A Tribute to:
Dr. John del Regato
The Originator of Mathematics Pentathlon Games
Dr. John del Regato was known by many titles:
- The honorable title of Dad – by Kelly and David
- The endearing title of Johnny – by his two sisters Nita and Ann
- The title of son, friend, brother, mentor, teacher, professor, brother-in-law, co-musician, uncle, and by the Pentathletes the title of “The Game Master”, and even Bunny Bear.
- And the names he cherished the most “My Soul Mate” & “The Love of My Life” – by Mary
His life’s story, the way he saw the world through music, and the path he chose is what made John such an incredible man that is cherished by so many people.
Telling one’s story is never easy or complete because of the road one travels, the people they met, and the music they make as they move through this world. My hope is by sharing what I knew of John that we all may look at life a little differently and choose our paths with others in mind, make our light shine for others to enjoy, and play our song to bring hope, laughter, and love.
John, a rare human being, intellectually gifted but with not an iota of arrogance, kind and generous to a fault and committed to advancing justice to all people, was born in Columbia, MO to Juan and Inez del Regato on June 24, 1945. At the age of 3, the family moved to Colorado Springs. He used to kid about his first childhood home in Colorado Springs and how he would run up and down the stairs in this home. How there was a cowboy corral across the lake of his backyard and how the Olympic ice skaters would practice there. He would smile as he described this enchanting home and a twinkly would shine in his eye. On one occasion we had work to do in Colorado Springs so he took me to tour his first home. With a big smile, we pulled in the large circular driveway and a gentleman opened our door and said, “Welcome to The Broadmoor Hotel”. You see that really wasn’t his home, but a patient of John’s father had them stay there until their permanent home was found. This place, along with the real family home filled John with many fond memories and stories he shared with others throughout his life.
In the early 1950s, he became close friends with Oliver Brown, an African American classmate that attended elementary school with him. Oliver’s friendship meant more to John than anyone ever knew. However, no one would realize how much of an impact Oliver and their experiences together would have on John till later in life. You see, one day Oliver and John decided to see a movie and the person selling the tickets would not let Oliver in the theater because of the color of his skin. This shocked John because he didn’t see the pigment of a person’s skin but rather a classmate and friend. This was John’s first experience with racism and profoundly impacted his life from that day forwarded. If you knew John you knew he NEVER could tolerate ANY form of prejudice (color, religion, gender, background, etc.)
During one of our many late-night conversations (from education to music, to injustice, to love, to movies, to the latest technology, to history, to novels), I asked him if he had the choice between losing either the sense of sight or sense of sound/hearing what would he choose. Without blinking he said, “I would lose sight.” You see John saw sound the way we see the trees and the sky. Instead of seeing people, he saw the music that came from them. If a person’s song could reach a little bit higher, didn’t turn others away, thanked them for being a friend, and left everyone with a little more satisfaction, then John was a friend and when John was your friend You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.
John’s passion for music ran deep. He learned how to play the guitar and piano as well as many different percussion instruments. When he was still living at home he bought records that weren’t being played on any of the stations in Colorado Springs (as he would say, “How many times can you listen to “How much is that doggie in the window”. He enjoyed the new music so much that he got a short-wave radio, hooked up a long wire to it, stepped out his second-story window, and ran a wire “antenna” way out to a large tree in the yard. He would then spend countless hours listening to the rowdy rock, verbal antics, and raw rhythm & blues all the way from Shreveport, Louisiana on XERF hosted by Wolfman Jack. Because of his unique tastes in music and talent with instruments, John was asked to play in a band at an early age. This allowed him to get into the Crazy Kat as a band member before he turned 18 which set him on fire.
In 1963 he attended Ripon College in Wisconsin where he was introduced to David Hill who became his life-long friend. And yes, as most college students do their first year in college John focused on academics. Okay, that’s not so true….actually John, David and 3 other guys formed a band and played at parties and 3 2 bars. In those days John was known as a musician who was really tight (didn’t make mistakes and precise rhythm, all the pitches are perfectly tuned). The following year, at the dean’s request, John headed back to Colorado Springs to attend Colorado College. Somehow, he convinced David Hill to follow him and start a new band. This new band played all over including The Wagon Wheel. John graduated from Colorado Springs in 1967. Later he attended Vanderbilt and The University of London to study Biostatistics
The next year, he was going to visit his friend David in Colorado Springs and was stopped by a guy who asked John for a cigarette. They talked for a minute and later David told John he was speaking with Jim Morison, the leader of The Doors.
Later John went back to London and while the band he was playing with took its final break he started a conversation with a man sitting next to him. The man’s name was Jeff, and John said something that must have impressed him because he wanted John to come and record some of his songs at the APPLE Recording Studio (a studio founded by the Beatles). When John asked him who he was and what he did he said he was Jeff Jampol and he was the manager of The Doors. John received the call the APPLE Recording Studio…he did not return the call.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
At this time John made one of the biggest decisions of his life, to leave his studies, his band, his music career, and move in with his sister Nita in Wisconsin and enroll at the University of Wisconsin. He headed U of W High School Math Department and completed his Graduate degree.
He later enrolled in Oregon University and invented a system that teaches Math to the blind via sound. This achievement was reported in the International Edition of NEWSWEEK. He earned his Doctorate in Mathematics at Oregon U.
In 1977, while being a Professor of Mathematics Education at Saginaw Valley University, John created a legacy of 20 Mathematics Pentathlon Games.
1981-83 Professor Mathematics Education at University of Evansville
1983-85 Professor of Mathematics Education at Butler University
Leap of Faith – Making a Difference – Against All Odds
When John decided to go full-time with Mathematics Pentathlon his father discouraged him because the road was unknown and the odds were against him. John chose his path. The path he chose was the life he loved that made sure all were included, and none were excluded. The life that allowed the Year of the Child to live for over 40 more years. At times he did not know how the next bill would be paid or if there would be enough money for rent. Somehow, through many years of struggle and smart work, the Pentathlon Institute took form and began to change lives. He became the Gamechanger. 142,000 Pentathletes have gone through MP.
Over 100,000 Pentathletes, exponential – teachers, parents, siblings, etc.
John was an educational pioneer in Active Problem Solving whose innovations and cutting-edge ideas are still ahead of the times.
Math Pentathlon: Velveteen Rabbit – “Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become Real.”
A friend of John’s who went to school with him and knew him well in the early years said John was good with math because he was bad at it. This was one area that he struggled with that challenged him and that is why he was so good at teaching Math. Through his studies, he understood conceptually what math was and he wanted to share that with others. Intelligence is not so much the capacity to learn as the capacity to wonder.
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.