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.
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.