MANCHESTER >> Two brand new soccer fields were dedicated and named for two influential coaches and teachers during a Saturday ceremony at Rec Park.
Joe McClellan and the late John Eckhardt were teachers and coaches at Burr and Burton Academy, and influenced generations of students in both athleticism and academics, according to testimonials presented at the field dedication ceremony, which was attended by many friends and family members of both.
According to Mark Tashjian, headmaster at Burr & Burton Academy, McClellan taught American History at BBA from 1960 until his retirement in 2004, in the same classroom throughout.
He was also the football coach, and influenced hundreds of student athletes, according to Seth Bongartz, chairman of the BBA board of trustees.
"He is deeply deserving of this recognition," Bongartz said. "He made it all interesting and joyous, and he was deeply influential on my life. Thank you from all of us."
Manchester Select Board Chairman Ivan Beattie spoke of John Eckhardt with nostalgia, as he was one of Eckhardt's students.
He described Eckhardt as a soldier, teacher and coach, noting that he had graduated West Point, served as a platoon leader in the infantry and a Green Beret, was a champion pistol marksman, served in the CIA in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War, and between all that was a teacher and soccer and wrestling coach at BBA. He was also a ski instructor at Stratton.
"I feel deeply honored, privileged and somewhat humbled" to reminisce on Eckhardt's legacy. Beattie said.
Lynn Eckhardt, the late coach's widow, said the family is touched by the town's offer to name a soccer field in her husband's name.
"I cannot tell you how much of an honor this is for all of us," she said from the podium perched between the two new fields, with the new scoreboards bearing the two coaches' names in the background. "My husband used to say an athletic field is just another classroom."
According to John O'Keefe, Manchester town manager, the plan for the new fields was in the very early stages of discussion three years ago. The $350,000 project was paid for entirely with donations from 26 community members and local businesses, including $125,000 from Derry Taylor and $75,000 from BBA.
The installation started in June, and fields have been in use for a couple of weeks.
O'Keefe noted that the fields will alleviate the pressure on the other fields at Rec Park, and will likely attract soccer and lacrosse tournaments in the future.