BATH LEAVES LEGACY OF BEING 'TRUE TO K-STATE'
By Mark Janssen
A Kansas State institution, a behind-the-scenes Wildcat treasure of an icon, will soon retire and step down from her administrative assistant position to the athletics director.
Rita Bath, who has served within the Wildcat athletic department for 40-plus years, will box up her office belongings next month and not report for work for the first time since 1970.
That has included being men's basketball secretary under Jack Hartman upon his arrival in 1970, before moving to an administrative assistant position for the past 10 athletics directors - including Jersey Jermier (1976-78), DeLoss Dodds (1978-81), Dick Towers (1981-85), Larry Travis (1985-88), Steve Miller (1988-91), Milt Richards (1991-93), Max Urick (1993-2001), Tim Weiser (2001-08) and John Currie (2009-present).
While the Bath era has weathered "Futility U." to "The Greatest Turnaround," and basketball fortunes sandwiched around a decade of hoop frustration, and way, way too many hirings to mention, the memories of Bath are as constant as ... well, Bath, herself.
Weiser, currently the Deputy Commissioner in the Big 12 Conference, said of Bath, "She was just steady as a rock. I can't think of one time where she came in rattled or shook up. Amidst a variety of purple storms, that made working with her so calming. She provided your storm shelter and gave assurance that the sun would shine shortly."
Urick said, "Rita is the kindest and nicest person you would ever want to meet. She was so consistent every day ... so steady and so positive. She will not say an unkind word about anyone. She might chuckle about some former coach or AD, and say, 'Well, he was different,' but she was just so kind about everyone."
And, everyone was kind to her.
"She is so well-respected not only around K-State, but also the league," said Currie. "It's rare when you find someone that everyone likes. Everyone holds her in high regards because she treats people consistently with fairness and kindness."
"What a wonderful lady and just an outstanding person," said Dick Towers. "With so many new individuals coming in (as ADs) through the years, you can point to Rita as being a significant factor in keeping it going. With that big smile, it made you feel welcome when you came to work each day."
A model of eloquent professionalism, Jackie Hartman, Director of Community Relations/Assistant to the President, defined Bath as someone with "a smile on her face and in her voice."
Hartman, the daughter of the former Wildcat basketball coach, added, "Rita has been a wealth of institutional history. She has probably dedicated as much service to this University as anyone. She is a true family member and true friend to the faculty, students, staff and our fans."
While there was a learning curve for each AD that came into Kansas State's athletic family, on hand to give direction and a hint of a history lesson was Bath.
"The single most important thing that an AD needs right out of the chute is to have someone you can trust," said Weiser. "No matter the topic, Rita was a person you could trust."
No one agreed more with those words than Dodds, who currently is the AD at the University of Texas: "If Rita knew something that wasn't supposed to be out, you wouldn't be able to beat it out of her. She is as trustworthy as anyone I've ever been around."
Echoing those words was Currie: "She is as dependable as any person I have ever been around. She is definitely a part of our senior staff, and when we go around the room, we value her opinion."
Towers agreed by saying, "You could bounce things off her, and while never confrontational, she would tell you if there could potentially be a problem ... that it was tried once without great results."
And through the years of maturing into the position, Bath developed a thickness to her skin.
"She didn't mind being challenged, and didn't mind being chewed on when people couldn't reach me," said Urick. "She always knew that it wasn't personal, and she didn't keep score. She knew what needed to be handled today, and what could wait a few days where the problem would likely pass. She was just unflappable because of her high integrity."
Bath grew to know the K-State culture, and in her own unassuming way, she could softly offer a direction.
"She would never say, 'I don't like him' or, 'You can't trust him,' but she had a knack of leaving a sentence hanging enough that you knew how to complete it," said Weiser. "She was a sponge. She knew everything that was going on not because she wanted to know, but people came to her. I'm sure she knew I was getting hired before I knew."
Bath politely declined the opportunity to reflect on her K-State years for Sports Extra, which left several ADs chuckling.
"I'm not surprised at all," said Urick. "She is so devoted to the good of the athletic department and would never even hint at taking credit for anything."
Thank you, Rita, for your commitment and dedication to Kansas State over the past 40 years. You have left an indelible mark on the lives of so many people and are a true K-Stater through and through.
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