Teaching Excellence

Dr. Robert L. Lawson

Some people are driven to success. Others run and jump towards it, setting records along the way. For Dr. Robert Lawson (’73), it all started with an unintentional challenge from legendary basketball coach Newt Oliver.

“I was a young, brash college student when I met Coach Oliver, and I told him I was going to win the Student Athlete of the Year Award when I was a senior,” Lawson said. “Coach Oliver told me, ‘Well, son, let’s think about that for a moment because only basketball players are eligible for that award.’ I didn’t let that bother me, so I went out and set records for the triple jump and long jump. I became the first track and field athlete in school history to win the award.”

Dr. Lawson came to Rio from Southwestern High School to pursue a degree in Physical Education, but a conversation with a guidance counselor changed his life.

“She asked what I was gifted at in high school,” he said. “I was pretty good in English and Speech, so she suggested I do that. I took that advice, and the rest is history.”

Dr. Robert L. Lawson became a highly requested motivational, inspirational, empowerment speaker who has authored 17 books and spent 48 years as a teacher at Gallia Academy High School, Marshall University, Shawnee State University, Georgetown High School, Chillicothe High School and the Ohio Valley Christian School. During his tenure in education, he developed and taught courses and workshops on leadership training and development, motivational empowerment, diversity and achieving excellence in the classroom for teachers. 

Dr. Lawson holds degrees from University of Rio Grande, Marshall University and Nova Southeastern University, but his experiences at Rio Grande created the foundation for his success.

The only way we get somewhere in life is to have a lot of people who will reach out and help along the way,” he said. “It’s one of the main reasons I went into teaching; I wanted to take something I had a passion for and share it with others. It wasn’t just the subject matter I was interested in - that was just a vehicle. What I was interested in was being able to work with and help the entire individual achieve a level of success in life they may have only dreamed about. If I can plant seeds in people’s minds to keep focused and moving forward, then I’ve succeeded. That’s been my dream for over 50 years, and I still love it.”

Now retired, Dr. Lawson spends his time speaking and writing. He also likes to reflect on his time at Rio Grande.

“Rio Grande was a catalyst for the fire and enthusiasm that lives inside me,” he said. “It created a tremendous enthusiasm for life. It was also a fun experience because it provided me with several options. It made me a strong competitor and created a way to believe more in myself. I enjoyed the excitement of being in an environment to exchange ideas and be successful in and outside the classroom. That passion is still with me today.”

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