Blair Academy is proud to recognize two of the School’s most iconic former coaches and two undefeated, untied teams in the Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2021. This year’s inductees include former field hockey, girls’ basketball and softball coach Jan Hutchinson and former wrestling coach Tom Hutchinson, as well as the 1954-1955 football team and the 1987-1988 softball team.
Established in 2016, the Blair Athletic Hall of Fame celebrates the athletic achievements of Buccaneer alumni, coaches and teams. Director of Athletics Paul Clavel ’88, Hall of Fame committee chair, is excited to recognize the Hall’s newest members. “During their Blair tenures, coach Jan Hutchinson and coach Tom Hutchinson were instrumental in building a tradition of excellence that has been carried through many years in our athletes and teams,” he said. “The 1954 football team and 1988 softball team exhibited grit and determination throughout their undefeated seasons. These inductees truly represent the excellence of the Blair Academy athletic program.”
Congratulations to the exceptional Buccaneers in the Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2021!
The founding coach of girls’ athletics at Blair in the 1970s, Jan Hutchinson went on to achieve legendary status at the college level as the winningest field hockey coach in NCAA history and the winningest softball coach in NCAA Division II history. Ms. Hutchinson came to Blair in 1971, following her graduation from East Stroudsburg University, and taught a full schedule of physical education classes, served as housemaster in Locke Hall, and established the Buccaneer field hockey, girls’ basketball and softball programs. As head coach of each of these teams during her six-year tenure, she instituted a tradition of excellence in these sports and inspired students with her dedication. Ms. Hutchinson received the 2002 Citation of Merit, Blair’s highest honor, in recognition of her significant contributions as the School reestablished coeducation.
In 1978, Ms. Hutchinson joined the coaching staff at Bloomsburg University in Bloomsburg, Pennsylvania, where, as head field hockey coach for 32 years and head softball coach for 33 years, she guided the Huskies to unparalleled success. Under her leadership, Bloomsburg’s field hockey team won 16 national championships—including four straight from 1996 to 1999 and an additional four straight from 2006 to 2009—and 16 conference titles. With an overall record of 591-75-20, Ms. Hutchinson became the winningest coach in NCAA field hockey history and the only coach with more than 500 victories. She was named national Division II field hockey coach of the year seven times, 105 of her players achieved All-American status and 12 Huskies were named national player of the year, the most of any Division II coach.
Ms. Hutchinson’s softball teams posted an overall record of 1,215-288-2 and set an NCAA record by competing in 28 consecutive NCAA championship tournaments. When she retired in 2010, Ms. Hutchinson had amassed the most softball wins of any NCAA Division II coach in history, and she was sixth on the all-time win list regardless of division. During her tenure, the Huskies won 16 NCAA Division II individual, team or championship records, one national championship and 16 Pennsylvania State Athletic Conference (PSAC) titles, and 32 players won 53 All-American awards.
With over 1,500 wins in field hockey and softball combined, Ms. Hutchinson was the fourth NCAA coach and first woman to achieve this total number of victories in combined sports. She has been inducted into the athletic halls of fame for Newton (New Jersey) High School, Sussex County (New Jersey), Luzerne County (Pennsylvania), East Stroudsburg University and Bloomsburg University, in addition to the National Fastpitch Coaches Association and National Field Hockey Coaches Association halls of fame. Ms. Hutchinson was also honored with the 2006 United States Sports Academy’s C. Vivian Stringer Award, presented annually to outstanding coaches in women’s sports, and the 2012 PSAC Award of Merit, the organization’s highest honor.
During his tenure at Blair from 1972 to 1982, Tom Hutchinson served as a math and science teacher and head varsity wrestling coach. He is credited with developing a college-level competition schedule for Blair, which provided opportunities for both non-postgraduate and postgraduate wrestlers to compete against area undergraduate wrestlers, most notably the Lehigh University and West Point junior varsity teams. Under his leadership, the Bucs won their first-ever national prep team championship in 1974 and subsequent national prep titles in 1981 and 1982. Mr. Hutchinson coached Blair wrestlers to 21 national prep championships, and many of them went on to win awards at the collegiate level and beyond, including 12 NCAA Division I All-American honors, four NCAA Division I titles and one Olympic gold.
Mr. Hutchinson’s success at Blair earned him national coach of the year accolades from Wrestling USA and the United States Wrestling Federation (now USA Wrestling). During time at Blair, he served as state chairman of the United States Wrestling Federation for five years and established the Blair wrestling clinic in the late 1970s, which drew more than 100 wrestlers each week.
In 1983, Mr. Hutchinson returned to Lehigh University, his alma mater, where he had been a two-time Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Association (EIWA) champion and a 1971 All-American. He served as assistant wrestling coach under coaching legend Thad Turner for six years, and then as Lehigh’s head coach until 1994. He developed four NCAA Division 1 champions, five EIWA champions and seven All-Americans during his tenure, and served on the USA Wrestling Freestyle Committee, the NCAA Rules Committee and as president of the Eastern Intercollegiate Wrestling Coaches Association.
Mr. Hutchinson returned to coaching and teaching at the high school level in 1994, and for a time, he served as director of the New Jersey Junior Freestyle training camps. He was inducted into the New Jersey Wrestling Hall of Fame in 2016 and received the organization’s Lifetime Service to Wrestling Award. At Blair Academy, the coaches’ locker rooms in Hardwick Hall are named for Mr. Hutchinson to honor and celebrate the profound impact he had in shaping the lives of each of the students he taught, coached and interacted with as a member of Blair’s faculty.
1954-55 Football Team
In the fall of 1954, Blair’s football team became the third in School history to go undefeated and untied. During their season, the Bucs won matchups against four heavily favored prep-school rivals, The Pennington School, The Lawrenceville School, The Hill School and The Peddie School, and two colleges, East Stroudsburg State Teachers College and Princeton University’s freshman “B” team. Blair posted four shutouts and allowed only two teams, Pennington and Peddie, to score one touchdown apiece.
Longtime football coach Steve Kuk, who taught history at Blair from 1942 to 1960, led the squad that included just two returning varsity players. According to the 1955 ACTA, Coach Kuk “formed his group of new boys into a highly specialized organization, highly specialized, that is, in winning.”
Among the standout players were team captains Richard A. (Dick) Fairchild ’55 and Phillip (Phil) Petrisky ’55. In addition, senior class members Col. Robert M. Novogratz, USA Ret. ’55, Anthony J. (Tony) Maltese Jr. ’55, Neil O. Reichard ’55, Max W. Rush ’55, Terry A. Michael ’55, Gustave R. (Gus) Fox Jr. ’55, David W. (Dave) Davis ’55 and Robert T. Canevari ’55 were instrumental to the team’s success.
1987-1988 Softball Team
Blair’s softball team achieved a perfect 15-0 record in the spring of 1988, ending the season with the New Jersey prep “B” title by crushing Villa Walsh in the championship game, 18-4. Although the team was “generally young and inexperienced,” according to an article in the April 1988 Blair Breeze by Ed Satkowski ’88, many players turned in outstanding performances during the season. Among them were Janine P. Clifford ’90, Rebecca L. (Becky) Selengut ’88, Sandra C. Tedeschi ’88, Maria Kurtz ’89, Amy S. Loder '90 and team captain Nicole Helmstetter ’89.
The team was led by now-Dean of Campus Life and Director of Leadership Programs Carolyn Conforti-Browse ’79, who was in her fourth year at the helm of Blair softball in 1988. She earned accolades as the 1988 New Jersey Herald Area Softball Coach of the Year in recognition of her team’s achievements. As noted in the spring 1988 Blair Bulletin, Mrs. Conforti-Browse was most proud of the sportsmanship shown by all her players, as well as their supportiveness of one another.
Learn more about the Athletic Hall of Fame selection process and view bios of Athletic Hall of Fame inductees here.
Suggest nominees for the Athletic Hall of Fame class of 2022 here by December 31, 2021.