On the new mural that lines the long corridor of Hardwick Hall, the striking images of Blair athletes from every decade offer their stories across time. The oldest students in Blair’s Athletic History Wall gaze out from 1894. They sit as a team, confident baseball players with handlebar mustaches and crisply parted hair, posing in thick, quilted pants, their legs set wide. The newest images capture Blair’s student-athletes in action—a young woman flying through the air to clear a hurdle, another straining as she pulls back to launch a javelin. Chronicling the story of the School’s sports triumphs, the mural celebrates the Buccaneers who have toiled and left their best on Blair’s athletic fields from the nineteenth century to the present.
It took a team eight months to build Blair’s Athletic History Wall, and that team gathered on Wednesday, September 29, to unveil the mural and dedicate it to the memory of Tony Maltese ’55, a devoted, philanthropic and engaged alumnus who loved Blair. An accomplished athlete, Tony was the recipient of the Franklin Prize during his two years at Blair, captain of the wrestling team and two-time state wrestling champion. He served on Blair’s Board of Trustees for over a decade, and was recognized for his contributions to the School with the Alumnus of the Year award in 1994 and the School’s highest honor, the Citation of Merit, in 1999.
“By all accounts, Tony was a force to be reckoned with during his Blair days both on the football field and in the wrestling room, but his love for Blair extended far beyond athletics,” said Head of School Peter G. Curran as he opened the ceremony. “It is hard not to be moved and inspired by Tony’s generous spirit and the mark he left on Blair through his dedicated support and service.”
Tony’s daughter, Kristen Maltese Krusen, told the audience how happy and humbled her father would have been to be honored in this way by dear friends who enriched his life and kept him connected to Blair. “My dad loved Blair and attributed much of his success in life to his experiences here,” she said. “In the wrestling room, he learned that if you get knocked down, you get back up every single time, and that’s a lesson he instilled in his children. Dad would have loved seeing generations of Blair athletes represented on this wall and getting the chance to attend this dedication and talk with all of you today.”
Tony’s passing in January 2021 affected many in the Blair community deeply, especially his classmate, Takis “Taki” J. Theodoracopulos ’55, with whom he maintained a close and lifelong friendship. At the ceremony, Taki addressed assembled guests that included former Blair Head of School and one of Blair’s newest Trustees T. Chandler Hardwick III; his wife, Monie Hardwick, who led Blair’s advancement office for 10 years; as well as Blair’s present Head of School, faculty and coaches. Speaking about how his friend personified selflessness, Taki explained, “Tony always put others first. Even when I happened to run into Tony [when his son was gravely ill], he asked only about me. I’ve never met a person who was more giving. His generosity extended to his family, his friends, this school and, of course, the country. I am very lucky to have met him.”
Chan also spoke of his friend Tony as one of the great 20th-century “Blair boys” for his strong character, quiet generosity and love for Blair. “Remember Tony Maltese,” Chan urged. “He was one of the greatest Blair alumni, a great friend to this school, and a great friend to us.”
Director of Athletics Paul Clavel ’88 believes that visitors will be engaged by the rich history now etched onto the walls of Hardwick Hall. From the long-forgotten wooden track that once guided Blair runners to the triumphant faces of the boys’ basketball team hoisting their trophy high for the first time, the mural suspends in time favorite and fascinating moments from Blair history. Coach Clavel also hopes the Athletic History Wall will serve not only as a reminder of past accomplishments, but also as an inspiration to current students. “When our athletes look at these images, I hope they realize that victory comes through teamwork, and strength comes from embodying humility, a strong work ethic and good sportsmanship. I hope they see that image of Tony Maltese and compete like him.”
Frozen in time, the enlarged image of one handsome wrestler stands out from the mural. Crouched and ready to pounce, Tony Maltese stands as a fitting symbol of the energy, dedication and character it takes to be a true Blair athlete.