The Western community is mourning the loss of former professor, athletics director and Mustangs football coach Darwin Semotiuk.
Surrounded by family, Semotiuk died on Jan. 4 at the age of 76 from organ failure caused by a sepsis infection.
Well-loved in the Western athletics community, Semotiuk was coach of the Mustangs football team from 1975 to 1984, winning two Vanier Cup championships, in 1976 and 1977. He was named coach of the year in 1976 by then Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (now called U Sports), and was Western’s athletics director from 1982 to 2001.
Mustangs football head coach Greg Marshall remembers the first time he met Semotiuk as a young athlete.
“I came to Western on my recruiting visit with my mom and dad in the spring of 1978. On the ride home, my mom said to me that I should go to Western. She said, ‘Darwin Semotiuk is a very special man and I absolutely trust that he will look after you,’” Marshall said. “For over 40 years he looked after me, coached, and mentored me. I’m so fortunate and grateful to have had such a special man in my life.”
Semotiuk was a “transformational leader,” said Christine Stapleton, director, sports and recreation.
“Darwin had a tremendous impact at all levels in Canadian university sport,” said Stapleton. “He always had time for a conversation and went out of his way to make everyone feel connected. He was so ‘purple and proud’ to be a Western Mustang and he will be greatly missed.”
A student at the University of Alberta in the 1960s, Semotiuk was captain of their basketball and football teams. He was later drafted by the CFL’s Calgary Stampeders and played on the Canadian national men’s basketball team. In 2002, he was inducted into the University of Alberta’s Sports Wall of Fame.
He completed his PhD at Ohio State University in 1970 and became a professor in Western’s Faculty of Physical Education (now the School of Kinesiology) in 1974. He was promoted to full professor in 1987 and remained an active member of the teaching and research community until his retirement in 2014, at which time he was granted professor emeritus status.
Semotiuk’s research focused on comparative and international sport and physical education, sport and politics, Canadian public sport policy and sport coaching. He served as co-editor of the Journal of Comparative Physical Education and Sport and was president of the International Society for Comparative Physical Education and Sport.
He received numerous awards for his academic and community contributions: he was an International Fellow for the American Academy of Kinesiology and Physical Education; in 2010, he was named London, Ont.’s sportsperson of the year; and in 2014, he was honoured with the Western Humanitarian Award, recognizing his work in education, sport and physical activity in Cuba.
“Dr. Semotiuk’s scholarly contributions aligned with his passion for sport, focusing on international and comparative sport systems. He was always passionate about teaching, student research and international experiential learning and so many benefitted from the opportunity to work with such a kind and engaging scholar. He will be missed on so many levels here at Western,” said Laura Misener, director of the School of Kinesiology.
“Darwin was an uncompromising contributor to making London a better place in which to live. A one-of-a-kind who will never be replicated,” said John Winston, former president of Tourism London.
Details regarding a celebration of Semotiuk’s life will be shared on the Mustangs website once they are available.