Hampton, Va. - The Hampton University community mourns the death of the extraordinarily talented and devoted alumnus, academic leader and coach Dr. Robert Martin Screen. Dr. Screen passed away on Wednesday, Nov. 18, 2015 but will be remembered for his legacy of ‘firsts.’
Just one year after his 1953 graduation from then Hampton Institute, Dr. Screen put his skills to work for his home by the sea on and off the court. He founded HU’s degree-granting program in speech and language pathology, the first at any HBCU and he did so while building an internationally acclaimed tennis program.
“Dr. Screen was one of Hampton University’s iconic figures,” said Dr. William R. Harvey, University President. “Not only did he excel in his area of Communicative Sciences and Disorders but as an outstanding tennis coach as well. He could always be counted on and I believe if one of his veins was cut, he would bleed royal blue and white. He was a Hamptonian through and through and along with many others I will miss him.”
Dr. Screen had a keen eye for identifying champion players and his search for the best performers, anywhere, led him to recruit beyond the borders of the domestic United States. He is regarded as the first college tennis coach, at any level to recruit internationally, a practice that is now commonplace.
Dr. Screen served at the helm of Hampton’s Men’s and Women’s Tennis program for more than four decades. He has 1,068 career victories, making him the winningest tennis coach in NCAA Division I history. He is the only African-American coach to win an NCAA tennis national championship, having led the Pirates’ men’s team to the 1976 and 1989 NCAA Division II titles. In short, Dr. Robert Marin Screen is the most successful African-American tennis coach in the history of the game.
Continuing his legacy of winning, as Chair of HU's Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders, Dr. Screen led a program celebrated for successfully training more African-American speech-language pathologists than any other college in the country. A pioneer in this field, Screen established a standard of excellence paving a way for young professionals to work in the fields of audiology, speech-language pathology, special education and medicine, in diverse communities, using culturally competent practices that are evidence-based. Dr. Screen has received many accolades including the Pioneer Award from the National Black Association for Speech, Language, and Hearing in 1998. Dr. Screen stepped down as chair of the Department of Communicative Sciences and Disorders at Hampton University in August 2010 after more than 50 years.
“Dr. Robert Martin Screen has been instrumental in every phase of my professional life,” said Dr. Pollie Murphy, Assistant Provost. “I would not be doing anything that I am doing today without him. His students are everywhere and we will continue to ‘let our lives do the singing’ in honor of his memory.”
Along with his NCAA titles, Dr. Screen has two HBCU National Championships and three Virginia Collegiate Championships to his credit. Once joining the MEAC, his Hampton teams won 11 conference titles (seven men’s and four women’s). The Lady Pirates won their first MEAC title in their inaugural year of membership in 1996, while the men made their first NCAA Tournament appearance on the Div. I level in 1999.
“Most people on campus, on the Peninsula and in the collegiate coaching community know about Dr. Screen's tremendous success as a tennis coach at Hampton University,” said Rush Cole, HU Head Men’s and Women’s Tennis Coach. “What I will remember most is his love and concern for each of the student-athletes in the Tennis Programs. I had the privilege of knowing Dr. Screen for over 30 years and I cherish the time spent with a true gentleman.”
Before Hampton joined the Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference (MEAC) in 1995-96, Dr. Screen’s Hampton teams were the powerhouse in the Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA) as they ran off a streak of 22 straight conference championship. In four decades of service to Hampton University, Dr. Screen’s teams have accumulated 37 conference championships.
Screen’s success with the tennis program was recognized by the university when his name was added on the tennis stadium. The “Neilson/Screen Stadium” is named on behalf of Screen and Coach Neilson, who coached Screen during his collegiate career.
Dr. Screen was also an inaugural inductee of the Hampton University Athletics Hall of Fame in 2009 and inducted into the Black Tennis Hall of Fame as a contributor in 2011.