NEWBERRY — Many may know Dr. John Lesaine as an associate professor at Newberry College, or as a leader in the Call Me Mister Program, some may know him as an avid runner who is seen running through Newberry. Lesaine, 31, has been in Newberry a short time, but has already made an impact on the community and himself.
Lesaine was born in Sumter and grew up in Manning. He attended Manning High School and graduated in 2004, after which he attended Newberry College.
“I liked the small school atmosphere, and it just felt like I was at home, like I was in Manning. Then I had a chance to help the Women’s Basketball Program, so I did that for three years as a student, I was the student assistant,” he said.
Lesaine graduated in 2007, after which he attended Valdosta State University in Georgia, he earned his Master’s in Educational Leadership. For the two years he was a student there, he also was an assistant coach for the women’s basketball team. After those two years, Coach Sean Page, Newberry College’s women’s basketball coach, hired Lesaine back.
Lesaine came back for the opportunity to coach under Page full time.
“If it wasn’t for him I really wouldn’t be back here, honestly,” he said. “I have a lot of gratitude towards him, very thankful.”
Lesaine was an assistant coach for about three years, beginning in 2009. Then in 2012 he transitioned from coach to professor, he is now an associate professor of sports profession and chair of the Department of Sports Professions.
“I started off as an assistant, and I got promoted at the beginning of last year, got moved up in rank from assistant to associate,” he said.
Lesaine did not leave basketball completely, he is also a referee for high school, college and semi-professional basketball.
Lesaine’s work as a professor has made an impact on his students. During the 2014-15 school year he was named Professor of the Year, for the first time.
“They awarded that at Awards Day Convocation in April. It just so happened Awards Day Convocation that year was on my birthday. So that was a great birthday gift, it was really a special moment,” he said.
At Newberry College Lesaine is also the co-campus site coordinator for the Call Me Mister program. This program is designed to address the shortage of male teachers from diverse backgrounds in elementary schools in South Carolina.
“That is what the program is about from Newberry College’s stand point. I think it is very neat we are a part of that initiative, not all four year colleges and universities have a Mister program,” he said. “Our cohort is one of the best in the state. We have a very talented group of young men in our program, they are doing great things out in the community, especially with the Junior Mister program over at Newberry Elementary.”
Lesaine added that the driving force of the Mister program is a social support system.
“We are a part of a network of other programs. We have state meetings and conferences where our Misters are able to mix and mingle with other Misters from other colleges,” he said. “The fruit of the program itself is just amazing, we’ve had Misters go into elementary schools and their first year they are named teacher of the year, they are making an immediate impact.”
While working at Newberry College Lesaine has also worked to further his education. In 2015 he earned his Doctor of Education in Sports Management from the United States Sports Academy and in December he earned his Master’s of Science degree in sports psychology from Capella.
Many in Newberry may also recognize Lesaine from all the running he does around Newberry. In fact, cardio is such a part of his life he said at Anytime Fitness they call him the cardio king. His path to becoming the cardio king started when he decided it was time to lose weight.
“Point at my biggest I was 315 pounds, can say I lost about 140. When I was in graduate school I lost 30-40 pounds, then I gained it all back. I knew I was able to do it,” he said. “The time when I decided I was really going to do it, back in 2010, I was having reoccurring ear infections, I kept going to the doctor. When you go to the doctor they’ll take your vitals, looking at them I said that doesn’t look good.”
Lesaine said something to his doctor, and he advised Lesaine to cut his food intake, drink a lot of water and exercise, then come back in two weeks.
“I did that, and I didn’t lose really any weight,” Lesaine said.
The doctor prescribed Lesaine an appetite suppressant, something he Lesaine didn’t think would work, but it did.
“I started exercising like a mad man, cutting back on eating, making better nutritional choices, and I was able to see the results I wanted to see,” he said. “It’s all about a lifestyle change, one small thing that can turn the tides.”
Everything Lesaine does, from his job, to being a mentor is for that of God’s glory and to be the man God has called him to be, which are two driving forces for him.
“There is somebody out there who is waiting for me to be who God called me to be. So knowing that, I never know who it is going to be on a daily basis, I gotta make sure my actions, my mannerisms, things I say, way I carry myself, because I don’t know who is watching, or who that person is going to be. Sometimes it is obvious, sometimes it is not,” he said. “What I do is bigger than me, I’ve been blessed to be able to do things that I’ve been able to do. I know my work is bigger than me, it is not for John, it is for God’s glory.”
Reach Andrew Wigger at 803-276-0625 ext. 1867 or on Twitter @ TheNBOnews.