By Morgan Caldwell/Sports writer
For John Shafer, Eastern’s new athletics director, sports has played a major role in his life.Before coming to Eastern, Shafer worked as the athletics director for other universities including Ole Miss, and had also been the executive director for the Georgia Sports Hall of Fame.
At this last job, though, Shafer claimed he was miserable.
“I missed intercollegiate athletics. I had done it for 28 years,” he explained.
The move to Eastern is a positive one for him personally and professionally.
He calls being an athletics director “a great career.”
He is particularly happy about his post at Eastern because it’s more centrally located as far as his family is concerned.
“My mom’s getting older, my wife’s parents are getting older, we only have one child…it was important to me to get closer to them. I was isolated [in Macon] and couldn’t get to where I needed to go in a hurry,” he said.
Shafer, a Virginia native, but earned both his bachelor’s and his master’s degree in health physical education from Auburn. He also met his wife while in college, and the two have been married for 33 years. They met at a mixer sponsored by his fraternity and her sorority.
“I saw her, and she’s a very attractive lady. We started visiting and we really didn’t like each other,” he laughs.
Both Shafer and his wife’s parents made the two promise not to marry until they were both out of college, so they got married the day after graduation.
They have one son, Michael, who coaches at the University of Georgia. This affection for college sports apparently runs in the family.
Like his son, Shafer likes to interact frequently with college athletes.
“I enjoy kids,” he said. “It keeps me young. I like to walk across campus and be able to say ‘Hey.’ You know me and I know you… I want [students] to know that I’m there for them, and know who I am and feel comfortable coming up to me.”
Shafer has very definite ideas concerning the athletics department and the athletes he interacts with.
“I believe that to have a great university you have to have a great athletics program. They go hand and hand,” Shafer stated.
A part of this is the success of the athletes both in academics and in sports.
“I stress academics and I stress doing things the right way. I don’t want [the athletes] embarrassing themselves, their families or this university.”
With a lot in his schedule (including budget managing and fund raising), Shafer doesn’t have a lot of free time. This would seem to cut down on his hobbies, but he doesn’t really mind since he truly enjoys his job.
“My hobby is being around young people. I don’t fish, I don’t hunt…I only play golf with alumni groups…and I’m not a big reader. My hobby is my work. I love what I do.”