“Total exhilaration. I had a pressure suit on that kept inflating to keep you from blacking out. It was great.”
– Rhea Law, USF Board of Trustees member
Rhea Law was 13,500 feet above the ground. She didn’t have her heart in her mouth like most people would before jumping off of a plane and into the clouds.
She was comfortable.
Law said she free-fell for nearly a mile.”First was all this noise, wind and velocity,” she said. “And then, all of a sudden, it was stone quiet.”
Law, 57, is a Board of Trustees member for USF and chair of the Finance and Audit Workgroup. She is also president and chief executive officer of Fowler White Boggs
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Banker P.A. and a member of the Government, Environmental and Land Practice Group.
But something students might not know or expect about Law is that she enjoys participating in extreme sports such as motocross, autocross and even skydiving.”I like to do anything that’s fast,” Law said.
Although she was raised in a conservative household, Law said her hobbies are unrelated to her upbringing. Her objective of racing wasn’t to prove herself to her parents or anyone else, it was simply because she enjoyed it.
“It’s not really a conservative/liberal thing, it’s a ‘are you comfortable with machinery’ (thing), and some people don’t like that,” Law said.
As a child, Law said her father would let her drive his car under his supervision.
“He would like for me to be able to drive in anything, whether it was a truck, jeep or whatever,” Law said.
She also said her father took her to see car races at the Florida State Fair, which used to be held in downtown Tampa.
“This was car racing on dirt,” Law said. “It was right where the University of Tampa is.”
To this day, Law’s father encourages her to drive. She said a couple of years ago, her father bought a new truck and asked her to manage it.
“I think I just had an innate rub of speed of any kind, so I just took it to the next level,” Law said.
She started motocross racing during the early 1970s. She said she was attracted to the speed and the adrenaline rush.
“It never really occurred to me that there weren’t any females out there but me (doing this type of thing),” she said.
Law never put much thought into motocross, but became interested in the sport after meeting her first husband. She said they went to a shop to buy a bike.
“I got up on it the very first day we took it home from the shop,” Law said. “I immediately turned it over and said, ‘Gee, this is exciting.’ We started out by riding street bikes, and we went from there to buying a dirt bike.”
Over time, Law acquired five motorcycles. “We had two street bikes, two dirt bikes and one trials bike, which was a lot,” Law said.
However, Law never competed in motocross – she did it informally.
Law found motivation to motocross in the movie On Any Sunday. She said the characters in the movie were doing all kinds of racing across the desert.
“That movie was inspiring to me,” Law said. “That you can go out there and do any of those things – they’re all fast and they’re all fun.”
There are limits to motocross, Law said, since the sport has become very physical.”If you look at what they’re doing at motocross now, they’re jumping 50 feet in the air, and that’s really hard on your body,” she said.
After recognizing the physical endurance of the sport, she said she realized there is also an age limit. Law ended her motocross days in the late ’70s.
Autocross, on the other hand, doesn’t have any.
“You can be a lot older and still ride race cars,” Law said. “You just need the time to do it.”
In 1978, she met her husband, Wayne Williams, who raced automobiles.
Williams started racing at the age of 15. He raced in places such as Daytona and Sebring, Law said.
“He was at one of these autocrosses shortly after I met him,” she said. “So I just rode out to the autocross, and he was out there racing his car. I said, ‘Gee, that looks like fun.'” That day, Law got in a car and tested it out. She said it was an interesting experience.
“It was scary, and I got out and my hands were shaking, and I said, ‘This is great, I want to do this more,'” she said.
Williams’ first gift to Law was a three-day trip to the Skip Barber Racing School at Sebring International Raceway.
Once she was there, Law obtained her competitive racing license. To graduate, she had to pass a series of lessons and run the racetrack.
Law said that while she enjoyed the school, it was tiring, both physically andmentally.
“It taught you a lot about the physics and the geometry of racing,” she said.
Shortly after Law obtained her racing license, she had nothing left to do but race.
“I think the exhilarating part is the adrenaline rush from doing something like that,” Law said.
Law and Williams built a Datsun racecar from scratch. Law did all the bodywork, and Williams built the engine and did suspension work.
“After having (the) car in pieces for a year, (we) put it all together and started it up for the first time; it was amazing,” she said.
Law said both she and Williams miss racing. “We watch every single kind of racing that you can imagine,” Law said. “We used to have trophies all over the place. We finally did away with them because it took up too much room.”
Law also finds a thrill in skydiving. She had the privilege of skydiving with the U.S. Army’s Golden Knights and USF’s ROTC program.
Law said she attends local air shows and has had the opportunity to interact with professional skydivers and pilots. “The Golden Knights, I think, were there,” Law said. “It was a lot of fun.” Law also had theopportunity to pilot an F-16 and said she enjoys doing aerobatic routines, which feature flips and circles.
“Total exhilaration,” she said. “I had a pressure suit on that kept inflating to keep you from blacking out. It was great.”Law also enjoys rockclimbing.
“I would like to try one of those little rock wall things,” she said. “They had one at the air show.”
Law doesn’t actively participate in motocross, autocross or skydiving today because she doesn’t have time, she said.”It takes a lot of time to prepare a car, to get it into practice and then beavailable for the races,” Law said. “But I tell you – if I had a few extra minutes of my day, I’ll be right out there doing it.”