College of Health and Human Performance

Remembering Paul Varnes

Paul Varnes, Ed.D., former chair of HHP’s Department of Recreation, Parks and Tourism, died of injuries sustained by an automobile accident on Sept. 7, 2018. He was 84.

Remembering Paul Varnes

Pictured above, Dr. Paul Varnes and Dr. Jill Varnes at the 2018 HHP Spring Awards.

Following service in the United States Army, Dr. Varnes earned a bachelor’s and master’s degree in physical education from the College of Physical Education, Health and Athletics (now HHP), and an EdD in curriculum and instruction, all at UF.

Dr. Varnes returned to UF briefly in 1964 as assistant director of intramurals and recreational sports while attending graduate school. He became director in 1968 after the death of Dr. H. Spurgeon Cherry, his mentor. In the interim, he was project director for an ESEA Title III grant based in Marion County and serving five counties with a focus on making sure K-12 students have a fair, equal and significant opportunity to obtain a high quality education. He served as department chair of intramural athletics and in 1975 became a full professor and department chair of recreation.

Dr. Varnes was a leader in his field as author of numerous articles and books, as well as sponsored research, around intramurals, drug education and coaching. He retired from HHP in 1996.

“Paul was a doer who made things happen, especially for students, UF and the college,” said Dr. Owen Holyoak, former chair of HHP’s Department of Exercise and Sport Science. “He never took any of the limelight and really believed in recreation.”

Dr. Varnes and his wife, Dr. Jill Varnes, former interim HHP dean, are inaugural members of the HHP Distinguished Alumni Hall of Fame. Their daughter, Dr. Julia Rae Varnes, is a lecturer in HHP’s Department of Health Education and Behavior.

“Dr. Varnes and his family have left a legacy here in HHP that will never be forgotten,” said Dr. Michael Reid, dean. “We will deeply miss Dr. Varnes at HHP.”

A service in Dr. Varnes’ honor will be held in the Florida Gym on Sunday, September 23 at 2:32 p.m.

In lieu of flowers, the Varnes family requests that donors support the charity of their choice and/or the University of Florida’s College of Health & Human Performance. (To support HHP, please send donations to the UF Foundation, PO Box 14425, Gainesville FL 32604. Include Dr. Paul R. Varnes in the memo.)