2013 Joe and Marie Rolle Spirit of NAU Award
Award Criteria: This award recognizes an alumna
or alumnus who radiates the spirit of Northern Arizona University. They should
consistently show their support to the university, whether by attending all
athletic events or staying involved with legislative matters or other efforts.
This person's devotion to the university should be prominent and ongoing
throughout his or her life.
Graduated: 1957 BS in Elementary Education, 1961 MED in Education
Administration, 1967 MED in Educational Psychology
NAU Instructor, Health Physical Education, & Recreation, Volunteer
Second Grade Teacher at Saints Peter & Paul Catholic School, and Retired NAU
Faculty, Flagstaff and Tucson, Arizona
Most influential figures: Dean Joe Rolle ’41 BSED & ’79 HON, Dr. William
Tinsley, Dr. J. Lawrence Walkup, Dr. Lewis McDonald ’41 BA
Favorite memories: “Hell Week” in which ASC freshmen wore their blue and
yellow beanies all week. They also participated in dress up day, dress
inside-out day and clothing exchange day, where girls and boys dressed like the
opposite sex. Freshmen were tasked with cleaning up the campus and building the
Homecoming bonfire, then protecting it from being set ablaze by the upper
classmen until the completion of the Snake Dance.
Affectionately called “Mr. NAU”, Sam has epitomized the Lumberjack spirit
for more than 60 years. He first arrived at NAU (then Arizona State College) in
1953, after spending six years in the Marine Corps during the Korean War. A
native of Bisbee, Arizona, Sam originally wanted to pursue a career in banking,
but was convinced by professors and peers alike that he possessed a keen
aptitude for teaching. He was active in numerous groups on campus, including
Student Government, the Associated Men’s Students, the Hiking Club, the Chain
Gang, Blue Key Honor Society, Future Teachers of America, the Veterans
Association, the Newman Club, Arizona Playmakers, ASC Football, the Skiing
Club, and Phi Eta Sigma.
Sam graduated in 1957 and began a lengthy teaching career, instructing
elementary through junior college in Arizona and California, while earning two
master’s degrees from his alma mater along the way. The triple alumnus returned
to NAU in 1979, and would serve in multiple capacities through the years,
including education faculty, university scholarship coordinator, and assistant
to the directors of alumni relations and athletics. In his free time, he continued
to coach high school sports, and is in his 63rd year of high school
The university has recognized Sam’s accomplishments through the years with
numerous awards. He was acknowledged with the Gold Axe award as a student, and
has received the Alumni Service Award, the Dwight Patterson Alumnus of the Year
Award and the ASNAU Outstanding Faculty Award. He was honored as a Homecoming
Dedicatee and Homecoming Parade Marshall. In 2004, he was inducted into the NAU
Athletics Hall of Fame.
He attributes his success to time spent and lessons learned on the Flagstaff
campus, as well as a philanthropic worldview instilled by his mother, Florence.
She taught him to ‘pay it forward’ and help others less fortunate. Sam has
established three scholarships, the Borozan Memorial Scholarship in 1960, the
Coach Max Spilsbury Scholarship in 1986 and the S.S. Borozan Scholarship in
1999. A longtime sports booster, he has donated scoreboards at Lumberjack
Stadium, Rolle Activity Center and Wall Aquatic Center. He encourages students
to “share their success with others and remember those who helped along life’s
Sam is honored to receive the Joe and Marie Rolle Spirit of NAU Award, as he
fondly recalls a lengthy relationship with Joe and Marie. “My family knew the
Rolle family in Bisbee, I first met Dean Rolle in 1938,” he recalls. “I renewed
this friendship as a student at ASC in 1953.” When the Rolles were named
Homecoming Dedicatees in 1956, Sam drove their car in the parade. Over the
years he watched their children grow to adulthood.
There are few with longer histories on the Flagstaff campus than Sam, and if
you’ve got an afternoon (or several), he’ll gladly entertain you with memories
of days past. You can still spot him capturing photos from the sidelines at NAU
sporting events, or instructing basketball and volleyball or football and
softball officiating each fall. He wouldn’t change a thing about his experiences
at ASC/NAU, and those whose lives he has touched along the way would likely
Listen to an oral history of the university by Sam online at the ClineLibrary Special Collections.