Allen “Cutt” Cole mentored hundreds of students as a teacher and track, flag football, and basketball coach at Thomas H. Henderson Middle School on North Side.
Mr. Cole, who helped guide future college stars and develop successful athletic programs, is now being recognized for his dedication to helping students succeed in both athletics and academia.
As a tribute to his work, the school’s gymnasium will be renamed after the Fayetteville, NC native.
The Richmond School Board voted 9-0 Monday night to rename the gym and put Mr. Cole’s name on the floor.
“I’m thrilled. It makes me feel good to know that the students and colleagues I worked with so long ago feel so good about me,” Coach Cole, 78, who has worked for RPS for 28 years in a variety of roles and also a former student of Benjamin Graves Junior High and Maggie’s Walker High School.
The award winner believes he had the ability to bring out the best in students whose talent and potential have often been overlooked.
More than 75 former students and coaches, colleagues and friends wrote or attended the meeting to support the resolution initiated by Merrill Gray, who said he played basketball under Coach Cole at Henderson and John Marshall High School.
“I love him dearly,” Mr. Gray said.
Among those who hailed the idea was 2nd Circuit School Board member Mariah White, who thanked the talented middle and high school coach for his guidance and support, the lasting relationships he developed, and the profound impact he had on the students he dealt with praised.
Ms. White also thanked Coach Cole for his belief in her as an athlete and support for her as a student.
“He was a mentor and a father figure to me,” Ms. White told the Free Press while reflecting on her career at Henderson Middle School involving various sports, including track.
“In 1979, when I was in eighth grade, the coach gave me special permission to run on the track and field team at John Marshall High School,” she said. “Plus the coach kept me academically straight. He brought out the best in you. He believed that grades and sportsmanship were important. If you didn’t get good grades, he wouldn’t let you compete in your particular sport,” she said.
He was a physical education and health teacher best known for his role as boys’ basketball coach for 18 years at Henderson and later as junior varsity basketball coach for several years at Marshall-Walker High School.
Coach Cole also led his Marshall Walker teams to championship titles and later served as John Marshall’s athletic director until his retirement in 2000.
“This resignation was on paper,” he said. “I was called back to work at Marshall-Walker for a year when their athletic director went to a school in Henrico County. I also replaced George Wythe’s sporting director and later returned to Henderson to handle safety and coaching. I finally retired in 2002.”
Coach Cole graduated from Johnson C. Smith University in Charlette, NC in 1966, where he was a football star and received All-CIAA honors along with his degree.
After eight years of teaching and coaching at high schools in North and South Carolina, Coach Cole returned to Richmond to join Henderson’s faculty in 1974, a year after the then-new school opened as the city’s first middle school.
He gave this advice to current educators and coaches who want to achieve similar success: “Always be there for your students. let her be herself However, don’t let them get out of control.”
During the meeting, the board also approved the three-year renewal of the Specialty Richmond Career Education and Employment Academy (RCEEA) charter.
The RCEEA seeks to educate and prepare students with significant intellectual and physical disabilities for employment. The school serves students in grades 9-12 who are allowed to remain enrolled until the age of 22.
Housed at John Marshall High School, the public charter school teams with local businesses, Virginia Commonwealth University and the State Department of Education to offer a program that teaches students to live independently, interact socially, travel and for the work to train. As part of the program, students are offered internships at various companies to prepare them for full-time employment.