July 2009 Archives
Program's first athletic director and most loyal advocate dies at 94
Francis E. Geissler, legendary coach and long-time administrator at Eastern Connecticut State University, passed away on July 13 after a long illness. He was 94.
At left: Francis E. Geissler with Geissler Award nominees Eric O'Toole (left) and Rory Maxwell in May of 2007.
A native of Broad Brook and a long-time Willimantic resident, Geissler was responsible for the development of the Eastern intercollegiate athletic program. The University's first official director of athletics, Geissler was hired at Willimantic State Teachers College in 1948 and fulfilled a variety of coaching and administrative roles until his retirement from the University in 1977.
Head Baseball Coach Bill Holowaty reflects upon the loss of Mr. Geissler with WILI's Wayne Norman CLICK HERE (9 min.) (Click on "Best of Wayne Show" on the WILI site)
At Eastern, Geissler served as director of athletics, director of health and physical education, dean of men, and baseball coach for 16 years (1949-1964) and as basketball coach between 1948 and 1962. In 1964, Geissler accepted a position as University registrar, a position he held until his retirement on January 30, 1977.
"Whether you are talking with students who have benefited from the Francis E. Geissler Scholarship, sitting at a basketball game in Geissler Gymnasium or reminiscing with longtime Eastern alumni, the indelible impact of Mr. Geissler on this University is clear," said Eastern President Elsa Núñez. "In recent years, even when his health was not good, Mr. Geissler would honor Eastern by coming to University events. We cherish those moments and will miss him greatly."
Among the many honors bestowed upon Geissler were the Distinguished Service Award from Eastern in 1976, and the Harrison J. Kaiser Award for distinguished service from his alma mater - Central Connecticut State University, where he was the University's first three-year letterwinner.
Geissler's other honors included the Hugh S. Greer Award for outstanding contributions to the sport of soccer, the Distinguished American Award from the Northern Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame and the Outstanding Achievement Award from the New England Intercollegiate Soccer League.
In 1963, Geissler was selected by the U.S. State Department to coach a servicemen's basketball team which traveled throughout Taiwan, Hong King, Thailand, and Burma.
A longtime soccer and football official, Geissler was a former assistant commissioner of the New England Football Officials Association and president of the New England Teachers' College Conference.
Each year, the Eastern Connecticut Board of Approved Soccer Officials annually presents the Francis E. Geissler Good Sportsmanship Award to the eastern Connecticut high school which best exemplifies the sportsmanship which was long reflected in Geissler's own career as both participant and coach.
Following Geissler's retirement at the request of former director of athletics William Holowaty, the Eastern gymnasium was named in Geissler's honor. Each year, a scholarship is awarded in Geissler's name to a member of the Eastern junior class in recognition of academic achievement.
Each year since 2000, the Francis E. Geissler Senior Male SportsPerson-of-the-Year has been selected by the Eastern intercollegiate athletic department. The award is presented to an individual who possess the qualities of teamwork, spirit, integrity, sportsmanship and dedication. Former lacrosse captain Ryan Cavanaugh was the first recipient of the award in and former baseball captain Tristan Hobbes the most recent.
Geissler is a charter member of the Eastern Athletic Hall of Fame, gaining induction in the fall of 1986. At the time of his induction, Geissler remarked in the Chronicle of Willimantic that "Eastern has grown from a single-purpose teaching college to a diversified university with progressive offerings. I just hope that I had a little hand in developing the college."
"We all are deeply saddened by the news of Francis Geissler's passing," said Joyce Wong, director of athletics. "He was a respected mentor to our coaches and our student athletes were honored by his presence at their games. He often gave them pep talks and words of encouragement as he rooted for them from the sidelines."
Geissler and his late wife, Dorothy, are survived by their four children, Barbara, David, Donald and Thomas, and 14 grandchildren.
A wake for Mr. Geissler will be held Thursday, July 16, from 5-8 p.m. at Potter's Funeral Home in Willimantic. Funeral services are on Friday, July 17, at 10:30 a.m. at Tolland Congregational Church on Tolland Green, with burial after the ceremony at the Windsorville, CT, cemetery.