What happens when former physical education teachers get together for a luncheon? Laughter, tears and the reliving of good times.
When former athletic director Myra Mansur and retired PE teachers Chinkie Cointment and Renee Price ’76 share the same table, it is a memorable occasion. Years ago, the three shared a tiny office at Episcopal where the beginnings of girls’ sports took shape. The three are pioneers in women’s athletics and girl power is strong with them.
This trio has coached and taught everything from archery and fencing to softball and volleyball. There is great pride in the storytelling as they recall the days when the school’s concrete tennis courts were where the quad is now. They laugh and groan as they remember the “onesie” PE uniforms students had to wear. There is appreciation in their voices still today as they remember the day the switch was flipped for the first time on the new Phillips gymnasium air conditioning unit thanks to the support of LaRon Phillips.
These veterans were on the court and the field at a time when girls sports were thought of a little differently than they are now. That never stopped them. At the time, Mansur was the only female athletic administrator over a football program in the state. Cointment was a passionate advocate for physical education and worked hard to make sure that others understood the difference between PE and athletics. When she first joined Episcopal, she had not taught before, but she says Father Hancock must have had faith in her abilities because she was assigned to teach eighth grade religion. She later went on to teach drama, study skills and history before finding her home in the PE department. Price was actually a student of Mansur and Cointment and a star volleyball player for the Knights. When the school needed help with the volleyball team, Price was there. When they needed a substitute, she was the one whose phone rang. Eventually, she signed on full time and worked 30 years before retiring in 2017.
Before the days of electronic planners and email reminders, these women were expert multi-taskers. “Coaching and raising kids,” is how Price describes her days at Episcopal. While coaching, Mansur raised three children and earned a master’s degree. The three were determined to achieve their goals and resolved to make sure the women who followed them had even greater opportunities than they did.
As the ladies shared stories of their days at Episcopal, there were moments of sincere emotion as they realized the significance the school and its students have had on them. They remembered days when a faculty member passed away and students gathered to sign a banner in their honor. They remembered Father Hancock’s amenability to physical education and how they said he let them coach and teach, supporting them along the way. They remember the emotions they felt when they walked away from the school they loved for the last time as a coach.
Of course, there are also the moments that can only be remembered and retold with laughter and raised voices. (As longtime PE teachers, they say their voices are raised because of years of teaching large numbers of children in an incredibly loud gym.) There were adventures in bus driving as they transported students to games and tournaments. Cointment, who is petite, couldn’t quite reach the bus pedals and often had to use a block to stretch. There was the time that Mansur and Price had parked the bus and were walking toward the gym only to look back and discover that the bus was rolling away! With quick reaction, Mansur chased the bus down and jumped on board just in time to hit the brake before a collision with a tree. There were memories of a champagne cork flying through the air at the 1988 graduation and an effort by the graduates to start the wave in the audience. “Oh, what a class!” they all say.
The legacy of Mansur, Cointment and Price lives on today as a young girl makes her first serve on the volleyball court or a senior softball player realizes her dream of playing in college. Their influence is felt by the coaching staff who are following in their footsteps. “They gave me my career,” says softball coach and PE teacher Heidi Hebert. “Their leadership and guidance was just tremendous. It was like having three extra moms. I could have never dreamed that working with them would have changed my life so much.”
We thank Myra, Chinkie and Renee for making a difference at Episcopal and paving the way for the next generation. We invite you to share a message of thanks or a great memory with them in the comments section below.