Contact: Joe Carr 207) 581-3571
ORONO, Maine — University of Maine professor and former Black Bear football coach Walter H. Abbott is being recognized for distinguished service by the National Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association. Abbott, whose teaching and coaching at UMaine since 1960 has trained and influenced thousands of students, will be honored Dec. 18 in Orlando during the annual National Conference of High School Directors of Athletics. The conference is conducted jointly by the National Federation of State High School Associations and the NIAAA.
The Distinguished Service award is presented annually to recognize length of service, special accomplishments and contributions to interscholastic athletics. Nominated by the Maine Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association, Abbott is one of 14 individuals nationwide and one of four from outside the field of athletic administration to receive this year’s award.
The nomination describes Abbott as a role model and mentor who has dedicated his life to helping others achieve their goals. It notes that “No single person has impacted as many coaches and teachers in our state as Walter Abbott. Even after 45 years of teaching, he still has the energy and passion to give to any student, athlete or coach in Maine. Whether at a school, a community or a state event, he has always given of himself. This gentleman is a living legend.”
Abbott is associate professor of Kinesiology and Physical Education in UMaine’s College of Education and Human Development, where he specializes in the areas of the coaching profession, physical fitness, and outdoor leadership, safety and rescue. He has been a Registered Maine Guide since 1974.
“I am so pleased that the NIAAA has chosen Walt Abbott as a recipient of the Distinguished Service Award. It couldn’t be more fitting,” says College Dean Robert A. Cobb. “Over the years, the strength of his influence in developing coaches has earned him a veritable legion of coaching proteges across the northeast who still contact him regularly to discuss all aspects of coaching and of sports in general. Whether it concerns player development or team tactics and strategies, he has seen it all and done most of it. He has learned from his vast experience as a coach and a trainer of coaches and has been ever so willing to share that expertise with anyone and everyone.”
A Rumford native, Abbott was an outstanding high school football player and at the University of Maine gained a reputation as a strong offensive guard and defensive linebacker. Abbott graduated from UMaine in 1958 with a degree in Resource Economics and also earned a master’s degree in Education. He started his career at his alma mater in 1960 as an instructor in physical education and assistant football coach. Abbott became the Black Bears’ head coach in 1966 at age 30, one of the youngest collegiate gridiron coaches in the nation. He led the team through the 1975 season, when he relinquished the post to devote full time to teaching and to building a campus-wide physical fitness program. Abbott’s experience, leadership and statewide respect twice — in 1991 and 1994 –prompted UMaine presidents to call on him to serve as acting athletic director with full authority and responsibility of the position.
Convinced that quality athletic and recreation programs at all levels are a vital part of the total educational experience, Abbott, throughout his years at UMaine, has continued to be actively involved in improving high school athletics statewide. Most recently, he led the development of an online coaching education course for the Maine Center for Sport and Coaching, and as part of a statewide select panel helped craft the Sports Done Right report, a national model for shaping and sustaining the best possible learning environment for interscholastic and youth sports.
Abbott’s commitment and service have been recognized with awards such as the UMaine Alumni Association Block M Award, the Maine Association of Health Physical Education, Recreation and Dance Highest Praise Award, and the National Football Foundation State of Maine Chapter Contribution to Amateur Football Award. Abbott and his wife, Carol, live in Orono. They have three children and three grandchildren.