Please support the Valley News during the COVID-19 pandemic

The COVID-19 pandemic has brought the local economy — and many of the advertisers who support our work — to a near standstill. During this unprecedented challenge, we continue to make our coronavirus coverage free to everyone at www.vnews.com/coronavirus because we feel our most critical mission is to deliver vital information to our communities.

If you believe local news is essential, especially during this crisis, we are asking for your support. Please consider subscribing or making a donation today. Learn more at the links below.

Thank you for your support of the Valley News.

Dan McClory, publisher


Seaver Peters a man of action at Dartmouth

  • Seaver Peters was Dartmouth College's athletic director from 19678-83. A former Big Green hockey captain, he went on to a second career as a stockbroker and money manager. Peters died last week at the age of 87.

  • Former Dartmouth College athletics director Seaver Peters, standing, held his post from 1967-83. A 1954 graduate who captained the Big Green men's hockey team, he was also deeply involved in Hanover overall and helped found the town's youth hockey association.

  • This photo of former Dartmouth College athletics director Seaver Peters hangs in the Floren Varsity House study lounge bearing his name. A 1954 graduate of the college and captain of the hockey team his senior year, Peters was the athletic director from 1967-83. He died at age 87 last week.

  • Dartmouth Director of Athletics Seaver Peters stands in front of the new east stands in Hanover, N.H., on Oct. 2, 1968, which adds 6,500 seats to Memorial Stadium's capacity. (Valley News - Larry McDonald) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Seaver Peters, Dartmouth College's athletic director from 1967-83, stands in the center of this 1960s photograph at Davis Rink. With him are three men who served as the Big Green's men's hockey coach at various times: Abner Oakes, left, Eddie Jeremiah, kneeling, and Grant Standbrook, right.

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 3/1/2020 10:00:31 PM
Modified: 3/1/2020 10:02:24 PM

In 2010, former Dartmouth College athletic director Seaver Peters was interviewed on the eve of his induction into the New Hampshire Legends Hockey Hall of Fame as a builder for the sport.

Peters was asked what he learned from playing high school and college hockey. Peters, who captained Dartmouth as a senior before graduating in 1954, replied it was on the ice that he truly discovered that hard work pays off.

“I hustled like hell,” said Peters, who went on to serve as Dartmouth’s athletic director from 1967-83. “I was industrious.”

He most certainly was. Peters, who died last weekend at the age of 87, worked at Dartmouth inside and outside of athletics, was involved in sports at a national level and served Hanover in various capacities. He helped found the Hanover Youth Hockey Association, was part of the effort to get Campion Rink constructed and built a second career in finance.

“He got involved and did things without banging his chest,” said Scott Peters, one of his father’s four children. “He was more about action than telling people about it.”

Never mind that there was plenty to tell.

Seaver Peters oversaw Big Green athletics during what’s widely viewed as a golden era. The Melrose, Mass., native was at the helm for eight Ivy League football titles, a berth in the 1970 College World Series, the successful arrival of women’s sports, the building of hockey’s Thompson Arena and consecutive appearances in the men’s hockey national semifinals.

When Peters started as athletic director, he was one of four administrators for 17 teams in his department at an all-male college. Dartmouth currently has nearly 50 sports administrators for 34 teams.

“My first year, the NCAA sent out surveys … and one of the questions was, ‘What do you like best about your job?’ ” recalled Jack DeGange, who started as Dartmouth’s sports information director in 1968. “My answer was, ‘My boss, because he lets me do it.’ We could really talk to each other and laugh and swear a bit about what we were facing and move on to whatever was next.”

Peters made numerous inspired hires in men’s and women’s coaches, including football’s Jake Crouthamel and Joe Yukica, hockey’s George Crowe, women’s basketball’s Chris Wielgus and administrator and three-sport coach Aggie Bixler Kurtz. The Big Green was a national leader in implementing women’s sports.

“He was truly a visionary,” said Don Mahler, a former Valley News sports editor, who worked at the paper from 1973-2015. “He may have been dragged kicking and screaming to the idea of women’s sports, but he eventually embraced it, and no one in the Ivy League could match Dartmouth there for a long time.”

Peters was born in 1932 to Paul and Elizabeth (Seaver) Peters. His father attended Dartmouth from 1918-20, and his three sons grew up in hockey-rich Melrose, a suburb just north of Boston that has produced some of the Big Green’s greatest athletes. Seaver Peters didn’t begin skating until late in elementary school on his hometown’s ponds, later playing for a team called the Green Street Reds while in junior high.

The Reds often skated on the backyard rink of their coach, Doc Marseli, and the core of that squad went on to Melrose High, where it won the Greater Boston Interscholastic and New England championships. As a Red Raider, Peters played alongside future Dartmouth team and U.S. national team member John Titus. Their coaches were Dartmouth graduates Charlie Holt, the future University of New Hampshire bench great, and developing Massachusetts legend Henry Hughes, who was at Melrose for more than 30 years.

“I was the third-leading scorer … on my line,” Peters, who graduated in 1950, liked to joke.

College recruiting in those days didn’t involve much more than a few letters and perhaps a phone call. Peters and Titus likely caught the eye of longtime Dartmouth coach Eddie Jeremiah when Melrose came up and beat Kimball Union Academy and the Big Green’s freshman team in the same weekend.

Peters played on an undefeated freshman hockey team (they were ineligible for varsity play in those days) and was Dartmouth’s first-line center as a junior and senior. Playing in 25-year-old Davis Rink, the Big Green skated on natural ice until Peters’ senior year and he recalled using the surface after hours or following the end of the college season to hone his skills.

An economics major, Peters was in Phi Gamma Delta with many of his teammates and was a member of the Sphinx senior society. With the Korean War underway, Peters joined the Air Force ROTC as a sophomore, leading to a two-year postgraduate stint in the service as a budget and accounting officer on Cape Cod. He repaid his college loans with his military salary.

Peters sandwiched warehouse and sales stints working for his father’s cheese business around his Air Force service and traveled a territory that allowed him to regularly stop in Hanover. He let Dartmouth assistant athletic director Irving “Snuffy” Smith know he’d be interested in any college openings, and when Smith took a year’s leave to work with the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference, he encouraged Peters to apply to be his replacement.

“I wouldn’t have come if I didn’t think that the job to which he went was going to be so good that he wouldn’t come back,” Peters said during a 2001 interview for Dartmouth’s Rauner Library historical collection. Smith did return, however, leading to Peters becoming the college’s assistant comptroller for three years during the early 1960s.

“The background experience was second to none,” said Peters, who helped oversee Dartmouth’s budget. “I had to know everything that was going on with the college, period.”

Peters returned to athletics as director of physical eduation and intramurals in 1964 and, two years later, was offered the director’s job at Maine’s Bowdoin College. In response, Dartmouth officials told him confidentially that Big Green athletic director Robert “Red” Rolfe, famous as a former New York Yankee, would be retiring in another year and that Peters could succeed him if he’d stick around.

“He was smart as hell and a good out-front guy,” DeGange said of Peters. “He was an alum, and that was important for his credibility. He became one of the most influential and respected athletic directors in the country.”

As the 1970s got underway, Dartmouth sports was aglow. Football coach Bob Blackman had reinvented Ivy League recruiting on a national scale, bringing in 125 freshmen per year and was en route to his sixth championship in nine years. A new grandstand on Memorial Field’s east side had added more than 6,000 seats, and the Big Green was a regular on regional television.

Peters noted in his Rauner Library interview that, for a time during the 1960s and 1970s, Dartmouth covered a significant portion of its athletics budget with football television appearance money. Dartmouth president John Sloan Dickey proposes a broadcast revenue-sharing plan that eventually split such monies among the Ivy League schools.

Peters’ experience with the networks and his school’s relative proximity to New York City resulted in his joining the influential NCAA football television committee and chairing it for several years. In the days before widespread cable TV and the numerous games it began to offer, the committee decided each Monday which handful of games would be shown regional and nationally.

Dartmouth’s baseball team, featuring future Major League players Pete Broberg and Chuck Seelbach, reached the national quarterfinals in Omaha, Neb., alongside Southern Cal, Florida State and Texas. Men’s basketball landed a talented young coach in alum Dave Gavitt, who brought in a pair of talented recruiting classes, although he’d later leave for Providence (R.I.) College and eventually helped found and became commissioner of the powerful Big East Conference.

A challenge for Dartmouth sports were protests against using Native American iconography in mascot form. Peters noted that “it wasn’t any fun to spend hour after hour after hour going through what seemed to us less important than it seemed to them. That’s not to say that they were wrong and we were right.”

Dartmouth switched over to the Big Green nickname about the same time it went coeducational in 1972. Peters, despite early reservations that it would reduce the number of men admitted and therefore the number of male athletes, was a big part of Dartmouth’s successful start in women’s athletics. He hired Kurtz to start the process (albeit on an initial annual budget of $500), and she coached field hockey, squash and lacrosse.

Chris Wielgus was an unknown out of Woodstock but established and cranked up Dartmouth’s women’s basketball program. Peters had carefully watched the successes and failures Princeton and Yale had experienced with their earlier start in co-ed athletics, and the Big Green came out of the gate in a hurry.

“He may have been against adding women’s sports initially, but he knew it was going to happen, and he took the bull by the horns,” DeGange said. “He bought into it.”

A Peters project that stands mostly unchanged to this day is Thompson Arena, which like its 1960s counterpart across Park Street, Leverone Field House, was designed by noted Italian architect Pier Luigi Nervi. With a roof of distinctive triangles, its wide, open concourse and concrete construction, Thompson was a startling upgrade from Davis Rink, which by the early 1970s was down at the heels.

One of Thompson’s primary beneficiaries was the Hanover Youth Hockey Association, which Peters helped form in the 1960s. He served as its president for 17 consecutive years, and his sons, Scott and Mike, were among a generation of youth players who eventually transformed Hanover High into a state power in the sport.

When Davis Rink was torn down during the 1980s to make way for Dartmouth’s squash and basketball arena, Peters was involved in the planning and fundraising for West Lebanon’s Campion Rink, which officially opened in 1988 and has since served as the home of Hanover and Lebanon’s hockey and skating scene.

Peters, who declined offers to become athletic director at UMass, Washington and Stanford over the years, also served as the Hanover Improvement Society’s director and was an avid golfer. He was also unfailingly social. Scott Peters recalled his family throwing a tailgate party before every Big Green football contest and conducting indoor “pregaming” before hockey contests.

“The social aspect of Dartmouth athletics was very real,” Scott Peters recalled. “There’s a photo from the 1970s with him and five other guys with cocktails in their hands, and with them is a 6-foot penguin made out of plaster of Paris. That thing showed up all over the place.”

By the early 1980s, Peters was ready for a career change. He didn’t see eye-to-eye with dean of the college Ralph Manuel or his old Dartmouth classmate and football star, David McLaughlin, who became the institution’s 14th president in 1981.

College athletics was transforming into the behemoth it is today, adding layers of bureaucracy. The Ivy League was implementing stricter, more codified methods of athletic admission, and Dartmouth was an early — and some would say overzealous — adopter, resulting in downturns in Big Green teams’ performances.

Peters struck a deal that he would resign if paid for a calendar year after his departure. That gave him time to immerse himself in a study of the investment world and to pass the tests needed to work in it. His childhood friend and former high school and college hockey teammate, Dana Hennigar, was a principal in a Boston investment firm, and Peters opened its new Hanover office. He worked in that field until retiring in 2008.

Peters was seen at numerous Dartmouth athletic events during his last decade, particularly football and hockey, for he had a fondness for those teams’ coaches, Buddy Teevens and Bob Gaudet. The duo played together on the first of the Big Green’s back-to-back NCAA semifinalists in 1979, and those runs were a highlight of Peters’ time at his alma mater.

Peters’ late years included struggles with dementia, but he could still often be seen at Thompson Arena, one or more of his children alongside, receiving salutations and good wishes as he slowly navigated steps and the concourse. He had most recently been living at a White River Junction facility for assisted living and memory care.

“As sad as it is that the end is here, it’s a blessing in many ways,” Scott Peters said. “He can finally rest. The last month has been difficult and, in many ways, he wasn’t my dad the last couple of years.”

Peters is survived by his sons and two daughters, Wendy Farnsworth of Enfield and Gail Trottier of West Lebanon, as well as eight grandchildren and two great-grandchildren. A celebration of Peters’ life is scheduled for March 28 at Dartmouth’s Rollins Chapel. A reception will follow at the Hanover Inn.

Scott Peters, a Hanover resident, said he and his siblings have taken solace in their father’s recognition during the last week. While Seaver Peters was well-known throughout the Upper Valley, not everyone realized the full scope of his Dartmouth accomplishments, particularly those under the age of 50.

Mahler recalled that while he and Peters sometimes clashed over what the younger man wrote about Dartmouth in the newspaper, the athletic director never ducked an interview and that they were friends despite vastly different world views. Peters, with his conservative dress and crew cut, nonetheless had a fondness for the newspaper editor with the wild hair and thrift-store wardrobe.

“His office was like someplace the pope would sit, because you could feel the power,” Mahler said. “He loved Dartmouth and wouldn’t stand for anyone putting it down. We should revere him for that.”

Tris Wykes can be reached at twykes@vnews.com.




Valley News

24 Interchange Drive
West Lebanon, NH 03784
603-298-8711

 

© 2019 Valley News
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy