Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Phil Lawler: A Legend and a Friend

February 18, 1950 – April 23, 2010

“It’s about enabling each student to maintain a physically-active lifestyle forever. It means emphasizing fitness and wellbeing, not athleticism. It eliminates practices that humiliate students. And it assesses students on their progress in reaching personal physical activity and fitness goals. A [quality] program exposes kids to the fun and long-term benefits of movement – it’s really that simple.”  -- Phil Lawler

Phil Lawler is and will forever remain a legend in the Physical Education world. Recognized as the leader and voice in the quest for quality Physical Education, Phil believed that every child regardless of athletic ability should be given a chance to find an activity that they can embrace and enjoy for a lifetime.  His vision was the catalyst for the creation of PE4life. His passion was unmatched.  To live a life as Phil did–so devoted to the cause you whole-heartedly believe in–is admirable.

After building his innovative Physical Education program at Madison Jr. High in Naperville, IL, Phil went on to train hundreds of Physical Educators and school officials from across the US and from ten countries worldwide.  Phil’s passion and vision has been shared with countless number of Physical Educators, creating accountability and respect for the profession, changing the way it had been perceived for so long.  His favorite quip, saying he is known as the Rodney Dangerfield of PE “I get no respect.”  Creating a loyal following, Phil’s legacy will live on through the many lives he touched.

PE4life founder, Jim Baugh, recalls being inspired by Phil so many years ago. “When I was President of Wilson Sporting Goods and had the vision for PE4life, I did some research into the ‘state of PE’. Thank goodness I worked in the Chicago area and there was a man and school district where Phil Lawler worked. I spent hours with Phil learning about the “New PE” he envisioned. We quickly hit it off. I knew he knew where PE4life should be focused. Phil was a pioneer, leader, and fighter. He not only had a philosophy and approach, he lived it every day. Phil helped me shape PE4life and also re-shaped PE forever. In many ways, he re-shaped America. He will never be forgotten.”

Phil’s vision went beyond teaching methods and was highly sought after from those in the Fitness, Medical, Research and Sporting Equipment Industries.  Phil was often a consultant to numerous equipment companies in development of cutting-edge products that could be used in PE class.  Phil believed that we should embrace video games and today’s technology rather than blame them for sedentary lifestyles.  Additionally, he helped lead the movement of Learning Readiness PE (LRPE) using exercise to help the learning process.  Working closely with Dr. John Ratey, Harvard Brain Researcher, Phil’s work was highlighted in the book SPARK: The Revolutionary New Science of Exercise and the Brain.

Phil advocated for quality physical education on Capitol Hill numerous times, including helping to write the Carol M. White Physical Education for Progress (PEP) Grant, which has awarded hundreds of millions of dollars in funding for schools, and presenting in front of a House Sub-Committee in 2007.  Phil was featured on the Academy Award nominated documentary “Super Size Me” and in numerous media outlets including USA Today, the Washington Post, the Today Show, Good Morning America and others.

In addition to his work in Physical Education, Phil was an accomplished and renowned baseball coach at Naperville Central High School.  His many honors include winning the 2006 Illinois State Championship, was the first assistant high school baseball coach inducted into the Illinois High School Coaches Hall of Fame, and most recently had his number (29) retired at Naperville Central’s Varsity Field.

More than just a catalyst for change in the Physical Education world and an inspiration for how to live a fulfilled life, Phil was a friend. We’ll forever be indebted to him for the impact he had on our country’s children and forever grateful for the unwavering friendship he has shown us over the years.

 You will be missed, Phil.


Visitation for Philip Lawler will be on Thursday, April 29, 2010 from 3:00pm – 8:00pm (Rosary at 7:00pm) at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church, 2220 Lisson Road, Naperville, IL 60565. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, April 30, 2010 at 10:00am at St. Elizabeth Seton Catholic Church, Naperville, IL.  Interment will follow at Naperville Cemetery, Naperville, IL.

Memorial contributions will be directed to a very special project as defined by Phil and the Lawler family.  Contributions can be made to the “Phil Lawler Fund” and send to: PE4life, 127 West 10th Street, Suite 101, Kansas City, MO 64105.

Carrie Gibson, PE4life
127 West 10th Street
Kansas City, MO 64105

1 comment:

Melanie said...

Visit a tribute page in Phil's honor:

and log on to our Facebook page to share your favorite stories/memories of Phil: