Dr. Disch Retires After 48-Years Teaching at Rice

Dr. Disch retires after 48-years at Rice

Disch 2021

Dr. James G. Disch, a former Associate Professor in the Department of Sport Management, has retired and transitioned into the role of Associate Professor Emeritus within the department. Disch’s retirement closes his 48-year teaching chapter at Rice, which began in 1973 when he joined Rice’s faculty as an assistant professor.

Now, as he concludes his teaching career at Rice, Disch points out what a terrific time it has been, especially considering how involved Rice has been with his family.

“It was just a great ride,” Disch said. “My daughter got her undergraduate degree from Rice, my son got his Masters degree, and my mother and uncle were both Rice graduates. So I’m the only one in the family that doesn’t have a Rice degree. Working there for 48 years has been pretty special.”

According to Department Chair Clark Haptonstall, besides being a terrific colleague, Disch’s contributions have led to the department developing its curriculum.

“Jimmy has always been a great colleague and has consistently stepped up when our department needed him,” Haptonstall said. “He has taught classes in sport analytics, sport management, kinesiology, and other areas throughout his career. When we decided to add sport analytics, I asked Jimmy to lead the sport analytics concentration and help develop the curriculum. Now that area of our major is taking off and has become very popular with the students.”

Selecting one accolade from Disch’s resume can be challenging. But to former student Jeremy Reiskind ‘17, Disch’s most notable achievement on his impressive resume is the addition of the sport analytics concentration to Rice’s sport management major.

Disch and Jeremy Reiskind '17

“If I were to pick something from the sport management perspective, it would be helping to lead and start the sport analytics concentration,” Reiskind said. “Building that into the curriculum is crucial to the continuation of the growth and prominence of the Rice sports management program.”

The addition of the sport analytics concentration led to new faculty being hired by the department, like Dr. Hua Gong, who was hired as an assistant professor specializing in sport analytics. During the hiring process, Gong was particularly impressed by Disch’s vision and commitment to Rice’s up-and-coming sport analytics program.

“The hiring process was a great experience for me as a young scholar in the field of sport analytics,” Gong said. “During the interview process, I was able to get to know Dr. Disch and other faculty members in the Department of Sport Management at Rice. Dr. Disch shared with me his vision of the sport analytics concentration, and I was impressed by his commitment to the program and his knowledge of sport analytics.”

Gong now aims to use Disch’s connections and resources that he shared during their time as colleagues to grow and develop the sport analytics concentration.

“Disch had connections with top executives in major league teams and many sport analytics experts across the nation,” Gong said. “These connections can potentially create many research and internship opportunities for Rice students who hope to start their career in sport analytics. I hope to use Dr. Disch’s connections to better help students develop their careers in the field of sport analytics.”

As the sport analytics concentration has successfully lifted off, Disch has been pleased with its early returns.

“It’s been amazing,” Disch said. “Now, with sport analytics, we are putting people to work in the field, and it’s just been wonderful.”

However, Disch’s impact goes beyond his contributions to the sport management curriculum; he has also profoundly impacted Rice’s student body. According to Reiskind, Disch’s constant care and belief, which he displayed to all of his students, helped him flourish.

“Dr. Disch was the first professor I had in the sport management program,” Reiskind said. “My freshman year, I had him for Introduction to Sport Management as well as an analytics class. At that time, I had not taken a statistics or analytics class and was definitely a bit overwhelmed in a 400 level class. Dr. Disch constantly believed in me and saw potential in myself that I did not see. He really cared about me as a student as well as all his students to help us achieve our goals and dreams.”

Even so, Disch’s legacy goes beyond his sport management contributions and his impact on his students. For Gong, Disch’s commitment to higher education and his ability to serve as a role model are what stick out to him.

“I think Dr. Disch’s commitment to higher education and the Rice community is remarkable,” Gong said. “His 48-year service at Rice is the best proof. Dr. Disch is a role model for young faculty like myself. I will keep learning from him and build a stronger sport analytics program for all students at Rice.”

Jimmy Disch Sport Analytics Award

For Brian Gibson, whom Disch hired back in the summer of 1996 and now serves as Rice’s Senior Associate Dean of Undergraduates, Disch’s legacy trickles down to many of Rice’s aspects.

“It’s hard to capture the full impact of Dr. Disch at Rice,” Gibson said. “He was at Rice long before I arrived, and I have known him for 25 years. During that time, the department has changed and then split into kinesiology and sport management, but throughout it all, Dr. Disch maintains long-lasting relationships with so many colleagues, and the countless students he has impacted through his teaching, research, and service. There are so many examples, only one of which is his time as a Magister at Sid Richardson College.”

But above all else, Disch’s legacy will long be remembered not only for his contributions to the sport management department and the impact he has had on his students, but for how he treated those around him. According to Gibson, Disch treated Rice as more than just a place to work; he saw it as family.

“There are so many stories I could share, but one of my fondest memories was his 50th birthday party, when I was relatively new at Rice,” Gibson said. “It was a golf outing followed by a reception, and I was overwhelmed by the number of friends who attended, all of whom seemed to know him so deeply. Dr. Disch is one of the most generous and friendly people I’ve been lucky enough to get to know. He has always been so kind to me and my wife, Alana, and he set the tone that Rice was more of a family than just a place of work. We will always be grateful for what he’s done for us.”

While Disch’s teaching chapter at Rice now closes, his legacy of academic achievements and constant embodiment of generosity and friendliness, always on full display for colleagues and students to see, will continue to live on.

Dr. Disch through the years

Reed Myers, a junior from Paradise Valley, Arizona, is double-majoring in Sport Management and Psychology.