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MEAC Post-Graduate Scholarship Helped Dunn Get A Leg Up

Chris Dunn stepped out of his comfort zone when he left Hamilton, Ontario, Canada to play golf at Bethune-Cookman. It’s a move that has paid huge dividends.

Courtesy MEAC Media Relations

It put Dunn on the path to receive the MEAC’s Nike Post-Graduate Scholarship in 2009 and earn a Masters of Physiotherapy degree from the University of Western Ontario after graduating from Bethune-Cookman with a Bachelor of Science degree in Physical Education.

Dunn is now a full-time staff member at the McMaster Medicine Clinic in Hamilton as well as a guest lecturer at McMaster University. He is also a registered physiotherapist at the RISE Centre, a sports training facility in Branford, Ontario.

“The whole thing was a little out of my comfort zone initially going that far way down to Bethune-Cookman,” Dunn said, adding that he chose the Daytona Beach, Fla., school because the climate was conducive to playing golf year-round and he liked the coaching staff’s commitment to academics. “But at the end of the day, it was a fantastic experience. I look back on those days so far as the best of my life. It was a lot of fun. I had really great support both from the university and the MEAC.”

The MEAC (since 2000) has awarded two $5,000 post-graduate scholarships annually to one male and one female student-athlete for their outstanding academic and athletic performance. Applicants must be in their final year of eligibility and competition under MEAC and NCAA regulations for the sport in which they are nominated.

Dunn was a member of Bethune-Cookman’s 2008 PGA Minority Collegiate Championship team; he also received the Wildcats’ Scholar Athlete Award that same year. He was chosen for the Nike Post-Graduate Scholarship in 2009 after his coach, Gary Freeman, suggested he apply for it.

“He was a fantastic man,” Dunn said of Freeman, who died in 2011. “He knew I maintained relatively good grades in the classroom and he knew I wanted to pursue a post-graduate degree. He was always good about putting the classroom part of it first and the athletic portion of student-athlete second. I believe he recognized I had a drive to do more.

“The scholarship was very beneficial. At that point, I was a student and I couldn’t work. Every little bit helps. I didn’t qualify for an educational loan from the government here. In Canada, they go off your parents’ income.”

Receiving the Nike scholarship gave Dunn a leg up when he entered the workforce. He graduated with minimal debt, which he paid off in a year.

“The interest rate can get pretty high,” he says. “That was a big benefit for me.”

Having so little debt allowed Dunn to buy a car in the first year after he finished graduate school and to buy a home a year later. “A lot of my peers weren’t so fortunate,” he said.

Like most college athletes, Dunn’s early aspirations included becoming a professional. He soon realized that wasn’t going to work out, so he set his sights on a career in physical therapy, a field that had long interested him and also allows him to stay close to sports.

Dunn has worked with number of high level athletes, including those in Major League Baseball, the CFL and NHL, Olympians and collegiate sports.

“My career is dedicated to physical therapy in an athletic setting,” he said. “That makes my job very enjoyable.”

Dunn is married to former Bethune-Cookman volleyball athlete and fellow Canadian Rachelle Aupperrle and has two children, a 2-year-old and a newborn. That doesn’t leave much time for golf. He said he only plays 10-15 rounds a year, where he used to play 40-50.

“Kids change your priorities,” he says. “I don’t miss it too much. My priority has shifted. It’s not like I have a burning desire to get out to the course. I’m happy spending time with my family and taking care of their needs.”