Is your team photo on the wall of the Sabina Cain Family Athletic Center? You probably have Couchie to thank for it.
What kind of hat was favored by the 1893 football team’s manager? (A jaunty silk top hat.) What sports didn’t exist when Williston Academy was founded? (Several, including volleyball and ultimate.) Just ask Williston stalwart Bob Couch ’50, who, after graduating from Williston Academy, returned to campus as a teacher from 1957 to 1997. Generations of alumni remember Couch (who is known to most as Couchie) as a math and photography teacher and coach, but his longest–running Williston role is as varsity team photographer, a role he has performed for 60 years (with, he admits, a short gap after his retirement). The collection of Couchie’s photographs was originally housed in the Reed Campus Center (the former gym); upon construction of the new gym, the photos were moved, at the urging of a group of alumni.
It has long been a labor of love for Couchie. After he takes the photographs each season, Couchie sends the photos to the coaches, who provide the names of their players. The prints are dry-mounted on foam core, the mats are cut for each one, and the captions are attached to the mats. The final product is then inserted into the frames behind safety glass. The photos remain processed in black and white, despite the recent availability of archival color printing and Couch’s switch to digital photography in 2007—choices that he and the Athletic Department feel give the collection a cohesive, classy look.
The six decades–long process hasn’t been without its hiccups, of course. If you find yourself strolling the hallways among these photos (a feature unique to Williston, Couchie will have you know), stop a moment at 1973 Boys Swimming and Diving to observe that there are not one, but two pictures of this team. Why not fix this 46-year-old error? Couchie understandably replies, “You move one, you have to move them all!” Stop at 1965 Skiing, and you’ll see the unfortunate fate of one Williston athlete: “This guy ran into a tree and broke both arms,” Couchie notes. “He had to have another kid help him with everything!”
The 1,857 team photos displayed in the Athletic Center represent a feat as worthy as any touchdown or game-winning slap shot—the kind that might’ve been made by Bob Couch, his warm face grinning from the photo of the 1950 Boys Hockey Team, taking his place in the school’s long and storied history.