Memories of Coach Bob Northrop | St. Lawrence University President's Office

Memories of Coach Bob Northrop

Where to begin...there is no way eloquent or succinct enough to say how amazing, warm and loving Coach was.  He helped me become a better swimmer and person.  The happy work ethic that Coach and Sue inspired in the pool echoes still thru my life.  Back in 1994, I was all set to go to a different college until I interviewed with Coach and I decided St. Lawrence was the place for me.  The swim team was my family and Coach and Sue like second parents.  Not having the best relationship with my own father at times, Coach was the "Dad" of my choosing. He gave the best bear hugs and knew how to encourage with a smile and laughter.  I am so honored to have known him, to have had Bob and Sue at my wedding, and to have had my daughter Lauren meet Coach even though she was little, her first "swim" happened at St. Lawrence with Coach and Sue looking on.  Bob touched so many lives and I am so very sorry for his passing.  I cannot imagine him gone - so I will continue to think of him in the North Country hiking or to his next adventure.  A light was extinguished in the wilderness but has been ignited in our star-lit sky.
~With all my love and gratitude, Annie (Anne Emory Declerck '99)

Coach Northrop epitomized everything a coach should be.  So many fun memories of my college years involved activities he organized.  He loved the outdoors and physical fitness.  His life reflected these in so many ways.  Those of us who spent time with him were truly blessed.
~April Gates '89

In the 70's, Bob and I went fishing many times together in my Adirondack guide boat.  One day, he mentioned that he was a fighter pilot and that it was the best ride ever -- his words were: "our officers told us to turn the plane upside down, flip it and see what the plane can do.  It was the best ever, the best Jersey Boardwalk ride imaginable. Then one day I realized that I would someday have to fire the weapons upon others.  On that day I landed the plane and walked away....."  That day defined the man that he was -- Bob had a strong conviction of his beliefs and a caring for the lives of others, no matter their country.  That is why he was such a impressionable coach.  We should so be remembered for standing behind our beliefs.  Another memory:  At the time Bob was the financial aid director at St. Lawrence.  Bob and Betsey, Donna and I spent a weekend in Ottawa at the Chateau Laurier.  On the fourth floor 1920's built pool, we spent an evening convincing him to give up his administrative job and become the St. Lawrence swim coach -- he did and a generation of swimmers benefited from his compassion. Amen.
~John Clark '69

I was fortunate enough to swim for Coach Northrop the first 3 years he coached.  He was an amazing man and the best kind of coach.  He didn't care how fast you were, just how hard you worked to do your personal best.  If you were willing to put in the effort, he would do all that he could to help you realize your potential.  He wasn't just a coach but a true part of the team.  He truly cared about every member of the team.  It was a privilege to swim for him and he is a part of many of my best memories from my time at SLU.
~Rick Hare '80

Although Coach Northrop had retired when I arrived at St. Lawrence in 2001, he was a huge fan of the Swimming program.  Bob would stop in and say hello during Saturday practices or come by one of our home meets.  Coach Bob would periodically send me "good luck" postcards before championship meets and was always interested in what I was doing on campus.  When I qualified for NCAA's in 2004, Coach Bob wrote me a postcard that I have to this day about how proud he was for the program.  He was always thrilled to talk about the Adirondacks and we often shared our favorite hikes and canoe adventures. I will miss Bob and I'm forever grateful for his advice and mentorship over the years.
~Michael Murray '06

I had been an age group swimmer but I went to St. Lawrence intent on playing basketball, which I did my freshman year.  During the spring of my freshman year I took a water safety course so I could get work as a lifeguard.  Coach was the instructor and he convinced me to join the swim team.  That was one of the best decisions I've made in my life and I'll always be grateful to him for that as swimming has since then been a major part of my life and of my kids' lives.  It would not have been if not for Coach.  I know our teams during my time there must have driven him crazy - we were sometimes not very well behaved - including some memorable van rides coming back from away meets!  But Coach took it all in stride in that mellow, laid back style he had and was always supportive and there for us.  He was a major reason why I loved my time at St. Lawrence and I am very sad to learn of his passing.  Sue, I am so sorry for your loss - Bob was a really, really good man and I remember the two of you being so great together.  I've no doubt that Coach has affected many, many young lives in a positive way and that that's been paid forward.  I know that's true for me.
~Bill Pribis '88

I owe so very much to Coach.  In a nut shell, without him, his guidance, his love of St. Lawrence and the swim program, I never would have stepped foot on campus.  He convinced me to visit, picked me up at the smallest airport I had ever seen at the time, Ogdensburg, brought me to campus for a visit and introduced me to people that would become my family.  I flew back home and announced that I was going to SLU. (Sight unseen by my family).  Without him, I would not have met my husband, some dear friends and learned what hard work and fun can accomplish.  He and Sue were my second family while at SLU.  Having dinner at their house, meeting me to just check in, he could just look at you and know if you had enough sleep, were eating the right meals or perhaps drinking a bit too much.  He never preached, you just wanted to earn his respect.  You wanted to accomplish great things because he inspired you to do so.  Sue, we are so sorry for your loss.  He was a great man and inspired so many.  God Bless you coach!
~Krissie Bonin '90

I was never a terribly good swimmer.  Probably a combination of starting too late in life and poor mechanics.  So I decided not to try out for the team my freshman year at SLU.  But I missed swimming, so I sought out Coach and nervously spoke to him sophomore year.  He asked me my high school times, nodded, and said "well, we can improve on those."  That was enough for me.  In the pool, he determined that my strokes were too short, so he worked with me on lengthening them, and for the next three years, each year, my times improved significantly. Far beyond, in fact, what I could have imagined.  During races, as I was tiring and I'd slip back into my old habit, I'd take a breath, and there would be coach, walking alongside me on the pool deck, one arm at his side, and the other, reaching toward the sky.  I don't compete any more, but some thirty years later I swim a few mornings a week in a Masters program.  Toward the end of particularly hard practices, when I feel my strokes shortening, I still picture Coach on the pool deck, one arm at his side, and the other one reaching.  Always reaching.
~Kevin Ryan '87