Lafayette hosted a “Celebration of Coach Bill Lawson’s Life” Sept. 8 in the Kirby Sports Center arena, honoring the life of the late head coach.
Lawson retired following the 2002 season, ending a 37-year career at Lafayette in which he coached three different sports. He later returned in 2007 as a volunteer assistant men’s lacrosse coach.
Lawson, 79, died July 13 after his car crashed on Interstate 78 in Clinton Township.
Several former student-athletes and friends spoke and shared stories of the coach with the crowd of about 700. Robert Wheatley ’78, a men’s lacrosse player under Lawson, began the comments followed by Jim Dailey, head men’s and women’s swimming coach, Jim Rogalski, head men’s lacrosse coach, David Roach, director of athletics at Fordham and a fellow Springfield College graduate, and Jud Linville ’79, another men’s lacrosse player under Lawson and a member of the Board of Trustees.
Rogalski announced that the team will play the 2014 season in Lawson’s honor, wearing decals on their helmets with his initials.
Linville announced that an endowment has been started “in order to carry on his legacy on and off the field.”
Peggy Lawson, his wife of 53 years, summarized her husband’s life from the time they met at a community pool in 1958. She shared stories of his service in the Navy on the U.S.S. Repose, his athletic career at Springfield, and tales of the many hats he wore as coach, friend, mentor, husband, father, and grandfather. She encouraged the attendees to “take a yarn from his positive persona, and weave it into your daily lives.”
Lawson is also survived by his children, Christine Hastings and her husband, David, and Glen Lawson and his wife, Martha, as well as five grandchildren, Lydia Hastings, Wills Hastings, Sydney Lawson, Griffin Lawson, and Jack Lawson.
One of the most well-respected lacrosse coaches in the nation, Lawson was inducted into the Pennsylvania Lacrosse Hall of Fame in 2002. The 1991 Patriot League Coach of the Year, he is the winningest men’s lacrosse coach in Lafayette history.
In 2001, Lawson was one of a select few who coached at the U.S. National Team tryouts for the 2002 International Lacrosse Federation World Championships.
Lawson coached in the annual North-South All-Star lacrosse game in 1997 and 1989. He annually served as a clinician at the NCAA-sponsored YES (Youth Education through Sports) Clinic held in conjunction with the NCAA Men’s Lacrosse Championships.
Lawson received the United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association’s “Howdy Myers Man of the Year Award” in 2000. It is presented to the person who has contributed greatly to the game of lacrosse and shown unselfish and undying devotion.
A 1959 graduate of Springfield College, Lawson joined the Lafayette coaching staff in 1965 as both the swimming and tennis head coach before assuming the men’s lacrosse post in 1972. He retained the swimming position until 1986 and continued as the school’s diving coach until 2002. He was named the Patriot League Diving Coach of the Year in 1999-2000.
The Wilmington, Del., native earned a master’s degree from Westfield State College.