Security Officer Seeks Championships on Racquetball Court

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

To much of the Saint Joseph’s University community, Public Safety Officer Don Acklin’s athletic ability is unknown. Even fewer know that Acklin, 61, won the 2008 Pennsylvania State Racquetball championship, or that his preferred practice space is our very own Alumni Memorial Fieldhouse. Acklin, at 5’ 10” and 210 pounds, is not your average competitor. Though he may not appear to be a racquetball champion at first glance, he has won numerous accolades for his athletic performance in recent years, including the 1999 U.S. Open 45 and older C division Championship.

“When you get on the circuit, like I am, it’s very competitive,” Acklin said. “It’s not as much about the money as it is about the competition.” Unlike many of his opponents, Acklin never picked up a racquet until the age of 30, when he joined the U.S. Marine Corps.

“I got into racquetball in 1977, and I’ve been playing ever since,” he said. As an active Marine, Acklin won the All-Marine and Interservice Championship for three consecutive years.

Acklin, not the only veteran in his family, was born in Huntsville, Ala., but moved many times throughout his childhood as his stepfather transferred from base to base, ultimately landing him in Philadelphia at age 11. He graduated from Overbrook High School, just a few blocks from Saint Joseph’s, and currently resides in Southwest Philadelphia. While active in the Marines, Acklin served in numerous countries, including Vietnam, Grenada, and Japan. Although he was never versed in the language of the countries he visited, his monolinguism did not hinder Acklin from interacting with the native people.

“I worked alongside many natives on the base,” Acklin said, “so I had to find ways to communicate with them even though I didn’t speak their language.” His ability to relate to others has helped Acklin teach racquetball to Saint Joseph’s students, along with students enrolled at the ELS Language Center.

“I’ll teach or play with anyone who is in the Fieldhouse,” said Acklin. “I don’t have a set group of competitors.” Prior to working at Saint Joseph’s, Acklin was the supervisor of the health and fitness club at the former Adam’s Mark Hotel in Philadelphia. When the hotel went up for sale seven years ago, he joined SJU’s Public Safety and Security.

“I like the campus environment and the students,” Acklin said. “You see them when they come in, and they’re 17 or 18 years old, and then four years later, they’re all grown up.” --Maureen Catalano ’09

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