Sal Augeri is the Dante Society’s ‘Person of the Year’ | Daily news alerts

WESTERLY – Westerly native Salvatore J. Augeri Sr., former coach and superintendent of Westerly Public Schools, has been honored and celebrated many times throughout his storied career for his notable achievements and contributions to the people and the city of Westerly. Yet he was utterly taken aback by his latest recognition.

Accustomed to recognition, Augeri is a founding member of the Westerly High School Athletic Hall of Fame and a member of the Providence Gridiron and Rhode Island Interscholastic League Athletic Halls of Fame. Augeri — a graduate of Westerly High in 1956 and the University of Rhode Island in 1960 — taught biology and physiology at his alma mater for several years before being named superintendent in 1980.

In 1964, he took over a Westerly High football program that had fallen on hard times and built it into one of the most respected programs in the state. The high school sports field was named in his honor.

But when the call came one morning last week from Westerly doctor Daniel Gaccione telling him he had just been chosen as the Dante Society of Westerly’s “Person of the Year” for 2022, Augeri said that he was “defeated”.

Gaccione, an orthopedic surgeon originally from Westerly, chaired the society’s nominating committee for many years.

Almost every year since its founding, he said, the Dante Society has presented the Person of the Year award to someone who plays an important role in community life and who “best exemplifies the aims of the society. …to preserve and foster Italian culture.”

Augeri, Gaccione said in an email, is not just a revered educator, coach, administrator and public servant, but “a wellspring of wisdom that makes us all wish we could have put shoulder pads on him.”

Naming the beloved coach Person of the Year is just a way of “recognizing the lifetime achievements of this great man”, added Gaccione.

“I just didn’t expect something like this,” Augeri said Friday morning by phone from his home on Pearl Street in the North End of Westerly, where he lives with his wife of 62 years, Elaine Serra Augeri.

“I’m very, very honoured,” continued the man who coached the Westerly High Bulldogs to Class B Super Bowl championships in 1973 and 1974, and helped them maintain a 30-game winning streak from 1972 to 1975. .

“I’m a bit overwhelmed,” he added, “but it makes me really proud to be selected.”

“He’s modest,” Elaine said, “modest and very humble.”

“Sal personifies leadership,” said Thomas DiPaola of Westerly, who is executive director of the Rhode Island School Superintendents’ Association. “He is someone who cares deeply about the people and the town of Westerly.”

DiPaola, who called Augeri a “longtime mentor and friend”, noted how proud Sal and Elaine are of their Italian heritage, how supportive they both have been of the city over the years and how much they are deeply dedicated to the city where they both grew up.

DiPaola, also a former superintendent of schools at Westerly, said he felt fortunate to have been mentored by a man he considers part of Westerly’s long and rich educational heritage.

“I feel like Bob Mudge mentored Sal, and then Sal kept us on track,” he said.

Augeri said he considers himself lucky to have had outstanding coaches and mentors like the late Bob Mudge, former Westerly Schools teacher, administrator and member of the URI and Westerly High Athletic Halls of Fame, and John Stellitano, a another Westerly High Athletic Hall. of Famer.

Although baseball was his favorite sport and he grew up dreaming of playing first base for the New York Yankees, Augeri took the plunge when asked to be the team’s assistant coach. Westerly High Football Club.

“I said, ‘Well, I’m really a baseball player, but I’m going to help,'” Augeri recalled. “Then all of a sudden I’m a football manager. Things happen in a weird way in life.

“I had so many supportive teachers at Westerly,” he added. “I had a great learning experience and learned to love teaching because of it.”

Robert Mitchell, a Westerly native, athlete and star football player who played for Augeri as a student at Westerly High, said Augeri’s positive influence has been “profound” and lasting.

“Not just for me,” added Mitchell, who retired as superintendent of Cumberland schools last June. “I know I speak for many, many others. Sal was one of the most influential people in my life.”

Past recipients of the Dante Award include Joseph Potter, the chairman of the Columbus Day Parade Standing Committee; Maria Gabrielle Allen, owner of Bella Vita Salon; the late Joseph Terranova, longtime Latin teacher at Westerly High School; Stellitano, the former Westerly High School athlete and coach; and John Coduri, former chairman of the Babcock-Smith House Museum and co-author of a book on Westerly’s granite industry.

The last time the society named a person of the year, Gaccione said, was three years ago, before the pandemic, when the entire 36-member Our Lady of Mount Carmel committee was chosen. to receive the prestigious award.

This year’s banquet will be held on Friday May 6th at the Haversham.

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