July 15, 2013

Message to Campus on Death of Former Coach Bill Lawson

President Alison Byerly emailed the following announcement to the campus community Sunday morning:

Members of the extended Lafayette community were greatly saddened to learn of the passing of Coach Bill Lawson, who died in a car accident on Saturday, July 13th.   Reports of this loss have appeared in many local media outlets, and moving tributes to Coach Lawson’s career and legacy are already pouring in from former students, colleagues, and friends.

Lawson coached three different sports during his 37-year career at Lafayette, retiring at the end of the 2002 season.  He later returned in 2007 as a volunteer assistant men’s lacrosse coach.  One of the most well-respected lacrosse coaches in the nation, Lawson was inducted into the Pennsylvania Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2002. In 1991, he was named Patriot League Coach of the Year.

Though new to the community myself, I have already heard many stories about Bill’s life and work, and know how highly regarded he was by all who knew him.  My deepest condolences go to his wife, Peggy, and his family: children Christine Hastings, her husband David, Glen Lawson, and his wife Martha; and grandchildren Lydia Hastings, Wills Hastings, Sydney Lawson, Griffin Lawson, and Jack Lawson.

A private burial is planned, with a community gathering in celebration of Bill’s life to follow in August or September. Further information will be shared as it becomes available.

Alison Byerly

posted in Faculty and Staff, News and Features

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  1. Coach Lawson: COULD REALLY MAKE AN IMPRESSION! He was my lacrosse coach, but I never stepped foot on the Lafayette campus, and I wouldn’t know where to find it; and yet, I have always had a soft spot in my heart for a school I know next to nothing about. The reason: when I was a camper at the University of Maryland’s lacrosse camp as a rising junior, I was coached by a wonderful man with gray hair and a kind smile, who provided comforting encouragement and let you know at all times he cared as much about you as anyone else on the team. AND HE WAS MY COACH FOR LESS THAN A WEEK, maybe 8 games, but I still remember him. So, when I heard about the accident, or read it online, I was immediately saddened and concerned, was this that coach I had at summer camp 24 years ago? I hoped it wasn’t, but when I began to read the descriptions of the man I knew it was. The descriptions of who he was, the type of person…this is what stuck with me. The one thing I will always remember about Coach Lawson is the one thing I can truly remember his having said to all of us on his team: remember, you will always have a home at Lafayette. As in it would be my pleasure if you would join us. In fact, I wanted to but some matters made it impossible for me to do so.

    says Damien Begley
    August 29, 2013 at 8:30 am
  2. I met him in 1967 on the day I arrived at Lafayette for Freshman Football. Never played for him… different sports. But from day one he was always “coach”. Warm, energetic, friendly and always teaching. Truly a great man. Thirty years later, my son Rob played for him and captained the team his senior year. Same rich experience. Great loss on July 13, 2013.

    says Bill Bradfield '71
    August 11, 2013 at 2:38 pm
  3. When I look back at the four years I spent at Lafayette, my fondest memories are of the times I spent with Coach Lawson on and off the lacrosse field. Coach was the reason why I chose Lafayette. He believed in me and guided me through not only the years I was in College but also after I graduated. He was the kindest man I have ever known. He was my parent away from my parents. He was more than a coach, he was a friend, a father figure, he was my life’s mentor. I always enjoyed coming back to Lafayette and visiting with Coach. He knew my wife and my children. He played such an important part in my life as a teacher of life lessons. He always made you smile and feel wonderful about about the world we live in. I will always cherish all the great memories I have of this wonderful man especially the time my family and I spent with Coach & Mrs. Lawson back this past September at the Alumni Game and at their home. I can only hope that his legacy will live on with the virtues he taught all that had the privilege to know him. I know I will try my best to make him proud.

    Adam Lemisch
    Lacrosse “88″

    says Adam Lemisch
    July 24, 2013 at 8:41 am
  4. Coach Lawson was the reason I chose Lafayette. He was the perfect ambassador to sway a young, undecided 17-year-old to dedicate 4 great years to the college in Easton. Bill was also much more than just a coach; he was a friend, mentor and source for some of the best laughs and memories from College Hill.

    The best thing about Coach was that he never changed. In good times and in bad, over the 30 years that I knew Bill, he always carried a great smile and a positive outlook. Now I’m trying to convince my 17-year-old daughter to attend Lafayette, and there was no better way than to bring her to campus and introduce her to Bill and Peggy back in May.

    I’m sure Coach would laugh it off, but I hope he knew the tremendous influence that he had on so many people during his life. He was one of the great ones.

    Jim Hummerstone
    Lafayette Lacrosse ’86

    says Jim Hummerstone
    July 21, 2013 at 11:22 am
  5. Bill was a wonderful colleague and one of the most welcoming individuals I have ever met. We spent seven years on College Hill and as a young coach, I considered him a mentor and a friend. Lafayette College has lost a true icon.

    Jack Siedlecki
    Asst. Football Coach 1981-1987

    says Jack Siedlecki
    July 19, 2013 at 4:22 pm
  6. Coach Lawson was a mentor during my days in the pool and later on the deck. It was a pleasure and honor to know him and learn from his interactions with his student athletes. His greatest lesson was sharing perspective on life, and our place at any given time in it. I counted him a teacher and a friend. The world is a dimmer place without him. My husband Cliff and I hold the Lawson family in the Light.

    says Lois Biamon Sunflower, former Lehigh diver and Lehigh swimming and diving coach
    July 19, 2013 at 11:30 am
  7. There is no better man I know that deserved/earned the title of “Coach” than Bill Lawson. I met Bill in 1980 at West Point, his favorite place other than the Hill in Easton. Our paths crossed many times over the years at various camps, conferences, tournaments and lacrosse events. It was my distinct privilege and pleasure to spend time with him when he was in his element – surrounded by young people eager and excited to learn from “Coach”, the one whose eagerness and passion for the subject exceeded theirs. One of the best hall of fame ceremonies I have ever attended was the induction of “Coach” into the PA Lacrosse Hall of Fame. The turnout, enthusiasm and genuine affection shown by his Lafayette alums were memorable!
    Please let me know the details of the memorial service. I want to be there to celebrate the good life of this great man!

    Fran Meagher
    Former Lacrosse Coach of Union College, Swarthmore College, DeSales University and Moravian College

    says Francis J Meagher
    July 18, 2013 at 7:16 pm
  8. We are proud to call Bill Lawson our friend, mentor, coach, father figure, and most importantly teacher of life lessons. We were both student-athletes with Coach at the helm, lacrosse and diving, classes of 85 and 86 respectively, and we cherished our time there with him. Peggy and Coach were the offertory gift bearers in our wedding some 230 miles from campus many moons ago. Here we are, almost 26 years later, and we would still consider it an honor to have their presence. We were fortunate to keep in touch over the years during our trips to the hill and able to attend the numerous dinners that recognized Bill for his gifts. We were able to see Coach and Peggy many times the last three years with our daughter, Abby, now entering her senior Pard year and swimming for Jim Dailey. It is no surprise that Jim and Bill were tremendous friends because of their core values, just one generation apart.

    We have mourned Bill’s loss many many times over the past few days but know that Coach would consider that silly. We can only imagine him now, holding court with a large circle of eager listeners around him telling one of his multitudes of stories and using his infamous euphemisms like “Get on that thing”. He most likely has a two-step going while blurting out his rendition of Harry Belafonte’s Day-O. For these memories, we can smile. Coach made Lafayette and Easton better communities and no doubt did the same for Lehigh and DeSales. We will miss Coach dearly but know that his spirit lives on in countless lives. Our hearts and prayers are with the Lawson family.

    John and Jamy Galliker Floyd-Jones

    says John and Jamy Galliker Floyd-Jones
    July 18, 2013 at 11:43 am
  9. I’ll never forget the exact moment my wife and I met Bill Lawson. It was September of 2009 and the Lafayette men’s lacrosse team had just concluded a scrimmage. Coach Lawson approached my wife and me and reached out his right hand in a warm, friendly way we’ll never forget. He asked, “Are you Geoff’s parents”? We swelled with pride that a senior guy had made an effort to seek us out. He said, “He is a very nice young man and he will do great things at Lafayette.” Coach Lawson went on to say, “Your family made a wonderful decision to send Geoff here.” This demonstrates all that anyone needs to know about Bill Lawson. His first comment reflected upon character. Next he put two anxious parents at ease. Finally, he paid homage to an institution he loved that cherished him in return. Bill Lawson was a once in a lifetime kind of guy. I am so thankful that I sat next to my son and my dad the night he was honored as the first Legend of Lafayette Lacrosse. We will miss you Coach Lawson, but you will never be forgotten.
    God Bless You and Your Family,
    The Stearns Family

    says Geoff Stearns
    July 18, 2013 at 9:58 am
  10. Bill was truly “one of a kind”. Though I never played or swam for Bill, he treated me like one of his “charges”. He was a fabulous ambassador for the school and the student-athletes. My trips to Easton will be a bit more somber knowing that I won’t have the chance to bump into Bill and laugh or share a beer with him.

    says jim benjamin '84
    July 18, 2013 at 9:30 am
  11. A life well lived. An exceptional individual.I am grateful for the time I had with Coach
    Bill Lawson.

    says Mitchell Berger '77
    July 17, 2013 at 10:25 pm
  12. Coach Bill Lawson was the reason I chose Lafayette College over several other top notch schools. Moving from MA to PA was a big step, but Coach was so warm and welcoming that I knew I always would have someone to turn to.
    I swam for Coach Bill from 1976-1980. I was never a star swimmer, but that didn’t matter. I was part of a team and I loved it! He treated us like his kids and I have very fond memories of these years.
    The fact that I still get my laps in twice/week has a lot to do with the continuous love of swimming that Coach Bill instilled in me.

    says Jennifer Redfield Costner Class of 1980
    July 17, 2013 at 7:23 pm
  13. I am honored to have had the opportunity to get to know Coach Lawson. A truly great friend, mentor, and coach – he will be missed. Thanks for making Lafayette feel like home.

    Stewart Inman – Class of 2010

    says Stewart Inman
    July 17, 2013 at 5:51 pm
  14. Bill always took his time with people …never rushing off. He made you feel special whenever you ran into him. Really, I loved his way of being. My prayers are with Peggy and the Lawson family. May his love be forever a companion. diane mast

    says Diane Mast
    July 17, 2013 at 4:26 pm
  15. Coach Lawson was a mentor, colleague, the finest of gentlemen and a dear friend. I am a better man for sharing the sidelines with Bill from 2002-2007. Words can never accurately describe his impact on myself and so many. I will cherish my moments with Bill forever while I attempt to rise to his standard of personal character, integrity and accountability.

    Lehigh University
    Assistant Director of Athletics and former Head Coach, Men’s Lacrosse (2001-2007)

    says Christopher Wakely
    July 17, 2013 at 1:37 pm
  16. Coach Lawson taught my son Kevin Zansitis to swim. He had Kevin jump off the high dive at Lafayette’s pool when he was three years old during a Parent’s Night…We had no idea Kevin was going to do this and needless to say once Kevin emerged from the depths of the pool we were tickled pink with his progress!! To this day Kevin is an excellent swimmer – all because of Coach Lawson!! Coach Lawson always warmly greeted my grandparents, Joe and Gladys Marhefka, when they swam at Lafayette’s pool. Thank you Coach Lawson and God bless…..

    says Anne Marhefka Lehr
    July 17, 2013 at 12:28 pm
  17. Coach Bill Lawson was an immensely positive influence on me during my time at Lafayette. I was a clueless walk on kid from Florida with a lacrosse IQ of just about zero. He knew that I would never be a star, but he worked hard to make me a contributing starter. In my struggles and successes on the lacrosse field I remember almost verbatim every single positive thing Coach Lawson ever said to me. It is fair to say that my experiences developing as a player under Coach Lawson have forever shaped my life.

    Many of today’s coaches discourage their players from thinking about anything other than lacrosse. When I showed interest in other activities (theater), Coach was incredibly supportive. He came to the shows and encouraged my teammates to do the same. He was a lacrosse coach to me but he was 100% about the total education of his players. He was a great man and will be missed.

    J.D. Dickenson,
    Lafayette Lacrosse
    Class of ’96

    says J.D. Dickenson
    July 17, 2013 at 12:23 pm
  18. He was our freshman soccer coach in the fall of 1967 though soccer wasn’t really his sport. The team enjoyed the season, his mentoring and friendship, then, and for the next three years.

    Every guy I knew couldn’t help but like his personality, and, even though he had that very traditional jock look, crew cut, image of his era, he had an open mind and totally accepted the new era “long-hair athletes” of the time. One day a couple of years later he got me my varsity daily practice gear from the cage/equipment room, when Fran Sheridan wouldn’t give me my gear until I got a haircut. – R.I.P. Coach.

    says Ron Diment '71
    July 17, 2013 at 11:23 am
    • Ron:
      I saw your name and could not help but reach out to you. This is Mike Mersky, FCS ’72, and I think it just had to be you as a graduate of FCS in ’67. My son Matt, ’10, had four great years at Lafayette, was captain of the lax team when they had a peak couple of years, ranked in the top 20 for most of the senior season, and he and his teammates absolutely adored Coach Lawson. Well past his prime, Bill was an assistant coach for those guys, and he was beloved by all of the boys from ’08 through ’13. I know Matt, who is in NYC with Am. Ex, and virtually all his teammates and buddies from those years, will take off from work when they celebrate Bill’s life at Lafayette in August or September. In the meantime, know that you were a role model to me as a little 7th grade student, and I’d like to think that both of us had great academic and athletic careers because of what FCS gave to us both. Best to you and your family.

      says Mike Mersky
      July 17, 2013 at 11:57 am
  19. Coach Bill Lawson was everything great and wonderful a coach could be. Bill was the exact type of coach we need to reinstitute into college sports today. It’s all about growing the character of the student athletes, not the cash coffers of the athletic department nor the glory of the coach himself. I was fortunate to have Bill coach me in two different sports, freshman soccer and freshman varsity tennis. Though many topics could be offered on Bill’s greatness to us, I’ll concentrate on just one: Commitment. As a result of the emotionally-charged strike on campus in the spring of 1970 triggered by the Kent State tragedy, which in turn led to the very popular May 4th March on Washington, the starting tennis team roster was decimated. Bill reached out to us non-starters and others not on the team (like basketball great Tracy Tripucka, LC ’72) to help him re-fill the roster to complete the season. He felt strongly about fulfilling one’s commitments. In spite of the tempting popular issue of the moment, Brother Randy Frank (LC ’70) and I quickly agreed to his request, after we had planned on travelling to DC to participate in The March. That’s how much Coach Lawson meant to us and his lesson on commitment was learned. Though I hadn’t seen Bill in many years, I still feel a very deep personal loss.

    says Howie Herbert, LC '72, Theta Delta Chi
    July 17, 2013 at 9:59 am
  20. Bill Lawson was a friend when I was a student and for the many years after I graduated, and I will always remember his warm, engaging and friendly persona. He always remembered me and greeted me with enthusiasm, which meant a lot , and it was something he did for hundreds of other alumni. While I did not play lacrosse or swim, he always made you feel that if one was an athlete one was a member of his “tribe”. One of the things that has made my Lafayette experience so special – as an undergrad and as an alumnus- has been the people I have gotten to know over the years. He is an example of those satisfying friendships, and he personified what was and is best about the athletic program and Lafayette College.
    Fran Mustaro ’72

    says Francis L. Mustaro, Class of 1972
    July 17, 2013 at 9:27 am
  21. Coach was one of the good guys who showed us that respect of the individual came first; a true man of integrity. He and Mrs. Lawson treated you like family as you learned to be away from your own.

    Carol Henry
    Class of 1981, former swimmer

    says Carol Henry
    July 16, 2013 at 8:10 pm
  22. I am so heartbroken to hear this news. Coach was such an amazing person, mentor, coach, and comic relief! He made my first three years of diving an absolute pleasure. I send my love to his family during this tough time.
    Alana Anzalone
    Lafayette Diver Class of 2004

    says Alana Anzalone
    July 16, 2013 at 4:10 pm
  23. I agree with all of the comments and sentiments previously expressed. Coach Lawson made a huge impact on my life as a swimmer, as a student, as a coach for over 30 years, as a person and a parent. He was truly a positive mentor and friend. My thoughts and prayers are with his family. I hope it is some consolation to know that he and his impact will live on forever through all the people who’s lives he touched! He will always hold a special place in my heart.
    Debbie Daughtridge Mann, former Lafayette Swimmer, Class of ’79

    says Debbie Daughtridge Mann
    July 16, 2013 at 10:39 am
  24. My son is a freshman at DeSales University and plays lacrosse. Coach Lawson had a major role in his success on and off the field. I thank him for that. He touched many lives in such a positive way. The DeSales lacrosse family will miss you. RIP coach!

    says Dave Warnken
    July 15, 2013 at 11:02 pm
  25. “Coach” Lawson was one of those few people who could push you as a coach, yet remained a life long friend. Always glad to meet and greet returning athletes as if they only parted company the day before. Quick with a smile and a joke. He will be missed by all.

    John Kline, Swimmer Class of 1973

    says John Kline
    July 15, 2013 at 5:53 pm
  26. While it is true all things must pass, Bill Lawson was a man from another era – one who embodied the Springfield College philosophy of Humanics: Spirit, Mind and Body in service to humanity. I am honored to have been one of his athletes and to have had the opportunity to be deeply influenced by this great philosophy. Coach Lawson made the world a better place and touched the lives of everyone he came in contact with. There is no greater legacy for a person to leave behind, no greater goal to pursue in life. Bill fought the good fight. R.I.P.

    says Jeff Yorzyk
    July 15, 2013 at 11:55 am
  27. Bill Lawson was one of the most influential people in my life. His integrity and his friendliness, even when he was pushing me, were permanently imprinted onto my DNA during my Lafayette experience. I hope that I have and will continue to pass a bit of Bill onto my own swimmers.
    Bill Deatly Class of 1980, former Lafayette swimmer.
    Head Divisional Coach
    Scarlet Aquatics-Elite Division

    says William Deatly
    July 15, 2013 at 11:51 am

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