Profile: Who’s that dancing man?


As the stands stood packed with sports fans this Dec. 2 and 3, shuffling and shouting for the first basketball conference home games against George Fox and Lewis & Clark, one man stood out from the crowd, swaying to the music on the community/visiting side of the bleachers and waving his gloved Mickey Mouse hands to the beat. Many Whitman students have enjoyed the enthusiasm of this happy spectator over the years, but very few know the man behind the motion.

Credit: Ethan Parrish

His name is Stephen Rubin and his affiliation with Whitman College began as one of the faculty. Rubin was hired on as a professor in Whitman’s Psychology Department in 1971, and he became not only a passionate educator, professor to our very own Basketball Assistant Coach Matt Airy, but a supportive faculty spectator at all Whitman athletic events. While he is now retired from teaching at Whitman College, he still holds this second title proudly.

“I’ve always enjoyed athletics [and] I root for lots of sports. I’ll go to swim meets, volleyball games, baseball games, basketball games . . . I love the drama of it,” said Rubin on his athletic attendance.

Not just a fan, Rubin is also an athlete, having played sports in his youth and Intramural Basketball into his 60s.

“I played sports. I grew up in New York City, and that’s what you did when you weren’t doing homework. You played baseball, stop ball, hand ball, football. Most of it isn’t organized, you just go to the field and you play for eight or 10 hours a day: and that’s what I did.”

Now, Rubin makes sure that, if he’s in town and Whitman is playing, he’s there to cheer on the men and women battling on the court.

“[Whitman athletes have] devoted themselves to their sport. They’ll give it all, and they do. By and large, Whitman athletes will dive through a brick wall to get the ball and do the right thing,” said Rubin.

When asked why he started bringing the props to games, he responded, “I think the lack of student involvement. At times the students just never show much enthusiasm. Here these guys and women are  diving  for the ball. This isn’t a library or a funeral, so I started screaming and yelling, and after a while I started collecting things. Now it’s hard to stop doing it: it’s expected of me.”

With over two-dozen costumes to choose from, Rubin runs many of the cheers during the energy lulls of time-outs or call disputes, shouting across the gym for a response from the students’ side.

“After a game or two I’ll get hoarse,” said Rubin with a smile, “But I like the enthusiasm. I’m willing to step away from it if the students will pick it up.”