Dorothy Stoltz at her Eaton home. TOM ARCHDEACON/STAFF
Photo: columist
Photo: columist

Tom Archdeacon: A well-earned honor for Eaton legend Dorothy Stoltz

When she first returned to Eaton High School, her alma mater, in the late 1950s with a degree from Ohio University, she got some narrow directives on how she should look and act if she wanted to be a physical education teacher at the school.

“The superintendent told me he’d hire me under one condition — that I not start an interscholastic sports program for girls,” Dorothy Stoltz said with a little shake of the head.

“And then his next concern was my hair. I had very long hair at the time and he said I should either cut it or wear it up all the time.”

As she thought about those long-ago guidelines, her smile grew until it lit up her entire face:

“Obviously, both of those ideas went by the wayside. I did neither.”

Besides the long hair, she had a long view on girls and athletics back in those pre-Title IX days.

She said her boss, like many administrators and coaches back then, had the view that “he wanted girls to be girls. He wanted them to be feminine. Some people thought that girls did not have the stamina and the emotions and couldn’t handle competitive sports.”

As soon as she got the job, the only thing Dorothy took a scissors to were those misconceptions.

She first expanded the intramural-like Girls Athletic Association program at the school and eventually had a couple of hundred participants in nine different sports. And some of those early athletes went on to play college sports, even at NCAA Division I programs.

She started the Junior Olympic track program in town and by 1966 had launched the Eaton High girls track and field team.

Today, 50 years later, Dorothy, who is a week shy of 80, is still coaching Eagles athletes.

As the head coach from 1966 to 2003, her teams won 14 league titles and six district crowns. She had 25 individual, as well as 14 relay teams, qualify for state and Leslie Johnson won the 400 meters state title.

After retiring for a few years, she was brought back as an assistant coach to help bolster the program and has had a hand in another league and district title team at Eaton.

Along the way her efforts have gotten her enshrined in the Ohio Track and Cross Country Coaches Hall of Fame and the Preble County Athletic Hall of Fame.

Tonight, in a 5:30 ceremony at the Eaton High School Performing Arts Center, Dorothy will be enshrined in the Eaton Community Schools Athletic Hall of Fame, along with these three Eagles standout athletes from the 1960s:

• Tom Ferriell, an All-Dayton area football and basketball star who played college hoops at Miami University, Lindsey Wilson Junior College and Eastern Illinois University.

• Rob Decker, an all-state football player who rushed for an Ohio-record 1,964 yards in 1967 and 1,299 yards the year prior and ended up with a scholarship to Indiana University.

• Jane Harris, a multi-sport athlete mentored by Dorothy in those GAA days who went on to play college basketball and field hockey at Bowling Green for a year before her tragic death at age 19.

Dorothy Stoltz at her Eaton home. TOM ARCHDEACON/STAFF
Photo: columist

‘Friend and mentor’

“I never called her Jane, I called her Dimples,” Dorothy said with warm reflection as she sat in her Eaton home the other morning. “She had dark hair, dark eyes and that beautiful smile that was set off by those big dimples.

“She was quite an athlete, but because it was part of that transition period (GAA days to interscholastic sports) she never had a real chance to showcase her talents at the high school level.”

But thanks to Dorothy, she didn’t go unnoticed.

“I remember one summer I was on a softball team and we didn’t have enough women to compete one night in a game at Camden, I believe,” she said. “The other gals said, ‘Do you have anybody?’

“I asked if there was an age limit. They said no, so I got two girls. One was Jane and she was like in the eighth grade. She played so well that the women wanted her on the team the rest of the season.”

And then there was the night Jane outdid the Eaton boys basketball team.

It was when Dorothy’s late husband, Dean, was the coach.

“He had this jump-reach deal that measured how high the boys could get and he came home a little disappointed by their efforts,” Dorothy said.

“As he was going on, I said, ‘You know, I think I’ve got a girl who can do that!’

“So I brought her down to the gym the next night and she out-jumped all but one boy. All my husband could say is, ‘Why is she a girl?’ ”

While Jane’s dad, Glenn, had been a basketball stalwart on the champion 1936 Eaton High team and would later be inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame, her development was due in a big way to Dorothy.

“Dorothy was her friend and mentor,” Jo Ann Wainscott, Jane’s older sister, said by phone from her home in Avon Lake.

Along with setting a state record in the 75-yard dash back then, Jane was a cheerleader and the homecoming queen.

At Bowling Green she was about to really blossom as an athlete, but in August 1970, before returning to BGSU for her sophomore season, she was riding in a car with her boyfriend just outside of Eaton when they were hit head-on by a drunk driver.

Jane was killed, as was a passenger in the other vehicle.

Jo Ann said not only was their family devastated by the death, but so was the school and the entire town.

“And when you lose somebody that young, you’re always concerned they are going to be forgotten,” Wainscott said. “That’s why this so amazing.

“I know Jane would be delighted by this honor, especially since she’s being inducted alongside Dorothy, who I’m sure had a lot to do with her being considered after all these years.”

Jo Ann and her husband will come in for the induction, as will their children and their families, her three step-sisters and some of their families, other cousins and some of Jane’s former Eaton teammates.

Jane Harris’ graduation picture from Eaton High School. Contributed photo
Photo: columist

“She might have the biggest cheering section there and it’s all due to Dorothy,” Wainscott said

She said a lot of women owe a debt to the coach:

“It was thanks to Dorothy that there were any kind of sports for females at Eaton High in those days before Title IX came into being.”

A blessed life

Dorothy advanced the opportunities of the Eaton girls through quiet steadfastness rather than confrontation and bombastic defiance and eventually her GAA teams were playing against other schools.

In the early days, the Ohio High School Athletic Association didn’t include girls and even when that changed, other slights were noticeable.

“In those early days I remember the district track meet at Welcome Stadium, where both the Jefferson boys and the Jefferson girls won,” Dorothy said. “Each of them did a victory lap. The boys did it with their trophy. The girls went around with nothing. There was no trophy for them.”

As she worked at righting the inequalities, she said she found she had “a great place” in Eaton High to make her mark.

“I couldn’t have asked for a better school and community as far as support,” she said. “I have been blessed.”

And no one knows Eaton High any better than she.

She grew up on a farm north of town (she can drive a tractor and milk cows), graduated from EHS in 1954 and then spent 57 years there as a physical education teacher and guidance counselor.

Her husband was a math teacher there and best known as the cross-country coach. He started the program and for the past 29 years Eaton High has hosted the Dean Stoltz Invitational.

When he died of a brain aneurysm in 1985 at age 46, Dorothy said it was the school that gave her strength afterward.

“After he passed away the school was a life saver to me,” she said. “I was able to go back to work and keep moving forward. Working with young people rejuvenates you.”

That’s why, when she retired as the head track coach — because she thought she was getting too old — she quickly found out retirement was overrated:

“I didn’t like it at all.”

Now that she is back mentoring sprinters and hurdlers, she said she especially looks forward to spring and the start of track season. And just as they have been since the late 1950s, Eaton athletes are benefiting from her guidance.

It’s the reason she is being honored tonight.

And when she steps to the podium, that old administrator with the narrow directives might — were he still around — manage a faint smile himself.

While she always kept the long view, Dorothy no longer wears her hair long.