ROE R. Cross Distinguished Professor
1998 - Joella Mehrhof
One Emporia State student completed a professor rating survey saying, “Dr. Mehrhof is a god in the physical education world. She has so much experience in physical education and teaching, it’s ridiculous.”
Although actual deity status is a stretch, there is no doubt about her influence in the physical education field.
“Dr. Mehrhof is one of the rare individuals whose work in this area, not only includes quantitative research and scholarship, but artistic and creative works,” says Dr. Kathy Ermler, Dean of Graduate and Distance Education. “Dr. Mehrhof is defined by her unselfish service and contributions to the profession, community, and university and has committed her professional life to the improvement of the quality of physical education and physical educators across the United States.
“She is a recognized as a national expert in the area of elementary physical education and rhythms/dance. She has written 15 books and has numerous publications in the area of elementary physical education. She also has choreographed 29 dances and 7 musicals. The breadth and depth of her scholarship displays Dr. Mehrhof’s unique ability in the area of research, creativity and teaching.”
“Dr. Mehrhof is a nationally known leader in physical education and set the standard by which others model their teaching, added Dr. Vicki Worrell. Her professional expertise and experience is exemplary and her commitment to health and physical education is outstanding. Dr. Mehrhof is famous for implementing and modeling best teaching practices and her creativity in developing new activities and initiatives is matched by none other. When she presents at workshops and conventions the rooms are rarely large enough for the huge audience that values and respects her as a presenter.”
“I have a passion to be creative,” admits Mehrhof. “Whether it is in teaching, dancing, writing, or any other experience, I must constantly have a creative outlet.”
Mehrhof has always drawn high praise for her teaching skills.
“For me, teaching seemed to be the most natural thing” she says. “I had wonderful mentors who guided my journey into the higher education arena.”
She models much of what she learned from those mentors and pushes her students to reach for the stars. “I would like students to be able to see the big picture. Competence and learning doesn’t stop at graduation; it is only the beginning.”
“Students love Dr. Mehrhof as their professor,” said Worrell. “She sets high expectations while also showing sincere interest about them as individuals and future teachers. Time and time again, it is Dr. Mehrhof who raises funds, applies for grants, and organizes travel arrangements so students are able to attend national, regional, and state conventions.”
Born in Mound City, Missouri, a town of about 1,200 people, Mehrhof, says it was as a place where “leadership opportunities were abundant and responsibility was expected. Those life lessons support and comfort me every single day.”
Mehrhof earned her bachelor’s degree from Missouri Western State College in 1975, her master’s degree from Colorado State University in 1977 and her doctorate from the University of Kansas in 1986. Before coming to ESU, she was an assistant professor of health, physical education, and dance at Bennett College in Greensboro, N.C., and spent six years at Washburn University in Topeka as an assistant professor in health and physical education and served as the director of the university dance company.
She was as chair of the Department of Health, Physical Education, and Recreation from 1991-99. Mehrhof was honored when she was elected to serve as President of the Faculty in 2010. She has earned Emporia State University awards such as the Ruth Schillinger Award, Xi Phi Outstanding Faculty Award, the Ervay Family Award for Applied Scholarship, and several Teachers College awards.
In 2007 she was the Central District Physical Education Association’s Scholar of the Year. In 2010, her national organization awarded her the Outstanding Mentor of the Year Award. In 2011, Mehrhof received the Margie R. Hanson Elementary Physical Education Distinguished Service Award from the National Association for Sport and Physical Education. The award is given to professionals who have made outstanding contributions to the field of physical education for children.
Mehrhof collaborated with Kathy Ermler to secure a $240,000 grant from the Kansas Health Foundation in order to develop an elementary physical education model curriculum. Physical Essentials, a pre-kindergarten to fifth-grade curriculum, completed the state's physical education model through the post-secondary level. More than 700 Kansas educators and teachers from 15 other states traveled to Kansas to study the curricula, which was even considered as a national model by the Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta.
One Roe R. Cross nominator said, “Joella has a knack for drawing out the talents of faculty and students.” In 1996, under her leadership as the chair of the Department of HPER, the HPER faculty developed and implemented the first totally online graduate program in physical education in the world.
Currently, Dr. Mehrhof is a professor in the Department of HPER at Emporia State University and serves as the graduate advisor to more than 200 graduate students.