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Don Hellison

Don Hellison passed away June 6, 2018 at the age of 80. Thanks to his development and promotion of the Teaching Personal and Social Responsibility (TPSR) model, Don was one of the best-known scholars in the field of physical education and sports pedagogy. He had been committed to developing a model focused on teaching life skills and values through physical activity, because he saw the power of sport and physical activity to transform lives.

Don worked with some tough kids in hard inner-city schools. He also saw what psychology recognizes as central in the process of change: the power of the relationship with a caring adult and the need for consistency when working with a population that suffers many loses. Don never saw the youth as defined by their problems but recognized and made them aware of their strengths. He truly epitomized the spirit, energy, and conviction of a trailblazer.

Today, his work continues to have a significant impact on the field of Physical Education. Don wrote six books including Teaching Physical and Social Responsibility Through Physical Activity. He was the winner of many awards, including the Gulick Medal and was awarded the International Olympic Committee’s President Prize in Lausanne, Switzerland in 1995. Don was considered the "father" of humanistic Physical Education. He served as a Professor at Portland State and the University of Illinois – Chicago, and directed The Urban Youth Leader Project for underserved children and youth in Chicago.

We were colleagues at UIC and I became aware of his uniqueness and of the value of his method. Out of concern with the future of all that knowledge after he retired, we developed the TPSR Alliance ( and started organizing a yearly conference. Don was very afraid of us becoming another organization where formal administrative issues would be central, relegating the real protagonists, children and those who work with them, to a second plane. He kept us on our toes to make sure we did not have “talking heads” and that there were no presentations where someone talked TO the others, but conversations WITH one another around an issue or idea. He lived what he preached.

Don leaves a huge void and also a huge imprint in many people’s lives. I know how glad I am to have called him a friend, and how much I miss him.

Written by Gloria Balague