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Carrying Torch An Olympic Task
For UC's Watts

Date: Dec. 7, 2001
By: Carey Hoffman
Phone: (513) 556-1825
Archive: General News
Photo by Dottie Stover

For an individual who has fallen in love with the Olympics, Dec. 17 promises to be an unforgettable day for Barbara Watts -- the day she will hold in her hands the symbol of the Olympic spirit that glows in her heart.

Watts, associate dean for academic affairs of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, will carry the Olympic torch as the flame passes by the UC campus on its route to the 2002 Salt Lake Olympics. Her assignment will take her south on Clifton Avenue from Hebrew Union College through the Martin Luther King Boulevard intersection to near the point where the front lawn of UC's West Campus begins. The estimated time she will receive the flame is 6:18 p.m.

Barb Watts displaying a map of the Olympic torch path and special pins shewas presented with as a torch bearer

Watts expects it will be an overwhelming experience, particularly in light of her own Olympic journeys. She has traveled to seven different Olympic games, beginning with the Munich Olympics in 1972.

She was drawn to Munich in the wake of the terrorist attacks at those games, so she anticipates a powerful parallel in being part of the Olympic experience in the United States after the shock of Sept. 11. "What was amazing to me (in Munich) was the spirit, of how the world can and does rise above the most tragic things," Watts recalls. "There are times when the world does come together, and by experiencing this common loss, come to an understanding of what the Olympics can stand for. It's quite touching, really, if you open yourself to it.

Watts was on a visit to Europe when she made a spur-of-the-moment trip to Munich. Under ordinary circumstances, she probably wouldn't have gone, but she was intrigued by speculation on what the atmosphere would be like once the decision was made that the games would resume. Watts didn't even see any competitions, just visited the Olympic Village.

But she saw enough to know that the Olympics can be a powerful antidote to terrorism, or other evils in the world.

Since then, she has been to Olympic games in Montreal (1976), Lake Placid (1980), Los Angeles (1984), Calgary (1988), Albertville (1992) and Atlanta (1996). She will also be attending the Salt Lake games. For a list of Watt's top five most memorable Olympic experiences, click here.

She has been in attendance at a wide variety of sports, both summer and winter. She has come to love and respect the competitive aspect, as well. Part of that stems from the commitment every athlete has had to make to reach the games and part is "probably some sort of American set of values, where we regard people who are disciplined and able to achieve a very special place in competition as due our regard and our respect," Watts says.

Watts first heard in early September that her nomination, submitted by friends and colleagues, had been selected from a field of 210,000 nominations. She will be one of 11,500 runners nationally.

The basis of her nomination was not only her love for the Olympics, but also her 20 years of service to UC and its students. Serving as an inspiration to others was one criterion for selection. As the associate dean for academic affairs, she has helped counsel thousands of students. "In a job like mine, I've been fortunate to have the opportunity to help people along and help them with their lives," Watts says.

Watts has been very active with the Cincinnati Bar Association, including serving on its board of trustees. Additionally, she was the driving force behind establishment of a joint degree program between the UC College of Law and the Center for Women's Studies. It is the first program of its kind in the nation. Watts was also recognized last year with the Ohio State Bar Association's Nettie Cronise Lutes Award in honor of her years of service enhancing the experiences of women in law.

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