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Robert standing with CWU Wildcat Network Officer Jocelyn

Community has always come first for Central Washington University graduate Robert Delgardo. A former basketball player and one of the founding members of the Black Student Union, Delgado graduated in 1979, with a degree in physical and health education.

Now retired, Delgardo puts his energy and love back into the Black community, helping with projects such as Polaris at Rainier Beach, a housing development project targeted towards African American, Hispanic, and Ethiopian families.

He also operates a program each summer where he travels with 40-45 high school students for a two-week college tour of dozens of Historically Black Colleges and Universities in D.C., Virginia, North and South Carolina, Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

“I'm involved with sports, and involved in education. I'm involved in our community, so whatever task, or whatever needs to be done within that, that's what I do,” he says with great pride.

Basketball has also played an important role in his life. He remains involved with the sport by coaching at Rainier Beach High School, where he’s been for almost 22 years.

Over the years, he has coached players such as Nate Robinson, Jamal Crawford, and Dejounte Murray, who now play at the professional level. He also works with Michael Jordan, helping out with his Flight School Basketball Camp in Santa Barbara.

Delgardo has fond memories of his time at CWU. Having played basketball for longtime Central coach Dean Nicholson, he recalls that “being under Dean Nicholson wasn’t just about basketball.”

For example, when Delgardo needed to find a job, Nicholson connected him with John Frazzini, the owner of a local pizza business. While initially at odds, he and Delgardo became like “father and son.” He also credits his roommates, Wayne Floyd and David Oliver, as positive influences in his life then.

While Delgardo was a student at CWU, the Ku Klux Klan was active in Ellensburg. In response, he and several others developed an escort program to ensure Black students felt safe traveling to and from classes. This was the impetus for the founding of the modern Black Student Union at Central.

“We started a black youth movement. It was mainly for us in order for us to be able to have accountability for each other because there weren’t many African-American kids on campus at that time. We were having problems because a lot of the African-American fellas were getting jumped from people off campus. [The BSU] opened up the door for us to deal with other issues going on off-campus as well,” he says.

When asked what advice he has for current college students, Delgardo says, “Be honest with yourself and then understand that we have to be very careful how we use information. Have real conversations so we can come to a conclusion about how we should love and how we should treat people."

“I want to leave a legacy for not only my kids, but if I were to die today, I want people to know the work that I did, and the love that I have for people,” he continues. “It’s not about me, it's always going to be about the other folk, and that's what I'm about.”

The Diversity and Equity Center is having a 25th anniversary celebration on October 8, 2021, where Delgardo will be speaking. All are welcome to join, and tickets can be purchased here.

Story by: Kathleen Singleton

October 2021