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More Than a Name on the Wall

Reflections on a Life Well Lived

Sanders, Mary E. Ph.D., FACSM; Peterson, James A. Ph.D., FACSM

doi: 10.1249/FIT.0000000000000103
COLUMNS: On the Floor

Mary E. Sanders, Ph.D., FACSM, is a clinical exercise physiologist and diabetes educator at the Division of Wellness and Weight Management in the School of Medicine and adjunct professor of the School of Public Health, University of Nevada, Reno, NV. She is an associate editor of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® and editor of the YMCA Water Fitness for Health training manual. Dr. Sanders is an ACSM Certified Clinical Exercise SpecialistSM and an ACSM Registered Clinical Exercise Physiologist®.

James A. Peterson, Ph.D., FACSM, is a freelance writer and consultant in sports medicine. From 1990 until 1995, Dr. Peterson was director of sports medicine with StairMaster. Until that time, he was professor of physical education at the U.S. Military Academy.

Disclosure: The authors declare no conflict of interest and do not have any financial disclosures.

Somewhere on one of the walls of the building that houses ACSM’s national headquarters in Indianapolis is a plaque detailing the winners of the Lawrence A. Golding Scholarship, which is given annually to two undergraduate students in exercise science who exhibit exceptional potential with regard to their ability to have a meaningful impact on their chosen area of study once they begin their professional careers. The award is named after Lawrence A. Golding, Ph.D., FACSM, an 88-year-old resident of Las Vegas, NV, who retired last year after a 60-year teaching career at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, and Kent State University.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down and interview Larry, widely acknowledged to be the driving force behind starting both ACSM’s Health & Fitness Summit & Exposition and ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®. As Larry’s answers to the questions (which were submitted by several of his colleagues and former students) indicate, Larry is indeed more than just a name on the wall.

Q 1: What role has ACSM played in your life?

Answer: From a professional standpoint, ACSM has been my primary connection to many of the professional relationships I’ve had over the years. I couldn’t begin to articulate how much these relationships have meant to me. I’ve also had the opportunity to serve on ACSM’s Board of Trustees, as well as on a number of committees. For example, I served as the editor-in-chief of ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal® for 8 years and as the chair of the program committee for the Summit for 12 years. During that time, I developed numerous friendships, in addition to accomplishing several very satisfying things.

Q 2: As one of the earliest and strongest proponents of the bridge-the-gap movement in ACSM (a philosophy so named because of its focus on bridging the gap between science and application), what made you want to help start both ACSM’s Summit and ACSM’s Health & Fitness Journal®?

Answer: Given my extensive work with students, the public (e.g., our long-time, well-received adult fitness program at UNLV), and the YMCAs, I was very concerned that while most of the young individuals I knew in one of the health-related areas of our profession had the greatest regard for ACSM, they didn’t read ACSM’s scientific journals, attend any of the national or regional meetings of ACSM, or even join the organization. Across the board, the same reason was given in each instance — ACSM’s information was too grounded in scientific terms to be fully appreciated. Few people readily understood its practical application. Furthermore, ACSM was too expensive for most practitioners in the field. As a result, both the Summit and the Journal were proposed to ACSM’s Board of Trustees, and as the saying goes, the rest is history.

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How can you expect people to believe in exercise when you aren’t doing it yourself? I feel strongly about role modeling. For 31 years, I exercised twice a day along with the men and women’s program. If I had stood there yelling “do this” and “do that,” they wouldn’t have done it. So when I said — “let’s do 10 push-ups” — we’d do 10 push-ups together.

A long-time participant said — it wasn’t just the exercise program, it was the rapport and the feeling of the people in the group, working together, that made the program great.

Q 3: What was it like to work with body builders Arnold Schwarzenegger and Lou Ferrigno?

Answer: In the 1960s, I was appointed as the chair of the medical committee of the International Federation of Body Building. As part of the undertaking, I became good friends with Arnold and helped him write one of his books. Subsequently, because I was already on-site when ACSM held its national meeting in Las Vegas, I was asked to develop a session for the spouses of ACSM attendees. We had no budget mind you. Subsequently, I invited Arnold to address that group. Arnold not only came, but he paid all of his own expenses. For the record, the spouses’ meeting was a huge hit! As for Lou, he was a very nice man and had a great sense of humor.

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Women entering the field was the most important change. It was excellent. They added a breath of involvement and enhanced ACSM.

Q 4: Have students changed over the years and what advice would you give them now?

Answer: In reality, students have evolved in a number of ways since I first started teaching — some good, some not so good. Without question, the best change has been the involvement of women in the profession. Sixty years ago, there were very few women students in exercise science. In contrast, today, a lot of women are engaged in the field. Bright, bright kids who bring much to the table. As for the not-so-good changes, it would appear that students are not nearly as inquisitive as they used to be. Far too often, some students seem to be more interested in getting the class over with and checking it off their list of things they have to do than in achieving a complete grasp of the material. As for any advice I might impart to students, my number one recommendation to them is that they should be passionate and believe in what they’re doing. You can’t buy passion. It doesn’t come in a pill. You either have it or you don’t. If you don’t, you won’t be successful…in any endeavor.

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The study on anabolic steroids made a big difference. Measuring the effects of steroids changed body building into a scientifically grounded activity and brought legitimacy to the sport.

Q 5: As you approach your 90s, what words of wisdom would you impart to individuals who might otherwise believe that they may be on the aging fast track but are mere youngsters in comparison to you?

Answer: Enjoy your life. Never overlook the fact that the people in your life are important. Stay in touch with the people you love. Never be reluctant to let them know how much you care. Remember that happiness is a choice you make for yourself.

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What you become is what you feel; believe in what you practice. It’s what you’ve earned.

Q 6: What would you like your legacy to be?

Answer: My legacy is a three-part blessing. First and foremost, the blessing to have been married to Carmen for 60 years. Second, to have had the opportunity to be able to make a positive difference in the lives of many of my students. Finally, to be remembered by those who really knew me as a nice guy who always tried to put forth his best effort.

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By almost any measure, 60 years is a long time…a very long time. When discussing Dr. Larry Golding, the number “60” has unique significance. He was married to the love of his life for 60 years. He taught for 60 years. He had an iconic impact on his profession for 60 years. Somehow the phrase “special person” does not seem to be enough when trying to summarize the fullness of Larry’s life.

© 2015 American College of Sports Medicine.