At St. Paul Academy, Summit School, and the merged St. Paul Academy and Summit School, countless administrators were the unsung champions for student-athletes and the athletics program as a whole. Below are individuals who have significantly contributed to the development and promotion of athletics at St. Paul Academy and Summit School and its predecessor schools.
Sarah Converse was the Headmistress of Summit School from 1917-1950. Though she came to St. Paul in 1917 and proved herself a worthy fundraiser and administrator for Summit School, it was not until 1924 that Sarah Converse was presiding over a new building on Goodrich Avenue with modern athletic facilities. Her progressive ideas for education included athletics, though she was not a coach herself. Sarah Converse championed athletics at a time when most high school girls’ sports were extracurricular activities and/or club teams.
Ruth Putnam Huss '57 reflected that “Miss Converse prided herself as being ahead of her time….” and that meant girls in physical education activities in all three seasons. Jean West '45 recalls that “Summit under Sarah Converse was the only school that had athletics for girls as mandatory, graded classes in all three seasons. Miss Converse hired Dorothy Otterson to coach, but “the emphasis came from Sarah Converse".
Hired by Sarah Converse to revitalize the athletics program at Summit School, she engaged even those Summit School students who didn’t like athletics with activities from Modern Dance to “Speedball,” a variant of soccer. Jean West '45 noted that, at Summit, the most important thing to Sarah Converse and Dorothy Otterson was team-building. “There were no stars,” Jean said. Along with six other individuals with physical education degrees from the University of Minnesota, Otterson joined the American Red Cross effort in 1944 to support U.S. troops in Italy during World War II.
The early 1950's saw the arrival of Maxine Gunsolly at Summit School. Gunsolly was fondly remembered by girls as “Gunny,” who began a Summit branch of the Girls’ Athletic Association to bring more structure to athletics and events. Her Sherwood Forest Camp, while not affiliated with Summit School, gave Summit girls opportunities for woodland recreation. She also was instrumental in forming traveling teams so Summit students could play Northrop Collegiate School in Minneapolis and St. Mary’s School in Faribault in basketball and field hockey.
Ellen Read Widmer '57 recalled when discussing Gunny's teachings, "We didn’t have to be friends with everyone, but we had to respect their humanity…we should not make fun of them…Her emphasis [was] on good sportsmanship. On not cheating, of course, not being…violent, but also playing to win….” Ann Luyten Dieperink '53 experienced Miss Gunsolly as “a breath of fresh air.” Ann shared that one of her most memorable interactions with Miss Gunsolly was when she and her classmates spoke with her one early spring day: [Gunny] said, "I don’t know anything about tennis. Go out, shovel the snow off, and play."