2013-10-18 / Neighbors

Strength of mind, body always the goal

Resident named to Maine Sports Legend Hall
By Michael Kelley Staff Writer


Paul Zdanowicz poses with an engraved glass bowl he received for being named to the Maine Sports Legends Hall of Honor last weekend in Augusta. The group honors individuals who have made contributions toward improving academics and athletics for children. (Courtesy photo) Paul Zdanowicz poses with an engraved glass bowl he received for being named to the Maine Sports Legends Hall of Honor last weekend in Augusta. The group honors individuals who have made contributions toward improving academics and athletics for children. (Courtesy photo) Scarborough resident Paul Zdanowicz has spent a lifetime strengthening the minds and bodies of countless students in Maine and beyond.

That life-long dedication was recognized Sunday, Oct. 13, when Zdanowicz was named to the Maine Sports Legends Hall of Honor.

The Maine Sports Legends started 20 years ago to honor individuals for their contribution to youth athletics and academics and to raise money for scholarships for high school athletes.

“It was a great pleasure,” Zdanowicz said of the ceremony in which he was given an engraved glass bowl, a Maine Sports Legends patch and a monogrammed fleece jacket. “It was a great honor. I had my two sisters there. I had my two daughters and three granddaughters and my son-in-law. I knew many of the previous inductees, so it was a great honor to share this with them.”

Zdanowicz said academics and athletics go hand in hand in making sure students are healthy both mentally and physically. Zdanowicz, who earned a degree in French from Bowdoin College, highlighted this notion in his acceptance speech.

“They go together,” he said of the mind and body. “In my remarks I quoted (French Renaissance writer Michel de) Montaigne, who said the mind and the body must be treated as one. The mind is better if the body is strong and the body is better if the mind is strong. You need them both.”

Zdanowicz, who has lived in Scarborough for 17 years with his wife, Norrie, played on championship football and basketball teams at Portland High School in 1943 and 1944. Upon graduation, Zdanowicz enlisted in the Navy and served in the Pacific Theater during World War II. During the war, Zdanowicz participated in the liberation of the Philippines Islands and the occupation of Japan.

After the war, he went to the University of Maine for a year before transferring to Bowdoin College, where he played football and basketball. After his graduation in 1949, Zdanowicz knew he wanted to pursue a career in education and coaching.

“I enjoyed (sports) when I was in school,” Zdanowicz said. “I started playing sports as a 9-yearold at the Portland Boys and Girls Club. It seemed like the most natural thing in the world for me to do.”

In 1949, Zdanowicz returned to Portland High School, where he taught French and served as the junior varsity football coach and freshman basketball coach.

Zdanowicz was the superintendent of schools in Methuen, Mass for 20 years. During the time, Zdanowicz made the athletic program one of the best in the state and improved access to athletics for girls.

“We had an athletic program at the bottom of the heap,” he said. “One of my duties was to improve it. We went from 107th place in the state to first place for three consecutive years.” The rankings, he said, were based on winloss record and sports participation. At that time, the program grew to include 600 athletes in 21 sports.

For his efforts Zdanowicz was inducted in the Methuen High School Athletic Hall of Fame.

In 1982, Zdanowicz earned a Governor’s Citation from former Massachusetts governor Edward J. King for his work in Title IX, the federal mandate that ensured girls had the same access to athletics as boys.

Zdanowicz said he tried to pass along four simple, yet important life lessons he learned through athletics.

In his acceptance speech, Zdanowicz mentioned two men he met early in his life who taught him lessons he would never forget.

The first, Jim Beaudry, he met 77 years ago when he joined the Portland Boys and Girls Club.

Zdanowicz said Beaudry told him he would learn two lessons that day: that “a winner never quits” and “an honorable victory or none.”

“Aren’t those two great things to live by, honor and stick-to-it-ness,” Zdanowicz told the audience.

Years later, while at Bowdoin College, he learned another lesson that would stick with him. Kenneth Sills, the eighth president of the college, told the football team one day, “You have won enough to make us proud, but lost enough to keep us humble.”

From that day forward, Zdanowicz said he lived by those mantras: honor, never giving up, pride and humility and instilled those values in the players he coached over his career.

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