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ACU Remembers: Dr. Curt Dickson

Dr. Curtis Allen Dickson (’66), professor emeritus of exercise science and health at Abilene Christian University, died Jan. 6, 2020, after an extended illness. He was 82. A memorial service honoring his life is planned for 11 a.m., Monday, Jan. 13, in the Family Room at University Church of Christ (733 E.N. 16th St., Abilene, Texas 79601).

Dickson was born April 23, 1937, in Ponca City, Oklahoma, to Carl Curtis Dickson and Ruby Helen Keller Dickson. Ruby and her second husband, Byrd O’Dell, raised Curt in Texas, Oklahoma and many midwestern states, surrounded by an extended family of aunts, uncles and grandparents. Curt’s brother, Richard O’Dell, was born in 1953 and preceded him in death in 2018. The devotion Curt received from the family he grew up with was reflected in his boundless commitment to his own family.

Dickson graduated in 1955 from Diamond Hill-Jarvis High School in Fort Worth and that year married Bobbie June McCullough (’88). He took classes at The University of Texas at Arlington and TCU while working jobs at service stations, an oilfield equipment warehouse, and as a metal lathe machinist making experimental aircraft parts.

The family moved in 1963 to Abilene, where Dickson began his first of many roles on campus, serving as men’s dormitory supervisor while completing a bachelor’s degree in physical education and mathematics in 1966 and a master’s degree in guidance services in 1967. Meanwhile, he also served as intramural sports director, an instructor in the Department of Health, Physical Education and Recreation (HPER), taught swimming at the Christian Youth Center and ACU, and was a deacon at Minter Lane Church of Christ, a church plant of the Graham Street congregation where the Dicksons began their time in Abilene.

In 1969 the family moved to College Station where he completed a Ph.D. in health and physical education at Texas A&M University. The family returned to ACU in 1971 and Dickson became aquatics director in the new Gibson Center. He was instrumental in creating the Human Performance Lab in 1974, which became a center for research in the department, and in organizing the first beginning ski class in 1975, an annual course that became a lasting part of the university and Dickson family culture.

While leading the department and pursuing his research agenda, he continued teaching activity classes including long-distance running, swimming and badminton, in addition to exercise physiology courses for HPER majors. He served as Camp Wildcat director, a social club sponsor and city league softball coach. He coached his own children and others in Little League, softball and basketball leagues, regularly picking up the kids who didn’t have a ride to practice or games in the Ford pickup truck he dubbed “Ol’ Yellar.”

From 1982-90 he served as HPER department chair and in various roles with the Texas Association for Health, Physical Education, Recreation and Dance from 1972-90. His interests in fitness and health inspired ongoing involvement in the Performance Lab where he led testing of world-class athletes and mentored students preparing for futures in teaching, health clubs and emerging fields such as physical therapy. In 1986, he studied the science of strength training at the National Center for Sport in Moscow. ACU’s College of Professional Studies honored him as faculty member of the year for 1992-93.

A consummate fan of the Wildcats, Curt regularly attended ACU basketball and football games with his family, always preferring to sit with students.

Until a few years ago, Curt and Bobbie were involved at University Church of Christ where he served as deacon, elder, and on the missions committee, often driving the vans on summer mission trips. The Dicksons spent summers in Angel Fire, New Mexico, where Curt often taught adult Bible classes at Moreno Valley Church of Christ. During his last several years of declining health and mobility they attended Hillcrest Church of Christ.

His commitment to health research is fulfilled by his donation of his body to The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas.

Among survivors are Bobbie, his wife of 64 years; their four children, Sherri (Dickson ’79) and Lynn Luttrell (’78), Trissa (Dickson ’91) and Curly Cox (’87), Carl (’92) and Cami (Hunt ’91) Dickson, and Dr. Kyle Dickson (’92); nine grandchildren and their spouses; nine great grandchildren; a sister, Lucy Dickson (’69) and her husband, J.C. Crouch; and a brother, Bowen Dickson (’68).

— Ron Hadfield

Jan. 10, 2020

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