October 4, 2015

Larry Ivan, Man for All Seasons, to Be Honored With Bronze Portrait at Community Park Pool

Ivan Web“May I have your attention, please? May I have your attention, please?” Anyone at the Community Park Pool Complex between 1967 and 2014 remembers that voice booming out over the public address system.

Larry Ivan, owner of that voice, has had the community’s attention for almost 60 years — as phys ed and social studies teacher for 42 years at Princeton High, John Witherspoon, and Community Park Schools, as renowned coach and referee of basketball and track, as an official for the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association (NJSIAA), and as “the man at the pool” since its inception in 1967 and manager there for 41 years.

A bronze bas-relief portrait, to be created by Princeton sculptor Stephanie Magdziak, and permanently installed at the Community Park Pool, ensures that Mr. Ivan will have our attention far into the future. ”I’m glad to know that Mr. Ivan will be as much of a fixture for future generations as he was for mine,” reflected CP Pool member Lauren Bender.

The project is being funded by donations from community members and CP Pool supporters — about 140 so far, many of whom were also Mr. Ivan’s students or parents of students. An unveiling ceremony will take place next spring.

“It was a complete surprise,” Mr. Ivan declared. “I thought someone was pulling a joke when I first heard it. It’s quite an honor and I feel blessed. I didn’t get into it [education, athletics, pool management] for anything else but because I enjoy it. I want to see people learn and develop. It’s wonderful.”

As the website collecting donations for the bronze portrait stated, “His kindness, gentle guidance, and sense of humor have touched so many of us.” The tributes from students he taught, athletes he coached, colleagues, and others continue for many pages on the website.

“It’s an honor to help recognize a great coach and a great person,” wrote Royce Flippin, a PHS cross country runner from the early 1970s, “Mr. Ivan, you not only shaped many fine cross country teams, including the undefeated ’73 sectional champs and ’74 Group II state champs, but you always cared about and brought out the best in every one of your athletes and reminded us that success also meant enjoying what we were doing — a lesson that has helped me throughout life.”

A former student in Mr. Ivan’s gym class, Cindy Hamer recalled, “Never can forget your enthusiasm and encouragement as my PHS gym teacher. You made every student feel special and feel that we could accomplish anything we put our minds to.”

Another former student, looking back many decades, remembered Mr. Ivan as a teacher and a coach, but, even more important, as a man who cared and made a difference. “How many can remember Larry Ivan as a social studies teacher as well as a coach at the original Witherspoon School on Quarry Street in Princeton? I broke my ankle a week before our 8th grade class trip to the New York World’s Fair. Coach Ivan wheeled me around the World’s Fair in a wheel chair for the entire day. I’ll never forget it.”

The word “inspiration” pops up repeatedly throughout the tributes for Mr. Ivan, and his co-workers were no less susceptible to that influence than his students. “It’s been an honor working and managing with you the last 35 years,” wrote CP Pool colleague George W. Taylor.

“You have been a mentor to me. You inspired me to become a PE/health teacher for the last 27 years. You have inspired me and a generation of managers, lifeguards, athletes, students, and coaches through your humor, kind words, and positive leadership style. You are the best at what you do and how you do it. You have set the bar to the highest level.”

The 82-year-old Jefferson Road resident was born in southern California and moved to Union County as a young boy. A graduate of Rahway High School, where he played varsity basketball and track, he won a basketball scholarship to attend the University of Oklahoma and later earned a master’s degree in phys ed from Trenton State (now The College of New Jersey). He began teaching in Princeton in 1957.

After playing basketball with the Eastern Professional Basketball League for eight years, Mr. Ivan started refereeing cross country and track as well as basketball, which he continues to do.

For more than 20 years, he was president of the Capital Track and Field Association of New Jersey, which handles all Mercer County track and cross country meets. On August 16 at Community Park, he received The Jim Floyd Lifetime Achievement Award for his contributions to the Princeton community.

Though illness sidelined Mr. Ivan during the past summer at the CP Pool, he is looking forward to getting back into action for the 2016 season.

Those who wish to participate in the Larry Ivan tribute — cost of the bronze portrait is estimated at $17,000, with any excess funds raised to be given to Mr. Ivan — can make a contribution at gofundme.com/larryivan or mail a check payable to the Larry Ivan Tribute Fund, c/o Cindy Hines Baker, 11 Edgebrook Road, Hamilton, NJ 08691.

“I feel so honored and humbled that so many are responding,” Mr. Ivan said. And his words of wisdom to future generations offer advice that his life seems to have exemplified: “Treat people with respect and have fun and learn to do it the right way and you will be successful.”