Memorial service at McDaniel recalls Case as passionate educator, adventurer

More than 500 people took time from their Labor Day weekend to fill Big Baker Chapel at McDaniel College on Sept. 1, paying respects at a memorial service for the late Dr. Sam Case.

Case, 70, a longtime Westminster resident, died Aug. 22 at Carroll Hospice Center's Dove House in Westminster, from complications from leukemia

He was a respected and admired professor and coach, who taught human physiology and exercise science courses for nearly four decades at McDaniel College.

Before Case retired from McDaniel in 2004, he served as the school's provost for four years.

Case retired shortly after he was diagnosed with leukemia, a disease he faced with determination — and by going mountain climbing in Nepal.

Classmates, fellow professors, students, wrestlers, football players and distance runners attended the service. After a welcome by Case's son-in-law, James Ellison, colleagues including Dr. Alex Ober, Gary Scholl, Dr. Kathy Mangan, Dr. Sherri Lind Hughes and former McDaniel College President Joan Develin Coley offered tributes to Case.

Case's daughter, Lauren Case, said her dad had cautioned her, "I don't want people sitting around so keep it short."

The service only lasted 60 minutes - or enough time to have run six-miles…

She said her father was a "serious man who did not take himself seriously," and elicited chuckles when she shared one of his favorite quotes, "Better to have wrestled and lost than to have played basketball."

In a 2000 Baltimore Sun article, it was reported, "His appointment to the college's second-highest administrative office is Joan Develin Coley's first major personnel change since she was elected WMC's president by the board of trustees in October. Coley was the provost of the college until former President Robert H. Chambers resigned in April."

Case's family described him as, "an adventurer and world traveler who always chose to push his limits." A year after his retirement, he and a friend completed an 18-day trek through the Mount Everest region of Nepal, "climbing high enough into the mountains to risk altitude sickness," said a family member.

In her comments, former McDaniel President Coley said Case, "loved the world — all of it — and wasn't afraid to sleep on top of it in a sleeping bag."

In the December 2000 article, Coley, "called Case 'a role model' whose teaching 'earns his students' admiration and his scholarship earns respect among his academic peers.'

According to a 2000 article in The Baltimore Sun, Case had earned his bachelor's degree in physical education and biology at then-Western Maryland College in 1963, and a master's degree in physical education in 1966. He earned his doctorate in exercise physiology in 1971 from Ohio State University.

"He joined the college's faculty in 1965. A four-year letterman in wrestling and football at the school, he also coached wrestling and track," according to the Sun article.

As wrestling coach, he guided McDaniel's wrestling team to Mason Dixon Conference Championships in 1969 and 1970. In 2001, the National Wrestling Hall of Fame recognized him with its Lifetime Service Award. That same year, he was inducted into the Carroll County Sports Hall of Fame and, in 2004, he was inducted into the Green Terror Sports Hall of Fame, according to his obituary for Pritts Funeral Home in Westminster.

The news of Case's death spread quickly through the tight-knit Carroll County sports, academic and running communities — especially the Westminster Road Runners' Club. Case was among several runners in Carroll County who helped form the club in the 1970s. Other founders included Dr. George Samuel Alspach Jr., Dr. David Herlocker and Terry Burk — all of whom have died in recent years.

Current club runners who attended the services Sept. 1 included Dr. Skip Fennell and Carroll County Commissioner David Roush.

At a memorial service for Herlocker in March 2008, Case said, "In looking through my diaries, I estimate that, along with Sam Alspach, we logged almost 41,000 miles together in our almost 37 years of running and walking - that's almost 2 times around the earth at the equator… I think all of us took pride in the fact that as groups, we probably had the highest average IQ of any running group in the world…"

Case served a physiologist at the U.S. Olympic Training Center in Colorado Springs three times early in his career.

According to the Sun article, Case twice won the college's Distinguished Teaching Award and has received two Fulbright nominations to the former Yugoslavia. When he was unable to teach in Yugoslavia, he became interested in studying cold weather.

"His extensive research on participants in the Iditarod and the Iditasport ultramarathon and his studies of human physiology in extreme environments has been widely acclaimed in scientific circles."

From 1997 to 1999 Case conducted research projects in Antarctica, funded by the National Science Foundation, which awarded him the Antarctica Service Medal. His cold-weather research inspired the Physiology of Extreme Environments course at McDaniel College.

Case was a member of the Tri-Beta Biology Honorary Society and the Omicron Delta Kappa Leadership Society, and published nearly 60 articles on physiology and physical fitness, many co-authored with his students who accompanied him on his research expeditions.

The Sun reported that Case participated in the 100-mile-long Iditasport ultramarathon in Alaska three times.

Hughes, who ran with Case in the Iditasport, said that on one such occasion, Case told to her matter-of-factly, at the beginning of run, "We just ran 10 miles. We just have to do this nine more times."

Hughes said that Case once told her, "I am not afraid of dying: I'm afraid of not living."

We are all less of afraid of living as a result of working with and being in the shadow of Dr. Case. He will be greatly missed.

A native of Three Bridges, N.J., Case went to Hunterton Central High School where he was on both the football and wrestling teams.

During his junior year, he was second in his weight class in the N.J. State Novice Wrestling Tournament.

He is survived by his wife of 47 years, Susan Snodgrass Case, of Westminster; their two married daughters and sons-in-law, Lauren Case and J.P. Ellison, of Washington, D.C., and Sarah Case and Dr. Bob Pelz, of Eugene, Ore.; grandchildren, Anna, Meredith, Tommy and Henry; and sister, Barbara Shiffer, of Nazareth, Pa.

Family members suggest that memorial gifts be made to McDaniel College to support student research and scholarships, c/o Institutional Advancement, 2 College Hill, Westminster, MD 21157.

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