Big 12 honors Rohleder for 'good works'
Dan Rohleder, a three-time All-America and tri-captain of the men's swimming team, can still see the faces of the children the December of his sophomore year at UT when he first participated in Orange Santa.
"We went into the room where all of the toys were," he began, talking about the annual toy drive for needy children. "It was as though we had walked into this toy store there was so much there. Then, I remember looking and seeing the parents of the children. I remember their faces. They seemed so pleased that their children would experience Christmas.
"And the children, well, seeing their faces made it all worthwhile. You knew you were doing something good, of course, but when you saw the children get so excited, you knew just how much what you were doing meant."
Orange Santa is only one of many community activities for Rohleder, who has been practicing good works in the community since his days at St. Michael's Academy in Austin.
"It is the right thing to do, giving back to the community," he said.
Officials at the Big 12 Conference agreed and selected Rohleder as a member of its inaugural Winter Sports Good Works Team.
"It (the selection) was, first and foremost, an honor for the swim team, for Texas and for me," said Rohleder, a humble young man who personifies the student-athlete.
"I'm flattered to receive this honor because there are a lot of student-athletes at The University of Texas who are involved in community service," he continued. "The football and basketball teams do a lot of community service. Texas recognizes how important it is to be involved in the community."
Each Big 12 member institution selected a student-athlete to be recognized for this award based on significant community service, good academic standing and participation in a Big 12 Conference-sponsored sport.
All of that fits Rohleder perfectly given his status as a member of the All-Big 12 Academic First Team, his excellence in the pool -- he was an All-America his freshman year -- and his work in six separate projects, as well as other extracurricular activities that benefit the community.
"Dan is a model student-athlete," said Dr. Randa Ryan, senior associate athletics director for student services. "In his role as a member of the Student-Athlete Advisory Council, it has been fun for me to watch Dan grow as a leader."
Among the other community activities that Rohleder is involved in is Coats for Kids, Feast for Sharing, Marathon Kids, Neighborhood Longhorns and the Hurricane Katrina Swim Clinic, where the UT swim team hosted a clinic to benefit victims of Hurricane Katrina. He also was a guest speaker at St. Gabriel's Catholic School sports banquet.
While Rohleder doesn't have a "favorite," he does have an affinity for Orange Santa because that has been the swim team's community service project.
"We collect money from all of the members of the team and then go to Wal-Mart and buy toys for the kids," Rohleder said.
His work for the community garners praise from UT officials.
"He is a most responsible student-athlete, who is socially and culturally aware and is most deserving of this honor from the Big 12 Conference," Ryan added. "Dan enjoys his ability to give back to the community that supports him and he appreciates the opportunities that community service brings into his life."