Dr. Dean Zoerink

Dr. Dean Zoerink has dedicated his life to making sure people have equal opportunities for leisure and recreation. His education includes a doctoral degree in education/recreation, park and leisure studies, from the University of Minnesota (1986) and master’s (1973) and bachelor’s degrees (1970) in recreation education from the University of Iowa.

Dr. Zoerink has dedicated his professional work to children and youth with behavioral, orthopedic, and intellectual disabilities. In 1992, he was hired by Western Illinois University to start a therapeutic recreation program in the RPTA Department. A recreation therapist seeks to improve their client’s quality of life by helping them do the things they love with the aid of different adaptations. In addition to creating this successful program, he also developed the Non-Profit Administration minor which provides pathways for students to become credentialed professionals.

Dr. Zoerink is a mentor to students and community members alike, leading by example. He has played an important role in the development of the McDonough County Special Recreation Association. Its mission is to provide positive, purposeful, and personal recreational experiences for populations with disabilities. Because of Dr. Zoerink’s vision, members have a dedicated recreation space for participating in sporting events, cultural arts, social groups, and Special Olympics sports.

RPTA students describe Dr. Zoerink as a humble man of few words.  “… I truly know that I would not be where I am professionally without his push and insight,” were the words Jule Eggleston used to describe his impact on her career. Katie Risch commented, “I have been the Lead Summit Coordinator of the non-profit group Chicago Sister Cities International since the inception of the program.  The non-profit skills Dr. Zoerink taught me helped greatly as I consulted on the course of this international summit.”                                                                                                                        


Research provided by WIU RPTA student, Kate Van Sloten