The explosion of the popularity of soccer in North Carolina and the contributions of Bob Kepner are inexorably tied. Several factors influenced his inclination toward volunteerism. In 1946 at age five, Bob and his family moved to Cuba where his father was employed by United Fruit Company. At age 14, he enrolled in prep school at Andover, Massachusetts. Being away from home at such a young age accelerated his involvement in leadership and community service. His involvement with a variety of organizations at Andover became the precursor of an adult life distinguished by leadership, service, and volunteerism. Most prominent among his favorite causes would be the growth of the game of soccer.
Bob Kepner’s contributions as an influential and dedicated leader and promoter of soccer in North Carolina have earned him the distinction of being inducted into the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame as a member of the sixth class of inductees on this, the third day of January, 2004.
After playing soccer at Andover, Bob enrolled as a student at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. He was one of a dozen students from Andover who entered UNC in the fall of 1959. While at Carolina, Bob played soccer for four years under fabled Coach Marvin Allen. One of Bob’s teammates at Andover, Bill Snyder, also played at UNC. Both men were midfielders and co-captains of the Tar Heels their senior season in 1962. Months after graduating from UNC in 1963, Bob married Margaret creating the finest husband/wife combination North Carolina soccer has ever known. Individually and together, they have been recognized for outstanding service to local, state, and national soccer bodies. In June 1990, they were co-recipients of the Tom and Linda Mosier Award, given by NCYSA.
Like many grass roots volunteers, Bob’s foray into soccer leadership grew out of the involvement of his own children. In 1973, son number one, Chip, was all of three years old when Bob became the coach of his Rainbow soccer team because the head coach didn’t show up. And Bob’s other child, son number two, Derek, would eventually be the beneficiary of being able to play with older brother Chip’s teams. In 1980, Bob became the first president of the Central Carolina Youth Soccer Association (now called the Durham-Chapel Hill Strikers) to provide an opportunity for youngsters in that region of the state to play “travel soccer.” Bob coached the Under-10 team, one of five teams the club fielded at the time. And so began this “calling” that has lasted over thirty years that is the cause for today’s celebration.
During the past twenty-four years, Bob has held numerous elective or appointive positions with statewide and national governing bodies. He was the president of the North Carolina Youth Soccer Association for 14 years and held other offices for NCYSA for three years. During his final years with NCYSA, he also served as president of the North Carolina Amateur Soccer Association. He continues to serve as the treasurer and registrar of NCASA. He has served on several USYSA and US Soccer committees and is a frequently consulted authority on matters involving state and local associations. His service to the game has included stints as the soccer coach at Culbreth Junior High School and Chapel Hill High School and as a referee assignor.
The most indelible aspect of Bob Kepner’s legacy is his vision to recognize the wide range of contributions people make to the game of soccer in North Carolina. He possesses optimism and a generosity that enables him to propel the cause forward and to honor those who have already left an impression. He is proud to have taken a leading role in recognizing several of the significant contributors to soccer development in North Carolina by helping to establish awards in the their names – the Tom and Linda Mosier Award, the Brantley/Murphy Award, the Scott/Rucker Award, the Charles Mark Crampton Award and the John M. Bouda Award. He played a vital role in the creation of the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame.
This is the occasion to turn the tables on North Carolina Soccer’s caretaker. It is the day everyone else can finally release a sigh of relief that Bob Kepner is finally a member of the NC Soccer Hall of Fame. The man who has Bob Kepner Field named in his honor at Bryan Park and who has been the recipient of the Metropolitan Life Achievement Award and the USYSA Region III Director’s Award, among others, now finds himself the object of gratitude from the entire North Carolina soccer community. He has spent years pulling everyone together and cultivating this community. At last, he takes his rightful place among his peers as a member of the North Carolina Soccer Hall of Fame.