Q&A with Steve Snyder ’59

Steve Snyder ’59 holding the official key for the new Snyder Center
J.Buehler/The Phillipian

Steve Snyder ’59 holding the official key for the new Snyder Center

Steve Snyder ’59, former Andover track captain and primary donor for the newly opened Snyder Center athletic facility, is an eight-letter varsity track star, winner of the New England Interscholastic 40-Yard Dash at age 14, and recipient of the Sorota Track Trophy for exhibiting “outstanding character and the will to win.” But Snyder’s time at Andover was not dominated solely by track. He was also Editor-in-Chief of Pot Pourri and a proctor in Will Hall.

What sparked your interest in track?

Speaking of new buildings, I arrived here 1952 or 1953 which is the year Memorial Gym opened and the new gym had five squash courts. That was the beginning of squash, there was no squash prior to that time. However, it was so popular that it was restricted to Uppers and Seniors. Clearly, I was a lowly Junior at Rockwell house, and I couldn’t participate for that reason… I think it’s still true today… where proctors in the first year houses to help us get through the early rigors of an Andover experience. I had a proctor… who just happened to be captain of the varsity track team, and he convinced a group of us to come out there and race him in the forty yard dash. So I went out with a group of friends and we raced and I beat him, and that was the beginning of my track career. I was immediately recruited to the team.

Did you play any other sports?

I did a little soccer and a little intramural before track that first fall. I never got to play squash as I wasn’t old enough and I joke that now I’m old enough. And I can still play — I ran on the track on Thursday with Becky Hession, [Head Coach of Indoor Track], and I asked her if I was the first eighty-year-old she had ever run with, but we didn’t run much. I did it only to see what the track felt like because my track was in the Cage which was a dirt track. It was 150 yards around, and it was really replaced later by a hard surface but I ran on dirt. Yards morphed into meters in the last century, so all of us who ran in yards set our records in yards are technically now obsolete. But that’s where I ran, and I loved the facilities at that time I think the new facility is just amazing… We have twelve wonderful squash courts, I watched some of the students play squash there yesterday… who seem to really, really enjoy it.

Did you have any say in the planning process of the building?

I did—I was able to review it in the early stages. But I want to say that the vision and the leadership of [Head of School] John Palfrey, Peter Currie ’74, and the Board of Trustees [were] really fabulous and that’s why we have this building.

Do you have any hopes for future athletes?

You know, for the first 100 [years] there was no such thing as organized athletics [and] now we have organized athletics here. And Andover’s commitment to athletics really needs to be acknowledged in addition to its great academics because they say you learn a lot a lot in athletics. You learn about competition, you learn about sportsmanship, you learn about true grit and your own capacity and on and on… so I think it’s part of the learning process. I think to develop the champions is only a small part; everybody who participates in athletics learns about themselves as part of that traditional experience.

How did track transform your Andover career?

I learned a lot from [track] and from the coaches. It taught me a lot and gave me the confidence to deal with all the things that you deal with at Andover and later in life. I learned how to compete… and I think it’s important to acknowledge Andover’s commitment to athletics in addition to its terrific academic program.

Did you do anything other than track?

[I was] Editor-in-Chief of “Pot Pourri,” and I was a proctor [in] Will Hall, which no longer exists. So I got to return some of the favors that I got from proctors [and I got] gratification…in assisting some of the younger boys. I was in the Blue Key [too, and] lots of things, but I think athletics and the Pot Pourri where probably two of the most significant things.

Any advice for current students?

Well, this is a rich mine —when I say mine, I mean a gold mine or a silver mine — to participate in… You’ve got the education, you’ve got different forms of education, the academics, the athletics, you’ve got the students… You’ve got people bringing their different cultures, so you learn from one another. You’ve got their thinking and their customs and their beliefs, and I think that’s a very rich part Andover experience.

Anything else you would like to add?

I omitted one important thing and that is learning from the coaches. I mean, I think Steve Sorrota was both the football coach and the track coach when I was here, and, of course, there’s a track named after him. I think coaches impart a great deal of information and confidence and other things to the students. And also of course… the other teachers. I had some wonderful teachers when I was here. American History was the most dominant course when I was here, and I took it from Fritz Allace. He would bring his banjo in and play some of the early patriots’ songs. So it’s such a wonderful experience, and there are so many facets to it… Of course, the art gallery is absolutely wonderful I went over to see my favorite painting yesterday. It’s a painting called “Moonlight Wolf” by Remington, and sometimes when I’ve been up here, it’s been out on loan traveling, but it was there yesterday, so I got a chance to [see] it again… There are so many parts to the Andover experience that were very meaningful to me.