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A message from Headmaster Willy MacMullen '78, P'14, '16
It is with the greatest sadness that I share that Taft has lost a legend, Larry Stone, who passed away at 91 this week.
It is hard to know where to begin in describing Larry's legacy. Many graduates knew him forever as "Coach Stone," and scores point to him as a transformational figure, someone they have never forgotten, someone who shaped them into the adults they became.
Larry, of course, was the athletic director and football and baseball coach, and he served Taft from 1962 to 1996. Family was always first for Larry, and thousands of families first came to know the school when they were greeted on their admissions visit by Lu in the Harley Roberts Room. Larry and Lu sent their four children (Mike '74, Kelly '76, Jimmy '83 and Katie '84) to Taft. The Taft and Stone families have been about as close as it gets.
In his years, Larry became a legendary coach. He was tough, old-school, demanding—but in a way that made athletes want to get better and strive to meet what seemed like impossibly high standards. He embodied sportsmanship and class, in "doing it right." And his teams were very good: disciplined, tough, competitive. They had to have, in his unique vocabulary, "moxie." Perhaps no coach was able to get more out of his players. His ability to draw greatness out of every player was special. Lance Odden captures it perfectly. Here's what he shared this week:
When Larry Stone arrived, Taft's was the weakest athletic program in New England. He left it at the top. As a coach he was the best, writing records never to be equaled in Football and Baseball. Incredibly, Larry was never a recruiter. He accepted whomever Cunningham and Wandelt brought in and turned them into competitors. The key to his success was that he was an inspirational teacher who brought out the very best in all. Yes, he was demanding, but his players loved him for all he stood for.
As an athletic director, Larry was deeply respected in the landscape outside of Taft. He was a leader, and he embodied all that is best about sports in our schools. He always advanced Taft's interests, but with a fairness and camaraderie that marks our league still. Among athletic directors, Taft became known as a school with the finest in play, coaching and facilities in New England--and that reputation endures today.
After Larry retired, he and Lu moved into a house directly across campus. Larry was a regular visitor and a loyal fan. There was a caring and warmth, for students and the school, that made you feel very special. When I would introduce him to a boy or girl, usually on the sideline or in the gym, I always offered, "I want you to meet Coach Stone. He's one of the greatest teachers this school has ever known." Larry would smile, eyes crinkling, lean forward, a strong as ever, shake a hand and ask, in his New Hampshire accent, "How did the game go today?"
Great educators leave a mark that can never be erased. Coach Stone's legacy is everywhere: permanent, constant, strong. Taft was profoundly lucky to have him serve and lead, in such an inspiring fashion, for so long. We have lost a legend.
The Stones plan on a service in New Hampshire on October 23, and we will post details when we have them. In addition, it is their desire to celebrate Larry's life at our Alumni Weekend in the spring. We will do so, and I so look forward to sharing stories about this great man.
As a postscript, the Stone family and the school have received letters from alumni reflecting on Larry's life and the impact on those he knew. Excerpted below is one such note the Stones received from an alumnus who played football at Taft.
"I wasn't an amazing athlete, but decent. Wasn't an amazing student either, but decent. B athlete, B student. Your father changed my life and is a huge part of who I am today. It was really everything he did, especially the little things. He used to say that football, like life, was black and white. You either got there and made the tackle, or you didn't. He taught me the value of discipline and process, and of the amazing things that repetition can accomplish... Today I run an executive search firm in the super competitive technology space. I founded the company 12 years ago. My business is all about process, repetition, and discipline. It's entirely responsible for our success. You either get the job done, or you don't. It's about results. I will forever be thankful to your father for giving me this amazing gift. I am now an A+ Father, husband and businessman, and Larry Stone is a big reason why I am who I am today. I am welling up as I write to you these final thoughts, and only mention it so you know how much he has meant to me, and now indirectly to my own family. He has touched so many lives and his legacy will last for generations to come. My condolences to you and your family - thank you for sharing with all of us this truly remarkable and special man."