NOTE: This is the fourth of six weekly installments profiling the six individuals who will be inducted into North Central College's Athletics Hall of Fame on Oct. 27. Next week's profile will feature football alumnus Luther Selbo '68.
North Central College student-athletes have had the good fortune of competing under the watchful eye of a supremely dedicated and caring orthopedic surgeon for the past 36 years, as Dr. Ken Sanders has turned a handshake agreement into an enduring partnership that has yielded tremendous mutual benefit.
Sanders took over as the team physician at North Central in 1976 after an introductory meeting with the Cardinals' athletic director at the time, Al Carius.
"North Central already had a team doctor, but he was not an orthopedic surgeon," Sanders recalled. "I was introduced to Al Carius, and we came to a very informal agreement that I would come on as the team doctor. Right from the beginning, I enjoyed being able to work with the athletes, and I continue to do so more than 30 years later."
In addition to serving the medical needs of the Cardinals' student-athletes, Sanders was also instrumental in moving the College toward hiring its first full-time athletic trainers and eventually establishing its own fully accredited athletic training education program.
Sanders has served as the education program's medical director since its inception and serves as a lecturer and a clinical instructor to athletic training students.
"There was no formal athletic training when I first started here," Sanders said. "We had a volunteer from one of the local high schools come over and help out, but that was it. After a few years of me pestering the administration to begin an athletic training program, they agreed to do so. And, when Heidi Matthews was hired in 1993, it really started to take off.
"To have seen the program grow from the ground up and now to see all the great things that Heidi, Bob Simon and Kendall (Swoik '93) Selsky are able to do, as well as the facilities they have to work with now, has been really gratifying. All the students do a rotation in my office, and it's been a joy to work with them as well."
Still a fixture on the sidelines at Cardinal football games and other athletic events today, Sanders continues to be sought out by grateful alumni who have benefited from Sanders' guidance as a physician and educator.
"Sometimes it's hard for me to watch the games, I'm talking to so many people," he recalls with a smile. "My involvement with North Central College has been such a blessing to me as well as my career, and I'm delighted to have been able to do it for more than 30 years."