KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Before former U.S. Senator Bob Dole fought in World War II, held office for 36 years or ran for president, he was an athlete. Dole, who passed away Sunday at age 98, played three sports at Russell, Kansas, High School and the University of Kansas.
Lessons learned in sports helped shape his future in politics.
“[Sports generated] a competitive spirit and showed off his leadership abilities in many types of team environments,” explained Julie Clover, the Dole Institute of Politics public education coordinator.
One relationship, in particular, made a lasting impact on Dole. KU basketball coach Phog Allen wrote letters to a 16-year-old Dole recruiting him to attend the college.
“He recruited him for his leadership abilities,” Clover said. “He even wrote in his letters that he knew he would become something of himself in the future.”
That prediction came true. Dole never forgot how Allen believed in him. This quote from the senator is on display at the Dole Institute of Politics on KU’s campus.
“Although I was enrolled in pre-med courses, the instructor who the biggest impression on me was the legendary Kansas basketball coach, Phog Allen.”
Dole left college early to serve in WWII. When an explosion in Italy sent him to the hospital, Allen was one of Dole’s first visitors.
The injury put a halt to many of Dole’s athletic activities, but he remained a sports fan and appeared in a 2001 Super Bowl commercial.
Dole lettered in track and field but also played basketball and football at KU.