It was Paul Assaiante’s moment to shine – and shine he did – but Dean of Faculty Thomas Mitzel may have provided the most accurate description of what the men’s squash coach has meant to Trinity College. “He is quickly becoming a legend,” said Mitzel in his introduction of Assaiante. With 14 national championships in 16 years, Mitzel said, “Paul has built an amazing record.”
Few could, or would, dare to argue with that. On Thursday afternoon, scores of alumni, parents, friends, faculty, staff and students honored Assaiante, who is only the second person at Trinity to sit in an endowed chair named for him. Formerly an associate professor of physical education, Assaiante is now the Paul D. Assaiante Professor of Physical Education, as well as the men’s squash and tennis coach.
As such, Assaiante was required to give an inaugural lecture, which he did at the George A. Kellner Squash Center in the Ferris Athletic Center. Assaiante began by noting the event was “a celebration of the fact that for the first time in Trinity’s history, a chair has been endowed for a position in the Physical Education Department.”
To underscore that point, Assaiante added, “This is a very big deal for our department.”
Although his lecture was entitled, “College Athletics Today: Losing Ownership of Their Journey,” Assaiante spent the first few minutes talking about his unmitigated joy at having worked as a coach at the U.S. Military Academy in West Point and then at Trinity.
“Confucius said, ‘he who loves what he does can never find work’,” Assaiante said. “For 40 years, I have not worked a day in my life because I have had the great fortune of doing what I love. It is me who needs to be thanking the College and the donors who made this professorship possible.”
The Assaiante Professorship exists because of the philanthropy of dozens of individual alumni, parents, and friends who contributed to its endowment. Fundraising for the chair began in 2011, led by Edward C. ‘Ted’ Rorer ’65, P’91, working with Paul E. Raether ’68, P’93, P’96, P’01.
A trustee of the College since 2004, Rorer was on the varsity squash team while a student at Trinity. In 2001, he returned to his other alma mater, Chestnut Hill Academy, to coach its squash team to an undefeated season, earning induction into Chestnut Hill’s sports hall of fame. Rorer graduated from Trinity with a B.A. in religion and earned his MBA from The Wharton School at the University of Pennsylvania. He is chair of Copeland Capital Management, an investment advisory firm. Rorer and his wife, Sallie, reside in Villanova, PA.
Assaiante is not only an incredibly successful coach, but an author. In 2010, Assaiante wrote, with co-author James Zug, Run to the Roar: Coaching to Overcome Fear. At the time, Assaiante said, “This is not a book about squash. It is about leadership. It is about pride, about instinct, control, about anger management, about talent, about mentoring. These are universal issues that every parent and every coach faces.”
His lecture Thursday echoed some of those themes, particularly the life’s journey that all students embark on.
“If young people are not given ownership, they cannot learn valuable life lessons,” he said. “The problem is that young people are not given enough ownership of their journey. Parents are not allowing their children to fail or stumble.”
Turning to the members of the squash and tennis teams who sat on all sides of the stage, Assaiante told them that he loves them
whether they win or lose, although one thing he has never accepted “is anything less than their total effort.”
Alluding to the men’s squash team’s recent loss to Harvard in the national championship match, Assaiante said it was a case of Harvard “being better than us.” But he promised, “We will be back.”
Before that loss, Trinity had won 14 of 15 national championships and, at one point, 252 consecutive matches, the longest winning streak in collegiate varsity sports history.
Again, addressing the students, Assaiante strongly advised them to make wise choices. “Put nothing on Facebook that you wouldn’t want your grandmother to see.” He also warned against binge drinking. “Drinking until you black out – why is that a good idea? We can’t protect you from yourselves. Live your life to the fullest but take responsibility for your actions. You’ll find that life will be much kinder if you do that.”
A member of the Trinity faculty since 1994, Assaiante has been the coach of the U.S. national squash team as well as the U.S. Olympic Coach of the Year.
Photos by John Atashian. For additional photos, click here.