Father of SMCM Lacrosse
William Thomas Rowe is known as the “Father of Lacrosse” at St. Mary’s. In 1971, Tom, who was a St. Mary’s associate professor of art, offered to sponsor lacrosse on a club basis. A club charter was written and presented to the student government association which granted modest funding for equipment. In his words, “with five old helmets from Johns Hopkins and a kit supplied by the Lacrosse Hall of Fame,” a largely inexperienced crew began to practice. Unable to coach the club himself, he sought out United States Naval Academy alumni then training at nearby Patuxent River Naval Air Station. Two Navy test pilots, Lieutenant Commanders Roger Kisiel and Fred Lewis, who were both former All-American lacrosse players, volunteered to coach. Tom scheduled college B-squads, prep schools, and lacrosse clubs for the fledgling St. Mary’s team to play against; constructed goals and laid out the field. The 1971 season began with a combination of college and community players, most of who looked at a lacrosse stick as a “cudgel.” After one season, Fred Lewis transferred to the fleet. Roger Kisiel continued as head coach for the 1972 season, providing the club, at his expense, with team jerseys and after-game refreshments. LT Karl Volland, another all-American lacrosse player who was flying the F-14 at the base, became the assistant coach and in 1973, took over for Roger as head coach.
Tom, who was still the lacrosse club’s sponsor, wrote a letter to Duke University’s athletic department in May 1973, in which he said, “Our 1973 squad was small and inexperienced for the most part. Many of the team members have had only one or two years experience. However, we are losing only three seniors this year and we expect some experienced freshmen in from the Baltimore area for next year. Next year we’ll be greatly improved. We are applying for membership in United States Intercollegiate Lacrosse Association (USILA).” He successfully petitioned for varsity status and the team was inducted into the USILA Division II for the 1974 season. When Karl Volland transferred to the fleet, the team faced a possible reduction to club status. Tom had learned that, John Sothoron (1997 Hall of Famer) had recently graduated from Towson State and returned to St. Mary’s County. When offered the coaching position, John, who had been an All-American goalie at Towson, enthusiastically accepted and appointed Michael Loughran ’75 (2010 Legend) as assistant coach. During John Sothoron’s tenure, St. Mary’s men’s lacrosse team became a strong and integral part of the college experience. By 1980, the team was nationally ranked and producing all-American players.
In spring 2004, former players Mike Fraioli ’97, Jim Rogalski ’97, Eric Cotton ’93, and Jim Mohler ’96 wanted to raise funds for the men’s lacrosse team in Tom’s honor. They all knew him, his love of the sport, and his friendship and fondness for team. They also knew that Tom was in failing health and wanted to honor him while he was still living. The Tom Rowe Endowment for Men’s Lacrosse fundraising campaign was established with the hope of raising $10,000 by the end of 2004. Throughout the summer and fall, these four alums wrote letters, made phone calls, and solicited donations from the men’s lacrosse alumni, their parents and grandparents, former coaches, Tom’s friends and former colleagues. By January 2005, over $30,000 in outright gifts and pledges had been raised, firmly establishing the endowment. In recognition of the men’s lacrosse alumni reaching and surpassing the original goal of $10,000, the men’s lacrosse team locker room in the newly renovated Athletic and Recreation Center was renamed in honor of Tom Rowe, who had passed away in the fall of 2004. Contributions to the Tom Rowe Endowment for Men’s Lacrosse may still be made today.