Bronx, NY — After fifty-four years of coaching at Fordham University, Bob Hawthorn retired as the school’s head squash and tennis coach. Hawthorn’s tenure was the longest in Fordham athletic history.
Hawthorn began coaching squash at Fordham in 1956, a mere three years after graduating from the school. As a student, Hawthorn was a standout squash and tennis player. As head squash coach, he guided the Rams to the Summers Cup in 1989, the first year the men’s national team tournament was broken into multiple divisions. He also led the Rams to the Conroy Cup in 1995.
Fordham Athletic Director Frank McLaughlin told FordhamSports.com that “Bob Hawthorn is a Fordham treasure. His many years of hard work, dedication and love for the University and especially the men’s tennis and squash programs will always be appreciated.” Hawthorn’s retirement was even noted by ESPN.
Hawthorn is a well-decorated college squash coach. In 1998, he was the first recipient of the Men’s College Squash Lifetime Achievement Award. This award recognizes those rare individuals who have contributed throughout their career to college squash as a whole and who have dedicated a career to the sport. Amongst the illustrious coaches who have received the Lifetime Achievement Award are Peter Lyman (coach at the University of Rochester); Jack Barnaby (coach at Harvard University); Albert Malloy, Jr. (coach at the University of Pennsylvania); Edward J. Serues (coach at Amherst College); and Dave Johnson (coach at Williams College).
According to former Haverford coach Sean Sloane, “Bob Hawthorn kept the Fordham squash team going for the past 10 years despite terrible facilities. Fordham rarely attracted any players with prior squash experience, so Bob’s coaching was responsible for the success they had. Bob was always a gentleman, and he loved the game of squash.”
In 2005, Hawthorn was elected to the Men’s College Squash Hall of Fame as a coach, an honor reserved for the top players and coaches at the collegiate level. Since Hawthorn’s induction, no other coach has entered the Hall of Fame. Sloane recollects that “Bob’s acceptance speech included 1 or 2 Latin phrases — probably also a record in our sport!”
When Hawthorn began coaching at Fordham, he had to take his squash team to the New York Athletic Club to practice and play matches. Eventually, Fordham built courts; however, when college squash transitioned to international courts in the late 1990s, Fordham continued to practice and play on American courts. In a partnership with CitySquash, Fordham is scheduled to complete four new international squash courts in August.
In 2009, the “G” Division of the Men’s National Team Championships was created. This division was named the Hawthorn Cup, after the legendary Fordham coach.
As news of Hawthorn’s retirement spread, coaches and players stopped to reflect on his decades of coaching. According to Paul Assaiante, the men’s squash coach at Trinity College, “Bob was wonderful to me as I started out my career at West Point. Always kind and supportive, Bob will be missed.”
Dave Talbot, the Yale coach, adds that Hawthorn was an “amazing man who those of us who have been around long enough have learned a lot from that does not have anything to do with hitting the ball.”
Hawthorn’s former players also have admiration for their coach. FordhamSports.com quotes several of the approximately 250 squash players Hawthorn coached over the course of his career. Among them was Bill Ramsay (Fordham ’82), who remembered, “He was always able to give an encouraging word after a defeat, but was also able to say the right thing to motivate you and raise your game when needed. I was able to improve my game quite a bit, not only though his athletic advice, but also through his life advice and quick wit.”
Fellow Fordham alum Bill Andruss (Fordham ’75) also has fond memories of Hawthorn and recollects that he was “always aware that this was about much more than squash. It was about respect, fair play, gentlemanly behavior and hard work, all the while cognizant of the fact that we represented Fordham.”
“I have admiration for Bob Hawthorn’s principles in coaching squash. In the increasingly competitive and cut throat environment in which we live he remained true to developing the person through the medium of squash,” states Shona Kerr, the coach at Wesleyan and the Women’s College Squash Association president. “Winning and losing was not the priority but the journey and experience along the way. I hope that the ethos of the Fordham program may pervade others and keep our sport true to it beginnings. The CSA wishes Bob all the very best in his retirement.”