January 20, 2017

No Mere Team: 70 Years of Men’s Lacrosse

by Andrew Clark

For Bernard Clair ’73, lacrosse was far more than just a hobby between classes. From his close, long-lasting friendships with teammates to the valuable tutelage of Hall of Fame coach Paul (Doc) Doherty, he says that his time on the team helped shape him as a player—and as a person.

“It kept me grounded; I had to be both a good student and play ball,” said Clair, a New York-based matrimonial lawyer whose cases with billionaire clients have garnered headline coverage, of his time on the team.

“It launched my maturity level to the next step: law school.”

Stories like Clair’s are common among former Adelphi lacrosse players. For many, this wasn’t just a team, but a family they’ve been part of since stepping foot on campus. And as the program gears up for its 70th anniversary, generations of alumni are staying connected through speaking at events, endowing scholarships, attending games or remaining close with former teammates.

One of Clair’s former teammates, Thomas F. Motamed ’71—chairman and CEO of CNA Financial as well as an Adelphi trustee and benefactor and namesake of Motamed Field—echoed his sentiments, noting that having a network of support was crucial during his college days.

“When you are an athlete, you have to make sacrifices and train hard,” Motamed said, adding that he’s stayed in touch with teammates and coaches since graduating.

“It can be very time consuming. When you’re on a team, everyone gives a lot of themselves for the team. You can’t be selfish. You build a bond with people.” 

For some, playing lacrosse at Adelphi truly is a family affair. Gary Reh ’95 came to Adelphi after watching his brothers Jeff ’90 and Scott ’89 star on the field. He said seeing his older brothers make a run at the national title in the NCAA tournament inspired him to head to Garden City.

“My brothers got so close and my goal was to go there and get to the Final Four,” he said.

Adelphi switched from Division I to Division II before Gary had the opportunity to pursue his dream of playing in a Final Four, but he was still part of two national titles during his time on the team. And for him, it was special to be part of a storied program that has won seven championships since its founding.

“It was unbelievable,” said Gary of his time on the team. “There were so many friends and bonds I made at Adelphi.”

Over the years, alumni have stayed involved in a number of ways. Don Loughlin ’50—who was one of the team’s first players—and teammate Paul Kittay ’49 set up a scholarship for a current team member. For Loughlin, his love of the game and fondness of Adelphi inspired him to help out.

“There were good people at Adelphi and it was a wonderful time in my life,” he said.

Lou Flego ’55 joined the team less than a decade after Loughlin helped start it. As the football team was preparing to cease operations, Flego wanted to play another contact sport. His friends persuaded him to give lacrosse a try. It didn’t take long for Flego to pick up the game. He became an All-American goalie and was inducted into Adelphi’s inaugural Hall of Fame class in 1961. Flego went on to coach Adelphi for nearly a decade, a tenure that saw 10 of his players earn All-American honors.

Like Loughlin, he’s stayed in contact with the team and has also served on committees throughout the years; he notes that it’s important to remain part of the program.

“It was time to pay back,” said Flego, who won the Ruth S. Harley Distinguished Alumni Achievement Award in 2015. “After coaching the team, there was a great opportunity for me to be supportive.”

It’s not unusual for lacrosse alumni to keep close ties with the program. Former players, like Clair, have come back to speak to the team. In fact, current head coach Gordon Purdie ’89 said that he speaks on a daily basis with former players who want to stay involved with the program.

A two-time All-American, Purdie came from Australia to play lacrosse at Adelphi. It was quite a change for him, said Purdie, adding that he was the first to ever leave his country to play the game in America. At first he had to adjust to the challenge of playing nearly every day of the week while balancing his schoolwork. But after that first year, Purdie knew he made the right choice.

“I fell in love with the campus, the people and the coaching staff here,” Purdie said. “And now I’ve made it my home.”

Purdie is now in his eighth season as head coach of the Panthers. And for him, his connection with the program runs even deeper now, as his son Gordon Jr. is entering his second year with the team.

“I wore the number nine when I was here and he is also wearing number nine,” Purdie said. 

For Purdie, there’s something special about being able to share this connection with his own son, as he knows the enduring impact that Adelphi lacrosse can have on someone’s life.

“His life has revolved around lacrosse. He attended almost every game once I got the job here. He’s got a passion and desire to be part of the program.”

Adelphi celebrated the 70th anniversary of its men’s lacrosse team with a cocktail reception on Saturday, January 28, 2017. As part of the celebration, we will honored coaches Paul “Doc” Doherty, Kevin Sheehan, Sandy Kapatos and Gordon Purdie ’89.

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About Adelphi: A modern metropolitan university with a personalized approach to higher learning

Adelphi University, New York, is a highly awarded, nationally ranked, powerfully connected doctoral research university dedicated to transforming students’ lives through small classes with world-class faculty, hands-on learning and innovative ways to support academic and career success. Adelphi offers exceptional liberal arts and sciences programs and professional training, with particular strength in our Core Four—Arts and Humanities, STEM and Social Sciences, the Business and Education Professions, and Health and Wellness.

Recognized as a Best College by U.S. News & World Report, Adelphi is Long Island’s oldest private coeducational university. It serves almost 8,000 students at its beautiful main campus in Garden City, New York—just 23 miles from New York City’s cultural and internship opportunities—and at dynamic learning hubs in Manhattan, the Hudson Valley and Suffolk County, as well as online. 

More than 116,000 Adelphi graduates have gained the skills to thrive professionally as active, engaged citizens, making their mark on the University, their communities and the world.

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