It is a great honor to be inducted into the Williston Northampton Hall of Fame, especially in the company of my daughter, Kate, and son, David; my classmates from the class of ’62, celebrating our 55th Reunion; and my coaches, Ray Brown and Rick Francis. I have to say right away that returning to Williston Northampton and to my hometown evokes a flood of memories. Therefore, I’ve written out these remarks to keep myself within a certain time limit.
I grew up in this town and lived just down the road, at 10 Park Street, across from the town library. When I was nine, my father, who was a doctor—a general practitioner—in this town, took me by the hand and walked with me to the Williston Junior School for my entrance exam. One month later, he died very suddenly. My mother, Agnes Macdonald, faced a difficult decision: whether to stay and raise my sisters and me in Easthampton or return to Scotland, her homeland, where she had lots of family and support. Right at that critical time, Phillips Stevens, headmaster of Williston, visited my mother and offered a full scholarship for me. He also went to the headmistresses of Northampton School for Girls, Miss Whitaker and Miss Bement, to arrange scholarships for my sisters, Jill and Heather. I like to say, “My mother was not a Scot for nothing!” She cared deeply about education, and she knew its value. Thus, we stayed in Easthampton, and I came to Williston.
My passion for sport was boundless—and a little crazy! When I was a boy, I played all the time with my friends Dicky Shepardson, Dave Stevens, Chuck Vernon, Tom Zavorski, and others. Most often we played on this campus, which we considered our personal playground. But I even took my games indoors: dribbled a basketball in the basement of our house, up the stairs, into the kitchen, faked left, drove right past my mother! One night, practicing my baseball swing in the living room, I took a cut at a low outside pitch and smashed to smithereens my mother’s favorite majolica flower vase, which just happened to be sitting on the coffee table. My mother was concerned. She would often sit me down and read to me the latest editorials of James Reston and Walter Lippmann. I don’t know how much I absorbed then, but the lesson of balance, mind and body, stayed with me.
I was fortunate that Williston had a strong athletic program, and that I grew up with so many great guys and teammates. I was just as lucky to find here teacher/coaches who took an interest in me and helped me develop confidence in myself. Their care and encouragement of me, as a boy growing up without a father, meant more than I can express. I owe so much to Charlie Duggan, a fabulous teacher/coach in Junior School; Dan Carpenter, my algebra teacher, baseball coach, and ever- cheerful next door neighbor; Rick Francis, my basketball coach, who also arranged a summer job for me as a camp counselor on the Cape, at Camp Monomoy; and Ray Brown, who spent countless hours after practice kicking soccer balls at me to make me a better goalkeeper. Just as important, he also spent countless hours patiently listening to whatever was on my mind. Finally, I was most fortunate in my choice of professions: teaching, coaching, and administration. That choice was profoundly affected by my experience growing up here, and going to this school in my hometown. I am ever grateful.
Editor’s note: David Felsen ’62 delivered this address when he was inducted into the Athletic Hall of Fame during Reunion 2017.