Honoring Neil

Published 7:09 pm Sunday, July 17, 2011

About 40 people packed the Alden Community Museum Sunday to honor one of the town’s most beloved figures. -- Andrew Dyrdal

About 40 people packed the Alden Community Museum Sunday to honor one of the town’s most beloved figures.

Neil Pierce, a longtime Alden and Alden-Conger High School athletic director and baseball coach, met with family and friends, former players and opponents during a three-hour long open house to celebrate his latest achievement.

Pierce was inducted in April into the Minnesota Athletic Administrators Hall of Fame after serving as an athletic director for 36 years. He was inducted last year into the Minnesota State High School Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame but said his latest distinction has a different meaning.

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“Athletic directors work behind the scenes,” Pierce said. “Everybody assumes teams, referees and ticket holders just show up. It takes a lot of organization.”

Pierce started at Alden High School in 1963 and became athletic director in 1964. He said he enjoyed the job, especially working with colleagues from different schools.

“When you get an award like this you’re honored by your peers,” Pierce said. “They thought enough of you to feel you deserved this honor.”

Pierce was inducted into the hall of fame with one other former athletic director, but was unable to attend the banquet because he was on vacation in Florida.

After an hour Sunday of cookies, coffee and conversation, Stu Potter, former Alden-Conger band director, read notes sent by two of Pierce’s teammates from his two alma matters — Freeborn High School and Gustavus Adolphus College.

Jim Beach, Pierce’s high school teammate, said “Neil was the same type of high school student in the 50s that he is now. He was very focused toward athletic sports even then. His skills and sports were defined by hard work and determination.”

One of Pierce’s college teammates, Gordy Thompson said “I do remember Neil as one of the nicest guys on the Gustavus Adolphus campus. I am proud to have known him and call him my friend.”

Potter then spoke and called Pierce a “confident, humble Christian man who is living his life like he played the game.”

Pierce was the high school’s baseball coach from 1964 to 1999. He won 277 games and 11 conference championship. Pierce was also the school’s basketball coach for 15 years.

“The skills and lessons he lived seemed to rub off on teammates, staff and fans,” Potter said.