Norfolk Academy celebrated a half century of its boys lacrosse program on Friday night, May 6, during a dinner and special ceremony that recognized teacher-coach Tom Duquette, who was at the helm most of those incredibly successful 50 years.
The night was highlighted by an announcement honoring Mr. Duquette's contributions - the creation of the B. Thomas Duquette Endowment for Teaching Associates, which will help develop future Academy teacher-coaches.Trustee John O. Wynne Jr. '94 announced the endowment, saying it was established with a $1 million matching gift from an alumnus, and has already grown to $1.6 million.
The Teaching Associates Program provides a one-year experience or apprenticeship, developing men and women to serve as role models and sources of moral, academic, artistic and athletic enrichment for students at Norfolk Academy. While some teaching associates stay at Norfolk Academy, many also go on to full-time teaching roles at other independent schools.
Mr. Wynne, who was part of perhaps NA's greatest boys lacrosse run (four straight state titles from 1993-96) and went on to play at Princeton, noted that Mr. Duquette is the highest exemplar of the teacher-coach, as he has been more than a coach since he arrived at Academy in 1981. “He has been a teacher, coach, mentor, leader, and friend," Mr. Wynne said. “He has embodied each of these roles and often all of them at the same time."
Chazz Woodson '01 said he now mirrors many of Coach Duquette's methods as head coach at Hampton University, notably his love and the devotion he shows his student-athletes, always offering to help no matter the situation. Mr. Woodson said that Coach Duquette has offered to help him on countless occasions, but always in a low-key way, with the phrase “if you want it."
Mr. Woodson got the room laughing as he described his youthful hero-worship of Coach Duquette, which extended to imitation of his coaching attire. He said that while Duquette's yellow jacket gets a lot of attention, too little attention has been paid to his practice of wearing “inside out sweatpants."
“I began to wear all my sweatpants inside out," Coach Woodson said. “And when people asked me why, I said, 'If it is good enough for Coach Duquette, it is good enough for me.'"
In a more serious vein, Coach Woodson recalled that he absorbed many lacrosse techniques that Coach Duquette taught by hanging out with older players at Norfolk Academy, who generously shared all they knew, because their coach “created an environment where we could bring our best selves."
Coach Duquette “is a brilliant example of all that is right about lacrosse and all that NA aspires to be," Mr. Woodson said.
Trustee John L. Gibson III '78, who played on the first NA team to win a state championship (1978), and Stock Watson '86, who was part of the program when it won state titles in 1984 and 1985, rounded out the speakers for the evening; both went on to play lacrosse at Hampden-Sydney College.
Typically humble, Mr. Duquette thanked his wife Susan, an assistant director and guidance counselor in the Lower School; his assistant coaches during his 38 years as a head coach at NA; players, many of whom have become lifelong friends; and the parents who have supported the program.
Even though the program had many championships during his tenure, those highly-charged games were not his favorite moments, he said. “Afternoons at practice--a bunch of guys who loved to play, practice, and don't want to leave the field. Some of those afternoons are just magical."
He has been rewarded many times over in joyful experiences as a teacher and coach, he said. “The great honor is having the opportunity to serve this place for 40 plus years."