Coaches are the backbone of high school athletics. Over the years, coaches at St. Paul Academy, Summit School have inspired, taught, supported, and championed generations of student-athletes in their respective sports. Below are individuals who are recognized for their contributions and commitment to developing athletics at our school.
If you would like to nominate a coach to be considered a candidate for inclusion into the Athletics Hall of Fame, please complete this short form.
- Maxine "Gunny" Gunsolly
- Dorothy Otterson
- Roy M. "Chip" Rasmussen, Sr.
- Albert M. "Al" Smith, Sr.
- Maximillian "Max" Sporer, Sr.
- Keren Gudeman '94
- Manuel "Buzz" Lagos
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."
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.
Around the time that Edward M. Read, III became Headmaster at St. Paul Academy upon the retirement of John DeQ. Briggs, Athletic Director Al Smith hired Roy M. “Chip" Rasmussen, a native of Austin, Minnesota and a graduate of the University of Minnesota.
Rasmussen, an enthusiastic backer of league athletics in the Minneapolis suburbs and a coach in Newbury, MI, ultimately combined teaching math with coaching football, basketball and baseball. He helped found the Minnesota Independent School League in 1951, became Athletic Director in 1952, and led teams repeatedly to victory in all three sports. Bill Beadie '58 recalling those seasons, cherished Coach Rasmussen’s exhortation to be “mentally tough” as not only important to winning these games but also as a lifelong touchstone. Tom Wood '71 never forgot Rasmussen’s correct prediction that he would be better, not worse, as quarterback because he was playing with a cold. At Chip’s final game as football coach in 1970, SPA upset Blake, which had a perfect season conference record.
A small-of-stature Latin teacher at St. Paul Academy, Al Smith became a giant of a football coach. Sportswriter Dick Gordon '29 wrote that, in Smith’s undergraduate days (1906-07) at Trinity College, his larger football teammates tossed him, holding the ball, to make yardage. Al Smith parlayed his knowledge of the sport and of the demands of coaching into three decades molding championship teams at SPA. Many boys he coached went on to become college varsity stars. Al eventually became the Athletic Director at St. Paul Academy where he hired his ultimate successor, Chip Rasmussen. While he retired from coaching in 1949, Al Smith continued to teach until his death in 1960.
A math teacher with a sense of humor and a fondness for three-piece suits, Max Sporer was also a graduate of Trinity College (1912). While his many roles at SPA included supervising buildings and grounds, he coached winning hockey teams for two decades, and helped to organize league competitions. Max Sporer developed talented hockey players who had varsity careers in numerous colleges, despite not having played hockey himself. Mr. Sporer continued to teach math and bring merriment to the Randolph Campus through the 1960s.
Keren Gudeman '94 was a talented multi-sport athlete while at St. Paul Academy and Summit School, competing on the soccer, basketball, and track and field teams and serving as captain of all three teams. In her junior season, the girls’ soccer team went 14-1-4 and Keren led the team in scoring with 21 goals. She would be named All-Metro and All-State honorable mention following her junior season. In her senior season, she helped lead the team to an impressive 16-3 record, and was named to the All-State soccer team by the Pioneer Press. In track and field her senior season, she was a member of the 4 x 800 team that competed in the state track meet.
Keren played soccer and lacrosse at Harvard University, where she helped lead the soccer team to Ivy League titles in 1995, 1996 and 1997 and the NCAA soccer tournament three times. The team advanced to the NCAA soccer tournament quarterfinals in 1997, the Crimson’s best national tournament finish in fifteen seasons. Gudeman was a two time All-Ivy league second team honoree, NCAA Regional All-America third team selection, and is top 10 for season career assists in Harvard's soccer record books. In lacrosse, she made the varsity lacrosse team as a freshman after never having played, and served as team captain her senior year, also earning All-Ivy league first team and first team regional All-American honors in 1998. Following Harvard, Keren played in the Women’s Premier Soccer League for the San Francisco Nighthawks.
Keren eventually moved back to the Twin Cities and took a teaching and coaching position at SPA. She taught Middle School English and coached girls’ varsity soccer and varsity track and field. The girls' soccer team advanced to the state championship in 2004 and earned 2nd place in Class A. She was then hired as Carleton College’s Head Women’s Soccer Coach, coaching the Knights for six seasons. She compiled a 79-31-11 (.697) record as Carleton’s head coach and guided the Knights to the NCAA Tournament in 2008, 2009, and 2010. She was a two-time MIAC Coach of the Year (2006 and 2010) and was also named the 2008 NSCAA Central Region Coach of the Year after the Knights set a school record for victories in a season (18-6) and advanced to the elite eight of the NCAA Tournament.
Known to many as the “Father of Soccer” at St. Paul Academy and Summit School, Buzz Lagos has left his mark not only at SPA, but across the Minnesota soccer community. Throughout his many decades of coaching and teaching, Buzz has mentored and coached thousands of student-athletes, instilling values of teamwork and sportsmanship.
Buzz’s contributions to the SPA community can be traced back to the 1970’s, where he first served as the Head Coach of the boys’ soccer team beginning in 1973, leading the team to its first Minnesota State Soccer Tournament appearance. In the 1980’s, Buzz coached incredibly talented teams, reaching the state tournament nine seasons in a row. During that time, the team won four State Championships and two State runner-up titles. In addition to coaching, Buzz taught math in SPA’s Upper School and was known for his ability to make learning fun and for teaching students to find joy in solving complex problems. In the years before SPA’s girls’ soccer program was established, Buzz was instrumental in ensuring that girls who wanted to play soccer were allowed to play with the boys’ team.
At SPA, Buzz coached multiple Mr. Soccer recipients, an award given to the best soccer player in the state of Minnesota. His 1988 soccer team was the top-ranked High School team in the nation, accumulating a fifty-two game winning streak that would be snapped in the state semifinals.
In addition to coaching at SPA, Buzz founded the Minnesota Thunder, Minnesota’s longest running professional soccer team, and served as the Head Coach of the Thunder for over a decade before retiring from coaching at the professional level. He then went to Higher Ground Academy to help establish their soccer program and in 2016, returned to SPA help on the boys’ soccer staff before formally joining the team in 2017 as an Assistant Coach. Head Coach Max Lipset '03 says he has been an extremely positive influence on the student-athletes.
It is impossible to truly explain the impact that Buzz has had on St. Paul Academy and Summit School without providing a few testimonials from those who nominated him for this honor.
From Amos Magee '89: “But more than the wins, the outstanding player development, the titles and the national recognition, Buzz was a fantastic human and teacher that shared an optimistic, energetic, self-affirming and motivating outlook on life. He made great teams, great players and great people.”
From Ben Seymour '88: “Mr. Lagos’ coaching philosophy was rooted in hard work, in respect (for his players and others), in fairness, in composure and level headedness, in sportsmanship, and in a love of the game of soccer.
It was clear after having spent even a short period of time with him that this wasn’t just a coaching philosophy, it was a life philosophy; that the lessons he imparted were applicable beyond the field; and that he led by example. Years later, these lessons have helped to shape countless conscientious, kind, and decent people.”
From Daniel Zelle '81: “Among the many qualities Buzz cultivated were accountability, vulnerability, open-mindedness, fair play and connectedness. He helped players understand their role on a team and how to be reliable for executing that position as well as relying on and supporting teammates to do theirs. He made it clear that everyone makes mistakes - our teammates, the opponents, officials, coaches, spectators and us - we all do.”