UNE Mourns the Passing of Iconic Former Athletic Director Jim Beaudry
The University of New England community was deeply saddened to learn that James A. Beaudry, longtime coach and director of athletics at UNE and its precursor St. Francis College, passed away on Dec. 3, 2020, surrounded by his family.
Mr. Beaudry, Coach Beaudry, or Coach, as he was called by students whom he taught or coached in the 60s and 70s or who high-fived him in the Alfond Forum, enjoyed a 57-year relationship with the students, faculty, professional staff, and administrators of St. Francis College and the University of New England. Having served as director of athletics at the two schools for a cumulative span of 21 years, coaching a total of five different sports, there exists no figure in the UNE-SFC community who is more beloved, respected, or revered than he.
Beaudry’s leadership was paramount to the success enjoyed by the St. Francis teams of the 1960s and 1970s. As the coach of men’s basketball, baseball, men’s soccer, cross country, and men’s golf, he was adored by the young athletes he instructed and inspired and can be seen in almost every sports team photo over his 21-year tenure. If there was a vacancy in his coaching staff, Beaudry was there to fill it. He helped to start the women’s basketball team and even served as an associate professor. But beyond that, he made himself a fixture at campus events and community gatherings helping to establish UNE’s identity at a critical period in the emerging institution’s evolution.
Indeed, as the Red Knights became the Nor’easters, Beaudry’s support of the students and student-athletes remained steadfast. As one of UNE’s biggest fans, he still made a difference on the sidelines. “No words can describe how much I loved seeing Coach Beaudry in the stands for our basketball games,” said women’s basketball standout Kelly Coleman ’15, D.P.T.’18. “He was a fixture: same seat on the bleachers along the baseline, game in and game out. His support, words of advice, and high fives after the games meant more to me than he’ll ever know.”
Indeed, Beaudry remained a familiar face on UNE’s Biddeford Campus well into his 90s, exercising regularly at the Campus Center and mingling with students, faculty, professional staff, alumni, and administrators.
No words can describe how much I loved seeing Coach Beaudry in the stands for our basketball games. He was a fixture: same seat on the bleachers along the baseline, game in and game out. His support, words of advice, and high fives after the games meant more to me than he’ll ever know.” – Kelly Coleman ’15, D.P.T.’18
“Encountering Jim on campus was always such a pleasant experience,” reflected UNE President James D. Herbert, Ph.D. “He always had a warm smile and kind word for everyone he met. Even into his later years, his dedication to UNE and to his own daily fitness routine were clear to see.”
Remarkably, Beaudry was able to radiate such immense warmth and friendliness despite a reserved disposition, recalled Lorrayne Carroll, who attended SFC from 1972 to 1975. And, because of that, she said, his kindness seemed all the more genuine. “He was quiet, introspective, and unassuming. He was a very special person and had a personality that is very rare in his field. He was deeply caring, and he made that care abundantly clear in the most unobtrusive ways.
Bernie O’Hara SFC ’77, who played for Beaudry on the Red Knights basketball team, also was struck by the dichotomy between Beaudry’s reserved, almost formal-appearing manner and the tremendous care he demonstrated to others. “On paper, the words Coach used to greet me when I first met him – ‘How do you do? Nice to meet you.’ – read as though they came straight from a textbook on formal etiquette,” he reminisced. “But his demeanor and tone in delivering those simple words conveyed that level of kindness and compassion that everyone who met him is familiar with, but which words will never do justice.”
… his demeanor and tone … conveyed that level of kindness and compassion that everyone who met him is familiar with, but which words will never do justice.” – Bernie O’Hara SFC ’77
Successful seasons and his entrepreneurial coaching spirit minimizes the lasting and defining impact Beaudry had on the students and alumni of St. Francis and UNE. Alumni routinely describe him as a father figure and as the reason they either came to college or stayed in college. Beaudry did not use aggressive coaching tactics to drive his athletes. Instead, he held his student-athletes to high standards based on mutual respect, and, because of that, he earned their loyalty. “Coach Beaudry was an outstanding role model of gentlemanly behavior,” said Peter Chavonelle SFC ’65. “As I grew as a coach and a person, his words inspired me throughout my life. For this, I am grateful.” Beaudry continued to be a force in the lives of his former students and athletes long after they left campus, keeping in touch with them through calls, letters, and visits when they come to town. He used to describe the UNE-SFC Alumni Weekend as his third favorite family holiday after Christmas and Thanksgiving.
Coach Beaudry was an outstanding role model of gentlemanly behavior. As I grew as a coach and a person, his words inspired me throughout my life. For this, I am grateful.” – Peter Chavonelle SFC ’65
“He was my coach; teacher; role model; and later, my friend,” said Bill Lyons SFC ’74, who played basketball for three years under the tutelage of Beaudry. “He never gave up on me, though I know I must have tested his patience. He always looked for the good, the potential, that lies within us all. His lessons were faith, family, integrity, humility, and, of course, hoops ... I have seen him work through personal tragedies without ever complaining. Quite simply, Coach Beaudry was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things. I owe him so much.”
As much a mark as he left on UNE, Beaudry’s impact extended far beyond the campus borders. During his later years, he was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame and the Maine Sports Legends Hall of Honor and was named a Maine Basketball Hall of Fame “Legend of the Game.” In 2012, Biddeford Mayor Alan Casavant named August 19, Jim’s birthday, as “James Beaudry Day” and awarded him a key to the city of Biddeford for his contribution to the people of Biddeford through his work as an educator, coach, volunteer, husband and father. In 2018, he was honored with a legislative sentiment in the Maine State House for being an “exceptional coach and even better person,” from Senator Susan Deschambault ‘71 of Biddeford who also served as Beaudry’s athletic department assistant on campus as a student.
He always looked for the good, the potential, that lies within us all. His lessons were faith, family, integrity, humility, and, of course, hoops. Quite simply, Coach Beaudry was an ordinary man who did extraordinary things.” – Bill Lyons SFC ’74
But it is at UNE that Beaudry’s legacy is most pronounced. He was named an honorary alumnus in 2001, and, in 2005, was chosen to be the charter inductee into UNE’s newly-formed Athletics Hall of Fame. In 2011, the University renamed its Campus Center gymnasium, the “James A. Beaudry Gymnasium” at a ceremony attended by Beaudry and his family as well as former players and coaches. Additionally, the men’s basketball team hosts a prestigious tournament each fall named the Jim Beaudry Classic, and the Beaudry name graces an endowed scholarship funded by St. Francis and UNE alumni.
In 2018, the University announced the creation of the James A. Beaudry Award, presented annually to a UNE student-athlete who not only demonstrates exemplary sportsmanship, but also makes a significant contribution to the Athletics Department and to campus life at the University. It was instilling this sense of community in his players and students, afterall, that was at the heart of Beaudry’s mission. Recalling a letter that he received from Beaudry during the summer after he finished high school, O’Hara said the note was intended to let him know that Beaudry had heard about all he was doing to make the varsity basketball team as a freshman and that Beaudry looked forward to seeing him on campus. “Despite nearly fifty years passing since I opened that letter, I will never forget my feelings while reading those words. It was the perfect example of the level of importance Coach placed on community: making sure he personally told as many individuals as he could, ‘You belong here.’”
Indeed, the James A. Beaudry Award encapsulates the values of its namesake, honoring those who may not necessarily have scored the most points or won the most games but who demonstrated the type of foundation of moral decency and kindness to others that will serve them for a lifetime. It is precisely the type of student that he would want to be remembered for cultivating, said O’Hara. “Coach Beaudry believed his legacy would be measured not by what students accomplished in four years at college but by whether he prepared them for what happens afterwards. He was one of a kind and will truly be missed.”
When I arrived as a first-year student in September of 1972, St. Francis College had a wonderful basketball program for the male students. I had just come from a high school girls championship team in the Bronx, so where was my place on the court?
Two key points about the founding of women’s basketball at SFC/UNE: Title IX was enacted in 1972, and implementation was going to be slow. But Coach Beaudry didn’t need federal legislation to do the right thing. Rather, he opened his office door to an unknown first-year student, who then spent 15 minutes explaining that SFC “just had to have a ‘girls’ team.’” He listened in his quiet, thoughtful way, and, when I finished my piece, he simply said, “Good idea. We don’t have money for uniforms, but we do have pinnies. I’ll find you a coach, and we’ll get a schedule of games set up.” There was enough enthusiasm in Avila Hall, so, within a week or two, SFC had its first women’s basketball team. Mr. Beaudry made it happen just like that. He listened, recognized a need, and cared enough to take action. He opened the door not just for me but for two generations of women (now in fabulous uniforms) to play the game he loved. – Lorrayne Carroll (SFC student 1972-1975)
In a very important close game, an opponent elbowed me, and I elbowed him back. Coach took me out, and I was fuming. He told me to calm down...there was not much time left. He finally called me to reenter the game, asking me if I had calmed down. I said “Yes,” but added, “If he pushes me, I’m gonna push him back.” Coach told me to sit down again. I couldn’t believe it! He did eventually put me back in. I don’t remember if we won or not, but I will never forget the lesson that coach was trying to teach a talented but very immature young man. Wins and losses were very important to coach, but never if meant sacrificing his principles. – Bill Lyons SFC ’74
Shortly after my wife and I moved to Maine in 2010 and began spending time with Mr. Beaudry, I told Debbie I couldn’t think of one particular thing I learned from Mr. Beaudry. I was thinking of classroom learning: facts, methods, techniques. But I also told my wife I couldn’t think of a teacher who was more instrumental in my formation. And then just a few years ago, I heard the same sentiment expressed in almost identical words from another St. Francis College graduate.
For the more than 50 years I’ve known Mr. Beaudry, he presented himself as an ordinary person. But he wasn’t just an ordinary person. Many people addressed him as “Coach.” He was “Mr. Beaudry” to me because “Coach,” with its athletic connotations, was too limiting. Yes, he was a coach and a beloved one, but for me he was so much more. He was a coach, an instructor, a teacher. But he wasn’t one to tell you what to do or how to do it. He showed you what to do. Mr. Beaudry taught, and he taught by example. And I, along with generations of SFC and UNE students and alumni, benefited greatly from knowing him. – Joe Valenza SFC ’68
Coach loved being the person who showed “sheltered” city kids the beauty of where they came for school. Everyone who played sports at St. Francis in the 1970s will remember that coaches drove us to and from games at the time. One of my first times riding with Coach was to a game 100 miles north at Unity College. He laughed when I told him the thing I missed most about the city was pizza. Later on in the drive, he would ask me, “O’Hara, are you awake back there?” My response was, “Yes, Coach, just looking out the window and wondering where we are.” Coach’s response to me was, “You ever hear the phrase ‘The Sticks?’” I replied, “No.” Couch laughed and said, “Well, this is it. Maine at its best.” During this exchange, I was looking at Coach in the rearview mirror and noticed his smile and heard his laughter, which was precious and would be greatly appreciated for many years to come. Coach’s sense of humor, laughter, and the smile in his eyes will never be forgotten.” – Bernie O’Hara SFC ’77
Almost every day I got on the bus after school, Mr. Labonte would ask where I was getting off, and my favorite answer was “St Francis.” I literally grew up on that campus, and for this 10-year-old, it was like going to Disneyland. Whether it was roaming the halls of Decary, shooting hoops in the gym, or chasing down errant soccer balls during a game, I was in heaven. Despite the myriad of challenges faced while starting a sports program from scratch on a shoestring budget, I know that Dad felt that exact same way. He loved going to work, interacting with colleagues and students, and building the foundation of what is now the robust and successful UNE Athletics program. He gleamed with pride every time we walked into the the Forum for a game or to watch Coach Silva or Coach Ewing run a practice and loved to take out-of-town visitors on a driving tour of the campus to see all the updated facilities. But what warmed his heart the most was his relationships with the students and hearing about their success and their families. Alumni weekend was his favorite time of year. So even though he is gone, please know that he is looking down with that big smile, proud to have been both a Red Knight and Nor'easter. – Jim Beaudry Jr.
It was wonderful growing up going to work with Dad and being with our St. Francis family! I have fond memories of roaming the halls saying “hi” to everyone, eating in the cafeteria, going to basketball games, and on the ski trips on the bus with all the “big guys.” Boy, did I think I was pretty cool! The guys always made me feel like I was part of the gang. It was great when they would come over and babysit us, have dinners, or sleep on the couch. As I said before, they were part of the family!
Dad loved his time at St. Francis and then UNE. He loved hearing from all of his players and their families and the lifelong connections he fostered. He loved Alumni Weekends and his connections with the coaches who followed him and their players. The smile on his face when he would be in a gym coaching or watching basketball was priceless (if they were winning)!
He will always be our coach, friend, and biggest cheerleader. He is now coaching us from the biggest seat above! – Becky Marshall
My dad "belonged" at St. Francis and, therefore, so did I. And it was a warm and pretty fun place to belong. Because I was Jim Beaudry's daughter, I always felt that I had free reign to roam around campus. I spent lots of time hanging out in "the cage" with Sue Deschambeault, stopping to chat with Aunt Georgette at the switchboard and with Mrs. Nelson in her office and, of course, in the gym. As a teenager, when I had weekend plans that prevented me from attending the usual Mass times, I was directed by my mom to go over to the Newman Center at St. Francis and sit and talk with Fr. George and whatever students attended. I soon found out that this was the kind of Mass I liked! My father's connection to St. Francis was kept alive by the relationships he forged with people there and have lasted to this day. Many of these relationships have transferred to my siblings and me, which we treasure deeply. Dad was also welcomed into the UNE community, and his connection to the school continued and meant a lot to him. He was proud to see it grow and thrive and continued to make lasting relationships there. It was, and continues to be, a great place to belong. – Beth Beaudry Stilphen