Every so often in education, you meet a teacher and/or a coach that makes a lasting impression on your life. That teacher influences you not only in the classroom or on the playing field, but most importantly, in the way you choose to live your life because of the power of his or her example.
Education and specifically athletics lost one of its shining stars in mid-September of this year. Dr. Jack Foley died after a long, courageous battle with illness. He was the Dean of Athletic Administrators in Suffolk County. Although he was 76 years old, Jack never stopped working on behalf of student athletes and high school athletics.
As a young Manhattan College graduate, Jack began his career in education and Athletics at Ward Melville High School. In 1965, he was hired as a physical education instructor and was quickly promoted to Athletic Director.
Dr. Foley essentially started all the interscholastic athletics at Ward Melville High School. The extraordinary athletic programs at Ward Melville, in large measure are due to his efforts. He was committed to engaging as many students as possible in athletic competition. He believed that it was an important part of their educational journey.
As a former President of Section 11, an organization for high schools engaged in competitive athletics, Jack set a very high standard for excellence. The bedrock of that standard was building character and integrity in all student athletes. He demanded impeccable sportsmanship from all of his athletes and urged his colleagues to demand the same from their student athletes.
He is probably one of the most honored scholastic administrators in history, with his inclusion in the Suffolk Hall of Fame, the NYSPH-SAA Hall of Fame and the National Athletic Coaches Hall Of Fame.
During the past 19 years of his retirement, he continued to reach out to new athletic directors and coaches-sharing his wisdom and helping them to find their way in this vital arena of education. He loved helping people, especially students who were trying to get into the college of their choice because of athletics, or young educators just starting out in the field.
For many in the area of athletics, Jack Foley was bigger than life because of his professional achievements. However, if you knew the man, he saw himself as an ordinary guy, who was passionate about his life, his family and his career. He loved what he did in education and athletics. He also worked quietly behind the scenes to make things happen. He never sought recognition for his efforts. Under Jack's leadership, a lot always happened!
While at Ward Melville, it was common to see Jack stand along the wall of the gym, bearing his name. When students got a little rowdy, he would just give them the "Foley Stare" and they would disappear into the bleachers. It was amazing to watch him in action amongst students.
His priorities were always clear: God, family, and work. He kept this important balance in his life. As giving as he was in the field of athletics, he would make clear that his family always came first. Those principles and priorities he never compromised.
Over the years, many aspiring coaches, physical educators and administrators would seek Jack's wisdom and advice. He was an extraordinary mentor for so many.
Before mentoring was so popular, Jack Foley was doing it. As an educator, he led by example. He practiced what he preached. His Catholic faith was the motivating force for his life of service in education and Athletics.
He was an extraordinary mentor. He empowered young educators to use all of their gifts and talents. His passion for education and ahletics was contagious. He constantly reminded his colleagues of the importance of solid education. He urged those who looked up to him in the field never to compromise academic achievement for the sake of an athletic competition.
Every profession needs competent mentors, men and women willing to nurture and support the next generation within their respective fields. As mentors of the next generation, we need to strengthen the foundation of character and integrity. We must instill within the next generation the passion for their field and a willingness to contribute to the larger community through service by the power of example.
Henry David Thoreau once said: "some people come into our lives and quietly go; some stay for a while, and leave footprints in our hearts, and we are never the same."
Dr. Foley thank you for the footprints!