The End of an Era: Peter Savitz Retires



Ho-hum.  The last weekend in February usually passes without much fanfare.  This year – 2010 — was different.

Wendy and I flew to Atlanta to honor a friend and colleague as he transitioned from full time work to retirement; and I want to tell you about it.

Our friend is Peter Savitz, the President of Sportime – or – what was once Sportime.  You see, the Sportime we all knew and loved really doesn’t exist anymore.  Sportime used to be a separate company that served the physical education market by providing truly innovative products to students and teachers.  Today, Sportime is a product line and a part of a large company, School Specialty.  This is different, don’t know if it’s better or not, we’ll leave that to time and others to make that call.  What we know today is that the Sportime (and Fitness and Sport) catalogs we’ve all used in our careers are not called Sportime anymore, they’re School Specialty Physical Education and Recreation, and won’t be created by the same people.

So what of Sportime’s leader – Pete?  After 40 years in the industry, working with Larry Joseph to build a company from scratch, he’s hanging up his sneakers.  Under Pete’s leadership, Sportime grew to be one of the largest equipment providers to physical educators in the U.S.  Headquartered in Atlanta, Pete hired a lot of terrific staff, gave them the tools to do what they do best, and enabled their development.  Pete is one of those rare individuals that can answer almost any question related to the business.  He also made himself available to you 24/7.  Pete didn’t supervise people, he supported them.  A lot of others could benefit from his lessons on how to run a company, empower  staff to succeed, and ensure that doing right by people and watching the bottom line, are not mutually exclusive concepts.

Pete’s first SPARK act in 1989 demonstrated his generosity.  He approved the sale of equipment to our research study at a 50% discount.  This enabled us to purchase more equipment for participating schools, a very good thing.  We liked the Sportime equipment, their people, and their service, so when it was time in 1993 to begin our dissemination phase, I approached Sportime first.  Soon we reached an agreement on how SPARK would recommend Sportime equipment to our SPARK schools.  This level of partnership continued until 2002 when it was time for SPARK to transfer our licensure from San Diego State to Sportime.  That’s why for the past 8 years, I’ve been fortunate to call Pete my boss.

So, at his retirement party during this uneventful week in February, I (and a lot of others) had a chance to thank him publically.  Not only to thank him from my individual perspective, but for all of us who have been a part of our SPARK team – as Pete was.  He wasn’t just my support person, he supported everybody at SPARK.  He gave his time freely and genuinely cared about each person’s professional and personal growth.  He helped SPARK grow, and more importantly, he helped us evolve as an organization.  We’re smarter and better because of Pete.

Before Pete left, he had to watch the Sportime he built change significantly – piece by piece, person by person.  That couldn’t have been easy, but in typical Pete fashion, you didn’t hear him complain.

Pete’s work touched too many lives to mention.  Pete loves physical education and physical educators.  He is a big supporter of our profession in words and deeds.  Whether you know Pete from his support of NASPE’s Teacher of the Year program, or from his/Sportime’s contributions to your school or agency, or perhaps you had the opportunity to meet him at an AAHPERD conference, I hope you’ll make a minute to thank him for a remarkable, meaningful career.

He can be reached at pssavitz@gmail.com.

-Paul Rosengard

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