Remembering Don Staples

University and Newberg community mourn the loss of longtime educator and volunteer Don Staples

University and Newberg community mourn the loss of longtime educator and volunteer

When Don Staples (G86) passed away Feb. 28, his death affected an entire community. Both the Newberg School District and George Fox University issued news releases. The local newspaper turned a standard obituary into a feature article. More significantly, nearly 1,000 gathered to honor Staples at a March 11 service held on campus, perhaps the largest memorial gathering since the death of former president Edward Stevens in 1998.

The large turnout was not a stunned reaction to Staples’ death at just 54. Many knew of his nearly yearlong battle with brain cancer. Instead, it was a direct result of the many lives he touched. He was a teacher and administrator in the Newberg School District for 17 years; director of the Twin Rocks Boys Camp on the Oregon Coast for 20 years; a leader at Newberg Friends Church as presiding clerk for more than a dozen years; and also served as a leader of the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends as assistant presiding clerk.

That was just off campus. For his alma mater, Staples was an integral part of Bruin athletics, known as the longtime voice of the women’s basketball team. For 18 years he served as public address announcer in Wheeler Sports Center for the program, calling his last game – and finishing the season – Feb. 23, just five days before his death. He logged more than 300 games for the Bruins. The university honored him in 2012 as its Volunteer of the Year after he had reached the 200-game mark and more than 400 unpaid hours.

For 18 years Staples served as public address announcer for the women’s basketball team, calling his last game just five days before his death.

Staples started his PA career in the 1999-2000 season after serving as a backup for four years prior while dabbling in sports broadcasting. He even purchased commercial radio time and lined up sponsors to put George Fox basketball games on the air as he called the play-by-play. He got his start by sitting alone at the top of the Miller Gymnasium bleachers talking into a microphone connected to his recorder. Spotted there, he was offered a vacant seat at the courtside media/officials table due to his obvious interest. Shortly thereafter he moved down a few seats into an official capacity.

“I can’t imagine games without his voice,” said Director of Athletics Craig Taylor when Staples received his university award in 2012. “Don represents George Fox University athletics in exemplary fashion, not only behind the microphone, but as a proud alumnus as well.” At his death, Taylor said, “Don’s quiet, positive, gentle and passionate spirit will be missed by all in his Bruin athletics family.”

Athletics, however, were not Staples’ only interest at George Fox. He helped his alma mater in leadership as well. In 1992 he began a three-year term on the Alumni Association Board, serving one year as president.

A lifelong educator, at his death Staples was on leave from his position as director of assessment for the local school district, which he also attended as a student, graduating as high school valedictorian. After receiving his George Fox teaching degree, Staples began teaching math in the Yamhill-Carlton (Oregon) School District. He earned a master’s degree in education at Lewis & Clark College in 1996, then became an administrator at Yamhill-Carlton before joining the Newberg School District in 1999. He was a math teacher, assistant principal and assessment coordinator prior to his final position. He was honored twice by the district: In 2008 he received the Crystal Apple Award as outstanding middle school teacher, and in 2015 he was honored with the same award as outstanding administrator.

“Don has been such an influential voice in our district,” Newberg School Superintendent Kym LeBlanc-Esparza said in a statement released after his death. “He has lived his life in the service of his community.”


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