Westfield State University lost a legend this week when former men's soccer coach John Kurty died Tuesday, after being hit by a car on his bike near campus.
Kurty may have coached his last soccer game in 1977, but his impact on the team and the university's athletic program is one that is still being felt today.
"He was really the epitome of what a mentor should be," said WSU athletics director Richard Lenfest.
The soccer coach led the men's team from 1966 to 1977, including a trip to the 1974 NCAA tournament.
"He was the type of coach that demanded respect, but he did so through his knowledge and his demeanor," said Lenfest. "He was not the kind of coach that was a screamer or yeller."
Kurty was also respected amongst his peers.
In 1977, he was on the hiring committee that brought in professor David Laing.
"He loved Westfield State and loved the students," said Laing. "I do not think there was ever a student who had a class with John that ever complained about what he taught, or how he taught, or how fair he was to everyone."
Everyone saw Kurty's respect for his student-athletes when he was inducted into Westfield State's Hall of Fame, as a member of its charter class in 1994.
"I have had the pleasure of coaching many talented athletes," said Kurty at the time. "I would like to feel that I am accepting this honor on their behalf. They are the ones who have made this possible for me."
Kurty won close to 80 percent of his games while coaching at the school, and he played on a Penn State national championship team in the 1950s.
That successful influence continues in Westfield.
"In the athletics world, his contributions will not be forgotten," Lenfest stated.
In Western Mass, Kurty's impact on soccer stretched well beyond Westfield State.
For 10 years the Ludlow native coached at Ludlow High School, where he led his team to three consecutive state championships.
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