The Coach John Kurty Scholarship for Movement Science
“You have to be the first one there and the last one to leave because the kids need you.”
That was Coach John Kurty’s credo, and it had a profound impact on the thousands of young people he mentored throughout his life, especially during his 22 years as a coach and physical education instructor at Westfield State.
The University lost its legendary coach, teacher, ambassador and father figure Nov. 6, 2012, when he was killed by a pickup truck while taking his daily bicycle ride on Western Avenue near Stanley Park. He was 86. Kurty’s untimely death shocked and saddened his many friends, former colleagues, and players. They took solace, however, in the fact that he will always be someone special in their lives.
“He was a saint,” said Mike Gauthier ’79, who played soccer for Kurty at Westfield State in the late 1970s. Paul Whalley ’75, a senior captain on the 1974 Westfield State team, recalls Kurty as the perfect mentor, possessing a quiet but demanding demeanor.
“Coach Kurty was a great coach and even a greater person,” said Whalley, who followed in Kurty’s footsteps by coaching Westfield State’s highly successful men’s soccer team for six years (1997-2002). “He taught us to win and lose with class, dignity and grace. When I became a coach, he was the standard for the way I wanted to behave. I never reached that level; however, he inspired a clear vision of what a coach should be. “In the 41 years that I knew Coach Kurty, no matter who I mentioned him to, they said what a great guy he was. No one ever had a bad thing to say about coach, probably because in my 41 years, I never heard him say a bad thing about anyone.”
Kurty was the first coach inducted into the Westfield State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1994 as a member of the charter class. “This is the first time I’ve felt 10 feet tall in a long time,” he proudly and humbly stated during his Hall of Fame acceptance speech. Kurty, who retired from the Westfield State faculty as a physical education instructor in 1988, compiled a brilliant record of 153 wins, 36 losses and 13 ties in coaching the Westfield State men’s soccer team from 1966 to 1977.
At the time of his retirement, his .790 winning percentage was the highest of any coach, active or retired, in all New England divisions. Kurty led the Owls to five straight NCAA Tournament appearances and three New England state championships. His 1974 squad finished third in the nation, the first team in school history to reach the Final Four.
Kurty also coached golf for 10 years and volleyball for seven at Westfield State, and he was a volunteer assistant for the baseball team. Kurty came to Westfield State from his home town of Ludlow, where he coached the high school soccer team to a 10-year record of 150 wins, 19 loss and 19 ties and three consecutive state championships.
A standout athlete, Kurty graduated from Penn State University and was a star fullback on two NCAA national championship soccer teams. “Coach Kurty was an amazing and very humble man,” said Whalley. “I played soccer for him for four years and one year of volleyball. I never knew that he won a national soccer championship at Penn State and was an All-American there until years later when I was submitting a recommendation for his entry into the National Coaches Association Hall of Fame. Whenever he talked, he talked about his players and how they made him successful.”
In his retirement years, Kurty was an avid golfer and an umpire for local college and high school baseball games. In addition, he was the clock operator at Westfield State basketball games for many years.
“He was a legendary coach, but he was an even better person who was very loyal to Westfield State, even in his retirement years,” said Westfield State Athletics Director Richard Lenfest.