Middlebury lacrosse legend Peter Kohn passes away

By Middlebury Campus / Sports in Sports / May 7, 2009

Author: Emma Gardner

Lacrosse legend Peter Kohn has passed away.

The Middlebury lacrosse field manager failed to recover after a heart attack on Aug. 1 that hospitalized him.

Kohn – part of the Middlebury family for over two decades – left an indelible impression upon those he met and inspired. Before arriving at the College in 1981, Kohn spent years mentoring teams and players at every level of the game. He managed six world teams and 32 all-star games, became known for his generous spirit and tireless loyalty and demonstrated a passion for lacrosse that touched generations of players. Today, the women’s field-hockey and lacrosse field bears his name.

“He was the heart and soul of the lacrosse program,” said women’s lacrosse tri-captain Blair Bowie ’09. “You could meet any alumnus from the past 40 years of Middlebury lacrosse and talk to her for hours and hours about Peter; he brought people together like that. Essentially, he represented the epitome of pure love of sport for no other reason than the joy of playing.”

Kohn maintained a subtle but powerful presence throughout the lacrosse world. His far-reaching contributions to the sport were formally commended in 2004 when he was inducted into the National Lacrosse Hall of Fame. Despite receiving numerous accolades and widespread recognition for his outstanding role in the lacrosse community, Kohn remained humble, genuine and focused on his players.

The Baltimore native is the subject of a 2005 award-winning documentary, “Keeper of the Kohn.” The film’s title is drawn from a longstanding College tradition in which a “keeper,” typically a first-year lacrosse athlete, gets selected to care for Kohn-who suffered from mild autism-in the same way he tended the team. Few ever considered the keeper’s responsibilities a chore. To the contrary; to spend time with Kohn was to befriend a hero.

“Sorting through years of pictures and memorabilia from hundreds of teams, Pete had a story to go along with every single item,” said Jeff Begin ’10. “He had been with our program for much longer than we had, and knew more than we could imagine about what it meant to be a part of a team. Whether we were winning or losing, pre-game or post-game, or just huddling up after practice, Pete always kept us in check and reminded us that there’s more to the sport than the scoreboard.”

Bowie continued to recount the impact Kohn has had on athletes, even in his absence.

“When we were in Vail [last month at a lacrosse event], we played in a game where we were down until about the last five minutes when there was a lightning delay. Some people on the team wanted to just forfeit, but [tri-captain Taryn Petrelli ’09] said, ‘how would we explain that to Peter?’ And she was right – because in Peter’s eyes, every chance to play was a gift.”