Back in 1958, the State University College on Long Island was still very young.
In its second year, the school focused on establishing academics. Then, it was time to build up the athletic program.
One man spearheaded the task of developing the program that still continues today.
A. Henry von Mechow, the first Stony Brook Athletics Director, played a critical role in the development of what is now Stony Brook University’s athletic programs, from intercollegiate to recreational sports and everything in between.
Von Mechow passed away Saturday, Aug. 22 at the age of 87. Along with his role as Athletic Director from 1958-1967, the man many called Hank, was an associate professor in 1970 and was awarded full professor status in 1980 before retiring in 1991.
A man passionate about his school, he was also passionate about his country, serving in the Special Services Unit during the Post War European Occupation.
According to the obituary from the Athletics department, von Mechow was still very involved in teaching even in his older days, as he taught ballroom dancing at Colgate University and Hamilton Adult Education.
He has also been recognized for his efforts, earning a spot in the SUNY Cortland “C” Club Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991 and the Stony Brook University Athletic Hall of Fame just a year later.
According to older articles in The Sucolian, von Mechow, to the delight of many students, spearheaded the opening of the first recreation center at the original Oyster Bay campus.
Much like the current housing situation where students have to travel from Brookhaven to Stony Brook, women had to travel to Brookville, a 12-minute drive, to go to the gym, while men had to make a five-minute trip to East Norwich from the campus in Oyster Bay.
“The building will be a boon to all intramural sports,” The Sucolian article from April 9, 1959 reads. Basketball, volleyball, badminton and deck tennis were on the agenda, thanks to von Mechow.
In case a student did not know how to play or even what deck tennis was, von Mechow was always around the recreation center to help students learn. This comfort and trust that the students had in him led to a defense of him in The Sucolian in 1959.
Newsday wrote an article critical of him in February of that year, and the paper, along with its students, jumped right to his aid.
“Those of us who were here last year realize more than anyone else the terrific job Mr. von Mechow has done,” the article reads.
“We can all show our appreciation by supporting the athletic program, entering the various tournaments, and attending major athletic events.”
Outside of the office, he enjoyed travelling, visiting places like Europe, Australia and Antarctica, according to the Athletics obituary. He also enjoyed vegetable gardening, model railroading and spending time with his family.