Article reposted from The Meadville Tribune
Author: Pete Chiodo
For 34 years, athletes at Allegheny College took their bumps, bruises, sprains and strains to one guy — head athletic trainer and Meadville resident Jamie Plunkett.
Starting this coming school year, the first set of hands to treat the school’s athletes in need will belong to someone else.
On Friday, Allegheny announced that Plunkett is retiring from his position, effective July 31.
Joining him in retirement will be his wife Sue, an Allegheny employee since 1988 and currently the director of the college’s Winslow Health Center.
“It’s something Sue, my wife, and I started planning a couple years ago,” said Plunkett. “We weren’t sure what date it would be. We were just kind of planning for the next phase in our lives, an exit strategy. But I don’t know if there is a right time. I’ve talked to a lot of friends around my age who have recently retired and I asked them, ‘How did you know it was time?’ And they said, ‘I didn’t know.’ Nobody had a good answer.”
According to the college’s press release, Plunkett was hired to his post as head athletic trainer in the summer of 1983, making him the longest tenured employee in the Allegheny College athletic department.
“I had really given some thought to doing one more year and make it nice round number at 35,” said Plunkett. “Then I thought I’d do one more football season because that was always been my favorite sport to work. But then this spring I felt that it was time. And my wife felt the same way. She’s retiring as well.
“She’s a nurse practitioner. So she’s going to work as part-time provider. And I’m going to continue coaching and go from there.”
So, go ahead and exhale now, Meadville hockey fans. Plunkett, who has been the head coach of the Meadville Bulldogs varsity hockey team for the past 31 years, and just celebrated his 1,000th career victory this past season, is staying with the team at least for the time being.
“We’re not going anywhere,” said Plunkett. “This is home for us. We have a daughter working in Pittsburgh (Annie) and a daughter that teaches in Fairview (Joanie). Meadville is our home. We’ve very happy here.”
Allegheny will now set about finding Plunkett’s replacement. The school announced that a national search is underway.
“Words can’t express what Jamie means to Gator athletics, Allegheny College and the Meadville community,” Allegheny Athletic Director Portia Hoeg stated in the press release. “Not only has he provided treatment to thousands of Gator student-athletes, but he has been a pillar of the Meadville community. Jamie and his wife Sue have been the cornerstone of health, wellness and care for Allegheny and our athletic programs for 34 years.”
A native of Toronto, Ontario, Plunkett was hired by Norm Sundstrom, the legendary Allegheny athletic director, basketball coach and golf coach. He arrived in Meadville after beginning his athletic training career at Cornell University.
During his 34-year career, the Gators have captured 115 North Coast Athletic Conference team championships, while over 100 student-athletes have been named All-America. Some of his fondest memories include the baseball team’s rise to national prominence throughout the 1990’s, culminating with a trip to the NCAA Division III World Series in 2000, as well as a pair of trips to the NCAA tournament for the men’s basketball team in 1989 and 1997. His fondest memory, however, remains one of the crowning achievements in the athletic department’s nearly 175-year history.
“Number one would have to be the 1990 NCAA football championship,” he said, “and the way it came out of nowhere. … I don’t know if we were the best team in the country, but were the team playing the best at the right time.”
Countless assistants who worked under Plunkett have continued to prosper in the athletic training field after leaving Allegheny, while he is also proud to have employed a number of student workers who pursued careers in medicine after graduating.
In addition to his tireless work as the school’s head athletic trainer, Plunkett has also been involved in a myriad of roles throughout the athletic department. He serves on the athletic department’s senior administration team, while he is also on the Golden Gator Golf Outing Committee, and has served on the Allegheny Hall of Fame committee for the entirety of his career.
“I value Jamie as a member of our senior leadership team, and for all of his additional work with the golf outing and the Hall of Fame,” said Hoeg. “We are really going to miss his leadership and the influence he has on everyone in the department. In addition to administering care to the numerous student-athletes, Jamie has mentored so many young professionals in the athletic training industry. He is truly an Allegheny treasure, and I know I speak for everyone when I wish him all the best as he goes on to enjoy retirement.”
And what does those retirement plans include?
Well, maybe taking in an athletic event or two.
“I was always a little envious of folks that could do stuff in the fall,” he said. “There’s a whole list of things that I want to do, like go to a football game at Penn State, one of those big college football games. With everything I’ve been doing all these years, I’ve never been able to do that.”
And even though he won’t be treating players any longer, don’t expect him to be a stranger around the playing fields at Allegheny.
“You can’t do what I’ve done at Allegheny for as long as I have without having really deep roots,” he said. “I wish nothing but success for them and I’m still close to a lot of athletes, past and present. I’ve gotten a lot of texts and emails from them today.
“I don’t think those relationships will ever change. So, yeah, you’ll probably still see me at basketball games, football games.”