“This past summer, I visited Coach Devine at his home, and once I left I really felt inspired to honor him in some way,” says Mary Henshaw, the LHS alumni who started the petition to rename the LHS track in honor of Coach John Devine this summer. As of January 2st, the petition has been signed by 1,263 people, a number that Mary “was absolutely blown away by.” The support eventually reached the School Committee, as they unanimously voted on January 26th to name the track in John Devine’s name. “Not only was the feedback overwhelmingly positive, we didn’t receive any negative [feedback],” School Committee member, Mr. Ryan Kelly, said during the meeting of the vote.
Coach Devine was a long-time beloved school counselor and coach before retiring several years ago. He was diagnosed with amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or ALS, in 2019.
At the beginning of the process, Mary reached out to Principal Thomas Landers, the School Committee, and Superintendent Dr. Marty O’Shea to begin the official facility naming process. After completing the written application, Mary met with a subcommittee of the school committee, had discussions with Superintendent O’Shea over phone and email, and was finally given the support to move forward with the application at the public hearing that took place over Zoom on January 14th.
After the successful hearing, the application was voted on and passed at a School Committee meeting. Mary will now “begin a fundraising campaign to support the cost of signage for the John Devine Track, with any overage in funds being divided between the girls track and field booster club and the ALS foundation.”
In the application written by Mary, she describes how Coach Devine “showed the power of positivity during his tenure as a coach and counselor … His mindset has always been to do your best, and that is what is reflected in his outlook despite the challenges of his diagnosis.” Indeed, these sentiments were echoed at the public hearing.
LHS alumni Esther Muhlmann describes how she would often see Coach Devine “spend hours organizing every meet, meticulously planning who would run each event and getting to know each and every team member’s strengths and anxieties, placing them where they would thrive but making sure to be as supportive as possible along the way.” She describes how, at the public hearing, “so many people shared similar stories of him seeing a strength in them that they could not see in themselves, and the love and care he gave to every one of his athletes could be felt even through the computer screen. It was clear from the touching stories, the tears and the kind words from the community thanking Coach Devine for his positive impact on them that not only is everyone in favor of naming the track after him, but to not would be a disservice to his impact… In no way was he just our track coach.”
Another LHS alumni, Lanelle Garcia, describes the relationship she formed with him through his social work: “In freshman year, I would meet biweekly with him and talk about all sorts of things. He really cares about students, whether that be students he knows from track, personal office sessions, or simply those he smiled to in the hallway.” From her perspective, “It’s important that Mr. Devine gets this recognition at LHS because it is so evident that students felt impacted and inspired by his warm presence.”
“Coach Devine is just absolute solid gold,” says Mary. “I feel so much gratitude for the confidence and drive that he instilled in me that I’m hopeful that the naming of the track can be a small gesture to show that gratitude, and that of all of the other students and athletes whose lives he touched.