Chowan, RC area in mourning

Published 10:28 am Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Submitted by Meredith Long

Deputy Athletics Director

Chowan University


MURFREESBORO – Dan Surface…it is one of those names that when you hear it you automatically attach it to Chowan University and Chowan athletics. It is because he dedicated 37 years to Chowan, more than half of his life.

Dan’s life was taken suddenly on Saturday, Dec. 3 after suffering a broken blood vessel in his brain on Friday just before lunch time.

When some of the people who worked with or were coached by Surface heard the tragic news of his sudden passing, words and phrases like “dedicated”, “a man of integrity”, “hard working”, “a man with morals”, “a family man”, “true to his word”, “father figure”, and “a good man” were mentioned.

In 1992 after the sudden departure of the head women’s basketball coach, the Chowan athletic department faced having to shut down the basketball season with no prospects to fill the position. It was Surface who stepped in to take over the program for one year just so the season would not have to be folded. That’s just the kind of person Dan was.

During his tenure at Chowan he served in many capacities from head football coach, to head golf coach, even spending one season as the women’s head basketball coach (1992-1993). He served as an Assistant Athletic Director for many years, overseeing the operations and facilities on the athletic campus, as well as a full-time instructor in the Sport Science and Physical Education Department.

Surface was notably known at Chowan as the man that had the “defensive plan”. For more than 20 seasons Surface helped Jim Garrison form some of the best junior college teams in the country. He coached greats like George Koonce and Robert Brown, who later played for the Green Bay Packers, and Jody Schultz, who played for the Philadelphia Eagles.

A former player for Dan who still lives in the Roanoke-Chowan area recently said, “Coach Surface was the best defensive coach I ever had in all my years of playing football. He was a great teacher and had a great mind for teaching defensive schemes. He was just the kind of man you would want as a coach, teacher, and father figure.”

It is true. Even after he gave up coaching in 1998, many of Chowan’s later football coaches, both assistant and head coaches, would seek out his advice on putting together defensive plans and schemes.

Dan Surface dedicated 37 years to Chowan University, an amazing feat by any standard to remain loyal to one place of business for so many years. He served two stints at Chowan University; the first was from 1970-1975. He returned to Chowan in 1979 where he has remained in various capacities to the very day of his passing.

Surface grew up in Blacksburg, VA and attended Blacksburg High School. After graduation from BHS, he went on to the College of William & Mary to continue his education and athletics career. At W&M he played football and baseball.

In 1965 he left W&M to join the Army Reserve. After training in Fort Jackson, SC, Surface enrolled fulltime at Guilford College in Greensboro where continued with his football and baseball career. He graduated from Guilford College with a degree in Physical Education in 1967 and began his career in education with the Fairfax County School system in Northern Virginia. He taught for one year at Irving Intermediate School before being hired as a teacher and coach at Mendenhall Junior High in Greensboro. Dan found time to complete his MS in Physical Education from the University of Tennessee.

Surface began his first stint with Chowan in 1970 when he was hired as an instructor for the Health and Physical Education Department, Head Track & Field Coach, and Assistant Football Coach. He helped to coach some very successful junior college athletic programs while at Chowan from 1970 to 1975. As a result he was sought after by Floyd County Schools in Virginia and in 1975 began a four-year stint with Floyd County High School. At FCHS he served as a Biology teacher, Head Football Coach, assistant basketball coach and tennis coach.

Surface came back to Chowan in 1979. He served as the Defensive Coordinator under Jim Garrison, helping to coach some very successful teams. In 1995 he was offered the opportunity to take over head coaching duties for the football program, where he spent three seasons. He helped coach Chowan to a top 25 Independent Schools preseason ranking in 1997.

After the 1998 season he gave up coaching football and was hired as an assistant athletics director and oversaw operations and event management. He held the rank of Associate Professor at Chowan and helped to maintain one of the largest departments on campus in SSPE.

Dan is survived by wife, Sallie Pait Surface; three children, Eric, Julianne and Brian, and two grandchildren. Sallie serves as the Executive Director of CADA.

Dan was a member of the Murfreesboro Baptist Church. He served as a Faculty Marshal for Chowan University and is a member of the Guilford College Hall of Fame (c/o 2005). He was a 12 year member of the Murfreesboro Exchange Club and in 2005 was named Exchange Club “Exchangite of the Year”.  In 2009 he was inducted into the Chowan University “Jim Garrison” Hall of Fame.

There will be a Celebration of Life Memorial Service at 2 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 10 in Turner Auditorium on the campus of Chowan University. The family will have a visitation immediately following in the Chowan Room.