Stephen A. Butterfield '71, Ph.D.
By Claire Burns
Steve Butterfield's career, which led to his receiving one of the profession's highest awards for lifetime achievement in physical education (AAHPERD Honor Award), began with his childhood introduction to Springfield College during a summer recreation program in Middlebury, VT.
Butterfield, professor of kinesiology and physical education at the University of Maine, reflects on Springfield College graduates who influenced him. It began with "Stub" Mackey '43 at that summer program and included middle school teachers Jim King '50, G'51, and George Redman '59. Butterfield had a pivotal experience in high school when Coach Hubie Wagner '64 stepped into a failing football program and applied a model that transitioned many boys into manhood. "Almost overnight, more than 100 boys joined the team, which went on to win championships. He was a wonderful man who opened my eyes to ways of challenging and inspiring young men."
"My Springfield College education was well underway long before I arrived on the campus," says Butterfield. Committed to physical education, "the discipline that has the greatest impact on all areas of human development – cognitive, psychomotor, and affective," he completed his undergraduate degree at Springfield College. There, he found any course taught by Prof. Doug Parker '51, G'58, to be "life altering." "I still apply what I learned from him in dealing with students, and I try to instill that in the people I teach and serve," he says. He earned his master's degree at Keene State College where his very influential advisor was Keith King '50, G'53. As a Ph.D. candidate at The Ohio State University, Butterfield developed a deep and lifelong respect for his advisor Prof. Walt Ersing '54, "a brilliant man whose intellect was exceeded only by his work ethic and devotion to excellence, things he also expected of his students."
Butterfield notes the worldwide reputation of Springfield College in physical education, "Its graduates excel." He interacts with physical education graduates and faculty members of the world's leading institutions, and he is more than competitive in scholarship, grants, and teaching. "When I applied for my dream job at the University of Maine, I was hired by its greatest dean, another Springfield College graduate, Bob Cobb '64. Butterfield believes strongly in the mission of the land-grant colleges – teaching, research, and service. Much of his work in those areas has focused on adapted physical education.
The future holds new challenges for physical educators, he says. They will have to reach beyond schools to collaborate with professionals in other fields, such as recreation, community health services, medicine, and more. He foresees a greater emphasis on curricula driven by data and science. He is concerned that declining governmental and private funding could result in less research and fewer future teachers in adapted physical education.
Butterfield has responded with a planned gift to establish the Butterfield Family Scholarship at Springfield College, which will support students of physical education or elementary education from Maine, Vermont, or Ohio – states important in the lives of him and his wife, Jeanne Zong Butterfield '71. The endowed scholarship will be funded through his estate.
"I have faith in Springfield College. It has changed with the times, but has remained true to its core principles. Art Linkletter got it right when he said that Springfield College is the best college in America." Butterfield also continues other forms of support for the College, and reflects that people who are in positions to also do so, at levels great or small, can make a difference.
"I know of no better way to be immortal," he says.