Black History Month: Celebrating Dino Pollock
Spry is thrilled to celebrate the many successful African Americans in the sports industry. We are proud to work with many of these men and women and can’t wait to share their stories and successes with you!
We recently had the opportunity to speak with Dino Pollock. Pollock is the Director of Athletics and Recreation at Western New England University. Below is a summary of our conversation:
Please give me a brief history of your life/career.
“I grew up on the Southside of Chicago. My mom raised me to always make education my first priority. I loved sports and had good success as an athlete, but my mom made it clear she didn’t really care about any of that. All she cared about was that I was handling my grades. As a result, I was always pretty ambitious and driven. As a middle school student I was researching and prospecting which high school I would attend. I even went through the application process for college as a freshman in high school just so I’d be prepared for when it was time to actually apply.”
When that time came, Pollock’s athletic skills and his mom’s emphasis on education converged to lead him to the University of Illinois, where he walked-on to the football team and eventually lettered for the Fighting Illini as a wide receiver. During his time as a student-athlete, Pollock developed a reputation of being rather outspoken.
“I was in school at a time that was very eventful in terms of social issues. Issues like apartheid in South Africa, Haitian repatriation and racial issues that were going on our own campus, were very much in play. I was quite vocal about all of these topics. That didn’t always make me very popular with my coaches and administrators and honestly, it probably cost me some playing time. I was asked to tone it down on more than a few occasions, but I just wouldn’t be silent about issues I felt so strongly about. It’s just who I am.”
Pollock graduated from Illinois with B.A. in Political Science and a minor in African American Studies, but he didn’t stop there. His educational pursuits also led him to earn his M.S. in Sports Management from Illinois and his Juris Doctor from Valparaiso University School of Law.
“I didn’t envision becoming an AD. I originally wanted to be an attorney or a mathematician. I did actually end up practicing law as a successful civil litigator for several years, so I like to say I took the circuitous route to becoming an AD. I won’t say it happened by accident, but it wasn’t necessarily planned either.”
Pollock developed a love for law while in elementary school. Following law school, he had the opportunity to clerk for two historic and influential judges, Chief Judge Charles N. Clevert, Jr., and Justice Robert D. Rucker. These transformative experiences would propel him to continue his lifelong quest for social justice. After serving as a Deputy Attorney General in Indiana, Pollock found his way back to athletics when he joined the NCAA as an Associate Director for the Office of the Committees on Infractions. After two-plus years with the NCAA, he accepted a position as Associate AD at the University of California- Santa Cruz, and just recently assumed his current position as Director of Athletics and Recreation at Western New England University.
“The virtues of patience, high character and sometimes radical decision making are traits that I saw modeled during my time working for Justice Rucker and Judge Clevert. At the end of the day, my goal is to make a difference wherever I am so these values have served me well whether practicing law or working with young people in academia.”
Who have been your role models/mentors professionally? Personally?
“My first role model and teacher was my mom. She gets an A+ for the guidance she has provided throughout my life.”
“I also had other great influences as well. Dr. Mary Shannon was my high school principal. I failed freshman Algebra and sophomore English and ended up needing to take both classes in summer school. I didn’t have the money for summer school, but Dr. Shannon believed in me and she was willing to pay the tuition out of her own pocket. The only condition was that she said I had to bring her two Bs. I told her that was unacceptable. I felt the only appropriate way to repay her was to bring her 2 As…and I got an A+ in both classes. Her demonstration of support meant the world to me and it provided motivation for me to excel.”
“Also, Justice R. Eugene Pincham, a human rights activist and Illinois Appellate Court justice, gave me the confidence to believe I could become an attorney. He would write me personal letters throughout high school and college. I would read those letters whenever I needed inspiration to keep going.”
What is the best advice you have received?
“Be your authentic and true self at all times. Though at times it has led to adverse situations, I’ve found that for me, I have to ride or dies being true to myself. That’s the only way I can wake up and feel good about who I am, and that’s important to me.”
What Black History Month Means To Me…
“Black History Month is a reminder that nothing of importance has ever been gained without sacrifice. It’s a time to respect and reflect on the great sacrifices that have been made in order to enjoy the freedoms we have today. But it’s also a reminder of the fact that even today, African Americans are required to pay a heavy price whenever we dare to express ourselves as full human beings. It is a hefty price worth paying to make sure our children and all future generations live a purposeful life filled with freedom and justice for all.”
Dino Pollock is a man of great conscience, who has never shied away from his moral obligation to stand in the face of injustice and oppression. Like many before him, his efforts to champion the cause of equality as a student-athlete, attorney and administrator, have come at great cost, but it is a cost he has always been willing to pay. For this reason Spry is proud to highlight this profile in courage as part of our Black History Month celebration!