More than just the voice of athletics, Bob Dyer is a friend, mentor and trustee
by Jolene Nacapuy
photography by Chelsey Morrison
With his bag filled with extra pencils, information about both La Verne and its opponent, bottled water, green La Verne monogrammed polo shirt, La Verne hat and game day voice, Robert Dyer is ready to do his job. It is the Saturday Homecoming football game at the University of La Verne. A hot, steamy early afternoon faces the crowd; it will be much hotter for the players. The field temperature is 130 degrees Fahrenheit on the artificial grass field, recently renewed with white lines. The end zone “La Verne Leopards” logos are bright orange and green with a white outline. The players are putting on their pads, uniforms and game faces, while loud rap songs like “Jumpman” by Drake play and echo throughout the locker room. The media box is filled with microphones, cameras and wires. The Athletic Department staff is ready to chronicle the game; the coaches are ready to direct plays. “Welcome folks to Ortmayer Stadium” are the opening words spoken.
Bob Dyer, 74, is at center of this production and more than just the “guy on the microphone at the football games.” He is also the long-time president of the La Verne Athletic Association, an alumni booster club charged with raising funds and support. Today, as he has been doing for 27 years, he is the voice of La Verne, calling the game for the 2,416 assembled fans. His voice is distinctive and easily recognizable, even though he modestly says he does not like his own voice. Others do, though. He has heard the line, “Oh, my goodness, you remind me of Vin Scully,” many times. His response is always the same. “You know, you are the second person to tell me that. Don’t tell Vin Scully that, though, because it would hurt his feelings.”
The University of La Verne is Bob’s life. La Verne changed him greatly, though not his voice. He selected La Verne over other family affiliated schools, and he calls it a winning decision. As a student at Fullerton High School, Bob was set on going to Fullerton Junior College. But in his senior year, his family relocated to Thermal, California, and he enrolled at Coachella Valley High School. The move shook up his plans, and Bob found his college choices overwhelming. His father wanted him to go to Redlands College, but his church was affiliated with Chapman College. In his senior English class, he happened to see a poster that promoted La Verne College. He decided to take a campus tour, so he and two other friends set out for La Verne. The tour lasted for about 30 minutes, and Bob thought he might have a chance to play basketball at La Verne, which was high on his list. He had played “B” basketball in high school and wanted to continue in college. Before deciding anything, though, he toured Chapman College then visited Redlands College, but his heart was won by La Verne. He says it was a great fit because of his small town ties. “We could walk down toward the main street right now, and I could run into someone I know or someone who knows me. [Now, as then] it was the perfect fit for me. I knew it the first half hour that I was on campus for the first time and just knew. I was given a little tour then walked down the east steps of Founders Hall figuring out whether I could get in. It turns out that I could, and I did.” A joyful smile crosses his face as he recalls the life changing moment. He started La Verne College September 1959 as an undeclared student but enrolled in business classes, even though there was no business major per se. “I wasn’t the greatest student. I enjoyed college. If somebody was going to go get a hamburger or something at night, I would offer to go. That definitely got my attention,” he laughs.
As Bob hoped, he played basketball for the La Verne team under Coach Roland “Ort” Ortmayer, who inspired him throughout his time at the school and beyond. Coach Ortmayer’s life philosophy has melded with Bob’s in many ways. Through his life’s journey, Bob says Ort has been that special person who served as his inspirational life coach. “The character of Ortmayer is just incredible, and he has just influenced so many people. Not everybody agreed with his philosophy. He had his football philosophy of playing nine football games. He would say, ‘Three games we will probably win, three we’ll probably lose, and three will be just toss-ups.’ But the way he treated people was a great influence on my life.”
Bob first met Ort on campus at a freshman dinner. The La Verne athletic staff at the time was made up of Ortmayer, Dwight Hanawalt, Ben Hines and Nancy (Diviney) Blickenstaff. With Bob being so involved in athletics, these coaches turned into lifelong friends. “I like to go to Montana because Ortmayer and some other fellas, like Rex Huigens, who was a football coach here, got me into fly-fishing near Yellowstone Park. I’ve been there almost 40 times over the last 35 years. I didn’t start that until I was 35, unfortunately, so I missed a lot of fishing time up there.”
Bob thrived in the Ortmayer culture. “One small claim to fame was that I got into every basketball game in four years,” Bob says. “So I played every game; whether it was for 30 seconds or the whole game, I was in every game.” While every second of his playing time is captured vividly in his mind, one game in particular stands out. “At Azusa College [now Azusa Pacific University], late in the game, I stole the ball and was going in for a shot, and I got pushed into the wall by a guy. They didn’t have pads on the wall at the time, and so I spun around and my forehead was bleeding—most memorable to me,” he says.
Ort coached not only basketball for La Verne but also football, track and field, and, for a time, baseball, until the hiring of Ben Hines in 1959. Ort did it all, from one sport to the next, and that was something Bob relished. Bob not only played basketball but participated in baseball, playing a couple of games as shortstop. “Ben Hines asked me to go out for the baseball team, since it was his first year, and he wanted guys to come out. He probably thought I was better than I was, but he found out soon that I wasn’t,” Bob says as he laughs. He was on the team for his freshman and sophomore years. Though says he did not play much, he was able to help out and coach at third base. He remembers his statistics well: recorded 13 at bats, with one hit, which was a line drive. “Ben Hines was always trying to teach me how to field, and, during practice, the ball took a bad bounce and then hit him in the mouth. He’s always blamed me for that,” Bob and in humor adds, “and I’ve always said that if he were a better coach, he would have been able to handle that bounce.” Hines, who has the La Verne field named after him, won the NAIA championship in 1977 and was named coach of the year. He left La Verne in 1980 to become a Division I coach and later a coach in the major leagues.
Bob graduated in 1963 with a liberal arts degree mixed with business classes. He charged right into the business world, working at the United California Bank in Pomona for 13 months in a training program. He says he found himself then and realized working indoors was not for him. “I enjoyed sports and wasn’t enjoying the bank that much and being inside all the time, and so I had an opportunity to come back and get my teaching credentials.” He began teaching physical education at Ramona Junior High School in Chino. In 1966, with the Vietnam War raging, he was drafted into the Army and sent to Arizona, then to Fairbanks, Alaska. While performing special services, he taught on-duty high school. Bob spent 21 months in the Army and received an early out because he was a teacher. He returned to Magnolia Junior High School in Chino, California, staying for 26 years. Following, he gained another opportunity to teach at Woodcrest Junior High, where he spent his last 10 teaching years.
While at Magnolia Junior High, he received a call during lunch on a Thursday from Coach Ortmayer, saying that he needed an announcer for Saturday’s football game. Pete Baum, who had been announcing for 35 years, had retired and moved to Utah. Ort didn’t know about it until that day and called Bob. “I don’t know how he thought of me; maybe because I talk a lot. But I said, ‘OK, I’ll try it,’ and so I did.” He does not recall his first game fondly. “I was really bad, and I would be saying things like ‘he’s on the uhhhh…,’ and on the sound system all you hear is the ‘uhhh….’ But they kept me on,” Bob says. “Steve Morgan, president for the University at the time, always doubled my salary, which is zero, so one time he tripled it, and they just keep having me back.” Replacing Pete Baum was something he had to push through, because he says he did not know how to live up to Baum’s reputation. Now, he says, the nervousness is scared out of him. “As long as they’ll have me, I’m going to keep doing it. It keeps me young. I do a lot of preparation for it plus keeping up on the league on other teams.”
Bob says he loves this sport because he has one of the best views in the whole house. “With football games, the only problem is that I can’t see the corner of the north end zone too well. It would be nice if we were much higher so I could read the numbers much better. Most of the time, I have to stand and peek out to make sure they were in the end zone.” Despite its limitations, Bob sometimes tells the crowd on hot days he has “the best air-conditioned stadium and announcers booth in the SCIAC. Translation: “It just means opening the windows and leaving the door open, although they have recently installed a small air conditioner.”
His voice not only projects through the football stadium speakers, but also throughout Frantz Athletic Court when he announces men’s basketball games. “He volunteers to announce our basketball games and doesn’t get paid and has never been paid, so I’m truly grateful for that,” says La Verne Head Basketball Coach Richard Reed. “He is a remarkable individual. He never forgets a name, a face or a story. He holds incredible knowledge of not just the University of La Verne basketball program, but the SCIAC as a whole. He is one of the best people I know. He is a tremendous human being. I can’t imagine coming to a home football or basketball game and not hearing his voice. His stories, his knowledge are inspirational to our players. He’s been a great ambassador for our program. He stops and talks to each of our players, and I don’t know what it would be like to not have him around.” Bob is humble is his personal assessment. “When I’m announcing, I try not to raise my voice. I mean, I want La Verne to win; that’s a given, but I try to just be neutral,” Bob says. “When you go to other places, and the announcer raises his voice for his team, it is kind of like a ‘homer’; someone who only does it for his own team. With me, I try to be neutral about it. You should not be a homer and should always welcome the visitors, as well.”
Through all of this, there is a very special person who sticks by his side: his wife Sue. Bob met Sue Bowman during her freshman year at La Verne outside of Davenport Dining Hall. Sue and her friend, along with Bob and a friend, went out for coffee; the two continued to hang out just as friends. One day, Bob voluntarily took Sue to Pomona to mail her boyfriend a telegram because he was undergoing a surgical procedure. “Sue’s dad was a minister so they moved around a lot, but at this time she was currently living in Elgin, Illinois. I gave her a ride down to Pomona so she could send her note.” They remained friends, and it blossomed into a romance. In his senior year of college, Bob was ready to make his move and the two started dating. Their first date swished into action at a UCLA vs. USC basketball game. Before going home for the summer, he made a commanding decision. “We were sitting in Stu-Han, where she lived at the time, and I told her that before I leave to go home for the summer, ‘I’m going to ask you to marry me,’ and she said, ‘Why don’t you?’ so I did,” Bob says. “She said, ‘Yes,’ and we were both shocked. We went out and got the ring, then picked up her roommate Renee Boardman. Sue showed her the ring, and her first comment was, ‘You’re kidding.’” Bob made the announcement to the La Verne community in his understated, shocking style. At the sports banquet at the La Verne Church of the Brethren, he was the emcee, and he introduced the head table, intentionally not introducing Sue. This was part of Bob’s plan. “Somebody pointed out to me that I didn’t, and I was like, ‘Oh, yes, I’d like to introduce my fiancé,’ and there were gasps and awes throughout the room. It surprised a lot of people.”
Bob and Sue married Dec. 22, 1963, at the Pomona Church of the Brethren. They hoped to get married at the La Verne Church of the Brethren, where they have been attending for years, but the Pomona Church had a center aisle to walk down. “Sue was still in school at the time, and her folks flew in from Elgin, and I drove up from the Coachella Valley with my parents. I actually saw her before we got married, and I wasn’t supposed to,” he remembers. “But I got there early, went into the Church, and she was dressed, and we just saw each other. It bothered her more than it bothered me, but when I saw her, I was stunned and oh, was she beautiful, and she still is.”
Sue became a kindergarten teacher at Shull Elementary School in San Dimas. Bob and Sue raised two children, daughter Kristi Mistone and son Mark Dyer. Bob, ever the doting, proud parent, can cite their accomplishments with ease. Kristi graduated from Cal State Fullerton as a speech pathology major and is currently a speech therapist in Upland. Her husband Dominic graduated from La Verne and is a sports representative for Adidas and Reebok. Son Mark is a physical education teacher at Robert O. Townsend Junior High. His wife Daryn is a kindergarten teacher at Gladstone Elementary in Azusa. Bob, Sue and their children lived in Alta Loma, before moving to La Verne, his present residence for more than 12 years. Bob jokes that he chose Alta Loma because they wanted to get out of the smog, but were out of luck because the smog was bad there too. Coming back to La Verne, he says, was “meant to be.”
Bob and Sue are active in La Verne Church of the Brethren leadership roles. He contributes as an usher and on the stewardship and finance committee, where he sometimes features his verse when raising money. He says that verse is almost like poetry, but though it rhymes, it is different. “When I was teaching in junior high, we would have student-faculty games and just started to get some interest in it for the kids. I would write things like, ‘You better stay in bed, cause we’re gonna dance on your head’ and all that. They saw a P.E. teacher who could do some writing, and they were quite inspired by that. We would have equal time on the intercom, and the kids would write things to come back at it. It was just a fun time.” In time, Bob grew famous for his verse. He has written verses for his daughter’s wedding, people retiring, for his friends and birthdays. He has a box filled with his verses and hopes to share them with his grandchildren. In addition, basketball passion still flows through Bob, and he takes on the “ball is life” motto. He plays basketball with a group of seniors at least one night a week in Yorba Linda and sometimes participates in tournaments.
He has gained many University of La Verne awards. “I was honored to be alumnus of the year for the alma mater in 1996 and honored in 2009 to be selected for the Athletic Hall of Fame. Two years ago, I was selected for the Stephen Morgan Award and ultimately honored to be asked to join the Board of Trustees.” Bob considers this his highest La Verne honor. “President Devorah Lieberman asked me to be on the Board, and I was kind of overwhelmed because I never really thought too much about what the Board of Trustees does and their responsibilities,” Bob says. “That’s greatly changed in the year that I’ve been on the Board. I have much more appreciation for the Board of Trustees.”
The Athletic Hall of Fame, located on the first floor of the Sports Science and Athletics Pavilion, has a floor segment from the old basketball court. Bob is in there too. “I’m honored and never dreamed to be in there. It’s probably more for being active on LVAA and for my announcing, but it doesn’t mean I’m a hall of fame announcer; it’s just that La Verne changed my life.” He joined LVAA near its inception and has served as its president since 1985.
“The La Verne Athletics Association doesn’t raise a lot of money, but we try to help out with things that teams need. We used to go to Sneaky Park and cook hamburgers for primarily the football team and the fall teams. So we’re just like a support group. I made it a point these past couple of years that any LVAA money that comes in to the athletic program, I want to sign all the letters personally. They had my name stamped for a while, and I didn’t really like that. I know some of the people and make little comments on almost every single one.”Athletic Director Julie Kline says Bob embodies “the spirit and values of the University of La Verne. His commitment to our University and Leopard Athletics is as strong as ever. We are so very fortunate to have him on our team. Bob Dyer is a treasure.”
As Bob enters his 27th year of announcing, he looks to the future. He says that as long as the program and the University keep bringing him back, he will continue to announce. “A lot of my life philosophy, I’ve learned at La Verne. It isn’t that deep, but it’s just treating people like I’d want to be treated, maybe like the golden rule. Ortmayer had a big influence on my life. Being a part of a team is very important. Loyalty is also important. From Coach Ortmayer, I also learned to play fair, and win or lose, you should still be a good sport. I enjoy life. These were some of the happiest years of my life. I met my wife here; the quality of the people I went to school with, plus the professors—all were influential. I’m honored to be a Leo for life. It’s just so much a part of my life. My wife thinks it comes a little bit ahead of her sometimes,” he laughs. “It’s good to still be able to share in it. When I come on campus, I still get that feeling of ‘specialness.’ The quality of the people is amazing. To be around La Verne is to be surrounded by family, and everybody catches the ‘spirit of La Verne.’ I just get a double dose of it. It’s just a special place to be. It’s like my very own Disneyland.”