccer program is a great example of what we have been trying to do. They have been able to have 10-win seasons and did it without very much money and by recruiting the local area.”

In the process, HCC has improved its standing.

“In the last six years, we have won the Presidents Cup or been second for best program in our conference every year,” Myers said. “Almost all of our programs have won region titles or they are on the precipice of that, so that makes it a good time to leave.”

Now, Myers is ready to take on his next assignment.

When he leaves HCC at the end of June, he plans to spend more time with his wife Dixie, who retired from HCC last year.

“It’s time to spend more time with my wife and the two dogs on the farm in Waynesboro,” Myers said.

He plans to do some consulting, some coaching and some track officiating, but he will also be able to devote more time to another passion — coaching coaches.

For the last few years, Myers has worked with the United States Sports Academy and has spent summers in Thailand, working to help that country develop Olympic coaches and athletes. He said that the organization was waiting for him to have more time to work.

Getting to this point has felt more like a sprint than a 50-mile march with full pack.

“Fast is a relative term,” Myers said. “I have chipped away at things and have never shied away from doing the right thing. Not everyone was going to be happy. In the military, that’s collateral damage. But I always tried to be involved, didn’t micromanage and I cared about my staff and their personal lives. It’s not me, it’s these people.

“Everything I have done has come from experience. The thing that I’m most proud of is that I was a Marine. No one had to do anything for me. I will leave with things in a good spot for the next person. The only important thing has been the mission.”

And that will be Bo Myers’ final hooray and Oo-Rah.

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