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In remembrance

Dr. Josh Kaplan, Health Services director, leaves student health care legacy

By Kara Hull


University Health Services staff say they never knew how Dr. Josh Kaplan managed to get it all done–guiding a health service in a time where the only constant was change. But no matter what administrative tasks loomed ahead, students always came first for him.

Kaplan, who served as the director of Health Services at the University since 1984, died Jan. 2 at Wood County Hospital, ending a five-year battle with cancer. He was 57.

“I have a feeling he spent a lot of late nights here,” joked Barbara Hoffman, health promotions coordinator of the Wellness Connection. “If a student during the day wanted to talk to him, he would drop everything.”

According to Ruth Maas, Kaplan’s administrative secretary for 19 years, he had a knack for juggling administrative duties amidst seeing students as patients and working on programming and services to benefit their needs.

“I think he had a talent for that and he loved students,” she said. “I think it surpassed not just being a doctor but talking with them. I think he spoke at a level that wasn’t the medical level … but something students could understand.”

For Maas, Kaplan’s relaxed leadership style in the office is what she’ll miss the most.

“He pretty much let everyone run their department and it was an open-door policy if any student or staff member had a question. And he always had an answer,” she laughed.

It was in this atmosphere that Kaplan was able to lead a motivated staff for almost two decades.

“He allowed us, and trusted us, to do our jobs,” said Cindy Puffer, pharmacy coordinator and assistant director. “He created a team atmosphere that was second to none.”

Guiding students and staff alike through the health care “insurance jungle,” Kaplan was key in the creation of such services as the Student Health Service Bridge Plan, according to Edward Whipple, vice president of Student Affairs. The plan provides “away from home” health care for students who find themselves out of their insurance network while at the University.

Also under Kaplan’s direction, Student Health Services added evening hours to treat patients, physical therapy services, and access of Health Services to spouses and children of students for one semester after graduation.

Co-teacher of an AIDS course for two years, Kaplan collaborated with the English department to make AIDS the subject of the English proficiency exam in 1988.

The strides that Health Services made under Kaplan’s watch is an indication of how he kept his eye on student needs, according to Whipple.

“He was very student-focused,” he said. “He was always thinking ahead and anticipating student health issues. He was always thinking institutionally to decide what was best …”

But Kaplan’s concern for health care issues and education didn’t stop with his work at the University. Locally, he was involved with the Board of Trustees of the Wood County Mental Health Clinic, the AIDS Task Force and the Wood County Disaster Committee.

Through his involvement with these organizations, Kaplan acted as a bridge between the University and the community, Puffer said.

“That gave us as a Health Service a real presence in the community,” she said. “It helped us to have a vision, a presence we wouldn’t have had without him.”

And it was Kaplan, Puffer said, that gave the University’s Health Services respect nationwide through his service to the American College Health Association–who created a fund in his name last year–and the Ohio College Health Association.

“He was so well loved and revered through the ACHA and the OCHA,” she said. “This is a loss that will be felt in student health across the nation.”

Hoffman echoes Puffer’s views, adding that Health Services has also gained programming ideas through his service in these organizations.

“He would pick up things that were good about those places and bring them here,” she said. “We got the opportunity to get the best of a lot of different programs and get them going here.”

And according to Puffer, this was just one of the perks of working for this laid-back leader.

“We got to see him blossom into the director that he was … we got to see his era evolve into what it is,” Puffer said. “It means a great deal to me to be a part of that era.”

Surviving Kaplan are his wife, Becky; daughter, Sarah; mother, Pearl and brother, Ed.

Services were held on Jan. 4 at Dunn Funeral Home.

Ice Arena director coached BG High School Ice Hockey for eight years

By Carrie Whitaker

Managing Editor

Even with a doctorate in psychology, Gordon R. (Randy) Sokoll just couldn’t pass up a job working at the University Ice Arena– his love for hockey made the position impossible to refuse.

And throughout his employment as director of the Ice Arena, his love for hockey and people made a definite impression on the campus community and in town.

Sokoll died Dec. 31 at Wood County Hospital of pancreatitis, the inflammation of the pancreas. He was 54.

Sokoll served as director of the Ice Arena since 1992 and Lona Leck, assistant director, had worked with him for 14 years. Sokoll had always been a pleasure to work with, she said.

“He was a good boss,” Leck said. “He let his employees do their own thing, but he was always there for backup if you needed something.”

Although he was lenient in letting employees create their own projects, Leck said everyone at the Ice Arena realized Sokoll had definite standards for all employees and the reputation of the facility. He had been very personal–in today’s fast-paced world– wanting to talk rather than e-mail or phone, Leck said.

“Probably the best thing about Randy was that he made a good first impression on people,” Leck said.

And the relationships he made over the years here at Bowling Green included those with students as well as employees, Leck said. There were several students Sokoll taught in the past that he had stayed in touch with over the years.

Another facet of Randy’s life was his coaching side. Beside teaching the hockey class at the Ice Arena, he was the head hockey coach at Bowling Green High School for eight seasons.

During his time as head coach, Randy led the BG Bobcats to a state championship in 1984 and made three appearances in the state semifinals. This included finishing second-place in 1983. One of his former players, Michael Kunstmann, played under Sokoll’s guidance for three years and was on the team in 1984 when the Bobcats won the state championship.

Kunstmann said Sokoll’s experience playing hockey at Michigan State University and his love for teaching made him a successful coach. Sokoll had previously been the captain of the MSU hockey team from 1971-1975.

“He had the training he needed and understood what players were going through because he had once been a player himself,” Kunstmann said.

Sokoll made teaching and coaching more about life than about sports Kunstmann and Cheryl, Sokoll’s wife, both said. They both commented on his ability to teach life lessons to those around him.

“Without sounding conceited, I really think he helped every group of players to manhood,” Cheryl said.

And Kunstmann agreed. He said Sokoll was constantly reminding his players they were representing their school and their families as well as their team.

“He always reminded us that our team represented more than a record — more than a game,” Kunstmann said.

Not only did he touch each player, but he also impacted the program at Bowling Green High School, Kunstmann said.

“He took the program to another level and helped make it one of the best programs in the state,” Kunstmann said. “I believe he laid the foundation for the coaches who are there now.”

Even after he quit coaching, Sokoll remained connected to the high school team, he was a member of the BG Blueliners Club, a group of parents and supporters of the high school team who raise funds for the hockey program.

One element of Sokoll’s success as a coach were his high expectations for his players, Cheryl said.

“He was demanding,” she said, “but he never expected more from his players than he expected of himself.”

Cheryl said the job as director of the Ice Arena had ultimately fit Sokoll’s passions — hockey and teaching. She said he loved his job, the people he worked with and the students he taught.

“He had a heart as big as the world,” she said.

Sokoll is survived by his wife, Cheryl; three brothers, Mark, Steven and Curtis.

Services were held on Jan. 3 at Dunn Funeral Home. All memorials may be given to the BG Blueliners Club.

Spouse of Bowling Green State University Greek Affairs director dies of cancer

Karen Louise Kennedy Binder, University graduate and wife of Director of Greek Affairs Ron Binder, died Jan. 5 after a 12-year battle with ovarian cancer.

Karen received her master’s degree from the University and earned her undergraduate degree from the University of Toledo where she became a member of Delta Delta Delta Sorority.

During the course of her career, Karen was employed as assistant dean, assistant chair and an advisor at: UNC Chapel Hill, Georgia State University and the University of Georgia. Karen was an active member of her sorority, serving as chapter adviser and alumnae president at several institutions of higher learning.

Her cancer diagnosis prompted Karen to become an advocate for her disease. Locally, she helped establish Let’s Talk-It-Over, an ovarian cancer support group and the creation of ovarian cancer awareness quilts for The Toledo Hospital and the Medical College of Ohio. Most recently, she performed fundraising duties with the University of Toledo Campus Ministries.

Karen is survived by her husband Ron; parents, Roger and Joanne Kennedy; sister, Sherri (Jeff) Cousins; brother, Chuck Kennedy, in-law relatives and many nieces, nephews and great nieces.

Funeral services were held at Epworth United Methodist Church in Toledo on Saturday.

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