The 2017 edition of NCAA Division III Week is now upon us. Each year, since it was first created and celebrated by and with the NCAA, Division III Week gives us reason to pause and reflect upon the many great accomplishments, individual achievements and the contributions on and off the field. It’s a time to celebrate teams and individuals and honor their achievements in sport, in the community and in their professional and personal lives.
I most certainly understand the impact of my participation in baseball and basketball as a high school and college student-athlete. I have great respect and admiration for the people who helped to lead and shape my life and for those who became critical mentors and role models for me. Without the rich experiences and the learning that took place in competition and from being part of a team, I suspect I would not be the person that I am today. Sport has helped to shape my life and the lessons have been truly invaluable.
USM has been a critical part of my life as a student-athlete, staff member, coach and finally, as an athletic administrator. USM has been my home away from home and a place that I care deeply about, but it’s the people who make the University of Southern Maine great and the relationships that are built are the key to the experiences for all student-athletes. So, as I look to Division III Week, I think about so many outstanding people that I have crossed paths with and the five guiding principals that have been the foundation of our athletic department for a very long time: athletic achievement, academic achievement, personal growth and development, career development and service to the community. That is what USM Athletics is all about; we are in the business of helping people grow and develop.
March Madness is front and center and there are so many people who come to mind but none more prominent than Angel Elderkin at this particular time. Angel came to USM from East Providence and played basketball and softball for the Huskies. When she graduated from USM, Angel accepted a graduate assistant position in recreation at a Tennessee college and immediately began to impress people. She worked basketball camps, was outstanding and caught the eye of several of the top coaches in the nation. Through her efforts, Angel became an assistant at Tennessee, Virginia, St. John’s Sienna and several other top schools. Three years ago she got her first head coaching position at Appalachian State in Boone, North Carolina. In 2015, she was diagnosed with cancer and has fought the effects of the disease while still managing to coach every single game that her team has played. This year, she was awarded the prestigious Pat Summit Most Courageous Award.
Amanda Kimball also was a part of many outstanding USM basketball teams and twice participated in the NCAA Final Four with the Huskies. Kimball has a very big job these days but it’s relatively unknown to most people. Amanda has been the Performance Coach for the University of Connecticut Women’s Basketball team for more than a decade. During her tenure the Huskies have participated in 10 Final Fours and have won six national championships. Amanda has made her mark in her profession and is greatly respected for the work she continues to do with student-athletes at UCONN.
Husky Hall of Famer Katie Sibley came to USM from Boothbay Harbor with a reputation as being a tough competitor, she hated to lose and that made her a perfect fit for the Huskies and their head coach. Sibley would go home and work in the lobster industry in the summer. She started as a nursing major at USM and ended in political science. After graduation, she attended law school and now serves the state of Maine as the Assistant Attorney General. Sibley is a perfect example of the great Maine work ethic, commitment and making the most of opportunities presented.
Gorham State Teachers College did exactly what was indicated by its name, develop highly trained classroom teachers. It also put countless people into the coaching profession, back when most all coaches in the school systems were teachers – that has changed. When merging with Portland (UMP) in the early 1970s, the University of Southern Maine was formed and a more global set of academic offerings became available to students. USM has developed many successful teachers and coaches that continue to influence the lives of young people every day. There are countless USM grads in the coaching profession: Bob Prince, three time All-American and national champion in 1991 is now the head baseball coach at LEC rival, University of Massachusetts Dartmouth. Jim Broughton, a teammate of Prince and a fellow national champion, is the head baseball coach at Colby-Sawyer College. USM All-American and Final Four participant Julie Plant leads the basketball program at St. Anselm College while Shannon Kynoch is the head coach at St. Michael’s College and Angela Santa Fe is the leader of Regis College.
As I worked on this article, I anxiously awaited the start of the 2017 Major League Baseball season. I thought of the many former Huskies who got their chance on the diamond including Mike Welch, a member of the 1991 national champion team, who was drafted by the New York Mets in the third round and made it to the show. My thoughts also moved on to Sam Dexter, NCAA Division III National Player of the Year in 2015 and now a member of the Chicago White Sox organization. I follow Sam on line when I can and always hope he can keep playing and continue to chase his dream. My big league thoughts also drift to Kenny Joyce who initially volunteered and worked his way into a coaching position with the original Portland Seadogs and moved up the ladder to be a top-hitting instructor with the San Francisco Giants. Kenny now works as a member of the Yankees organization but still loves those rings he earned as part of the Giants organization.
I also think about the impact that David Page made in professional baseball. David, along with Kenny Joyce was part of the Huskies baseball team that participated in the 1985 NAIA National Baseball Championship in Lewiston, Idaho. After earning his initial degree at USM, Page returned years later to earn a second degree in Exercise, Health & Sport Science. He made strength and conditioning his specialty and earned a reputation as a leader in the field. David had the experience of being the strength coach for the Arizona Diamondbacks, a team that featured Randy Johnson and Curt Schilling as their top two pitchers. Arizona won the World Series and many recognized his contributions. Fast forward a few years and Schilling goes to the Boston Red Sox. He was instrumental in Page being hired as the Sox strength and conditioning coach. With David on staff and Terry Francona at the helm, the Red Sox were world champions.
Inside USM, two-sport Regional All-American Bonny Brown Denico has coached both the Huskies softball and field hockey teams for nearly 20 years. She now focuses her time on just field hockey. Brown Denico participated in the Huskies first-ever NCAA Final Four, the 1986 Field Hockey championship held at William Smith College in New York. USM grads currently coach the Huskies in several sports: teaching pro Reggie Grant coaches the golf team, former professional player and coach Ed Harding directs the hockey program, Karl Henrikson coaches the men’s basketball team, two-time All-American Mike Morin is the wrestling coach, Eric Haase is the men and women’s tennis coach, John Lauziere guides the women’s ice hockey program and Ashley Dyer is the leader of the women’s lacrosse program. We are very proud of our graduates and former student-athletes and they, too, are proud to come back to USM and help give back to their alma mater.
Huskies have and are making their mark in many other professions as well. This past July, I had a chance to spend some time with Dr. Michael Collins. Better known as Micky to most of us at USM, he was part of the Huskies baseball program for two years. After graduating from USM, Micky attended the University of Michigan and became a doctor. He is now considered one of the world’s foremost authorities on concussion and he and a couple of partners developed the Impact Testing program that is universally used by programs across the globe. Micky currently works out of the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and deals with the top athletes in the world when they have suffered a concussion. It’s great to hear his name mentioned by national sportscasters when they talk about recovery programs for the very best athletes in the business. Micky has really made a difference.
So many leaders in so many different fields wear the USM badge with honor. In this time of great uncertainty in our world, we owe a debt to all who serve us. There are many, as you might expect, but two in particular come to mind as I write this. Kyle Hutchins of Cumberland was one of the finest soccer players to ever come out of the state of Maine. After finishing his degree at USM, he was drafted to play professional soccer. After a brief stint at the professional level, Kyle went on to help protect our freedoms with service to the country. He was most recently a top official in the Homeland Security office serving New York and New Jersey. On a similar note, two-time baseball All-American Tyler Delorme served his country in the Middle East and later returned home and plays a prominent role in Homeland Security in his native state of Vermont.
Pre Homeland Security era, Jim Greenleaf played a major role in both the operation of the FBI and the CIA. Greenleaf, a South Portland native, graduated from Gorham State Teachers College in 1964 and played basketball and tennis for the Huskies. His professional career was immense as he rose to the number two position in the nation in the FBI and was responsible for breaking up major crime syndicate activity in the city of Boston. His resume and list of accomplishment is truly amazing. Greenleaf also served as the on-set consultant for the television show, Profiler.
I think about so many former Huskies as I write this piece: Brad Wise who starred in soccer and baseball and climbed the ladder to be President of Hannaford Brothers, Rick Vail who wore the pads in the early days of Husky Hockey and is currently President of Mechanic Savings Bank, Mark Caron who played shortstop for the 1991 national baseball champions and is now owner of several Elevation Burger establishments, Beth Bougie, former field hockey captain who is now a highly regarded accountant for MacPage, John Chandler, another former baseball player who serves as President and Managing Partner at Berry Dunn McNeil and Parker, Sue Hight, an early basketball warrior under Doc Costello who is a top real estate professional and owns her own business, Jim Raftice, a former basketball player who played on the Huskies 1989 Final Four team and now serves as President at PowerPay, Tom Coyne, Senior Account Executive at UNUM, Dean Murray, Vice President at Electric Insurance Company, Bob Smith, owner at Sebasco Harbor Resort, Susan Ware Page, President of Maritime Energy and Marci Buckley Alexander, Counsel for Maine General Health. This paragraph could go on for a very long time but I’m sure you get the point.
Division III Week gives us chance and cause to celebrate all that is good about sports. So often the pages and the airwaves are filled with failures and missteps that happen when athletes and teams make bad decisions – and they sometimes do. What is missing, however, is all of the truly great things that are done by so many student-athletes for their communities and the children, in particular. I couldn’t be prouder of our Student-Athlete Advisory Committee and the tremendous work they do in the community. Their work extends to children with the annual Husky Halloween Party that draws 500-600 people each year. It continues with their weekly work with Special Olympians and extends to our senior population with caroling around the holidays and assistance with necessary tasks. There is so much more.
Congratulations to all of our student-athletes, past and present. Thank you for the way you have represented the University, the Athletic Department and your teams. Congratulations on your outstanding work in the classroom, in competition and in the community. Thank you for all of the wonderful things you have done as student-athletes and will continue to do as professionals and in your communities. Well done by all, please keep it going!