Howard S. Vandersea

Howard S. Vandersea died on December 29, 2022, in Boston, Massachusetts.

From: President Rose <>
Sent: Saturday, December 31, 2022 12:11 PM
Subject: Howard Vandersea (1941–2022)


To the Bowdoin community,

I am very sorry to share the news that former Bowdoin head football coach Howard “Howie” Vandersea died Wednesday, December 29, in Boston following a brief illness. He was eighty-one years old.

Coach Vandersea, who led Bowdoin’s football program from 1984 to 1999, was born in Northbridge, Massachusetts, on September 12, 1941. He lettered in football, basketball, and baseball at Northbridge High School, where he was co-captain and the recipient of the most valuable senior award on the football team. A graduate of Bates College (Class of 1963), Howie lettered all four years in both football and baseball and was elected football co-captain in his senior year. He was also a three-time member of the All-Maine Conference Football Team, a member of the All-New England Football Team during his junior and senior years, and a four-time selection for the Eastern College Athletic Conference (ECAC) All-East Weekly Team.

After graduating from Bates with a BA in history, Howie began coaching football at Cheverus High School in Portland, Maine, and served as defensive secondary and linebacker coach for the Portland Sea Hawks semipro team. In the fall of 1963, he signed as a free agent with the NFL’s Chicago Bears. Released by the team a few weeks later, he set his coaching career aside to enlist in the US Army officer candidate school at Fort Benning, Georgia. He served for two and a half years as an infantry airborne officer and was also a member of the Fort Benning Doughboys, winners of the 1964 Armed Forces Football Championship.

Upon leaving the military, Howie taught and coached at Long Branch High School in New Jersey and served in 1967 as head defensive coach for the Jersey Generals semipro football team. That same year, he had a second tryout with the Chicago Bears and a separate tryout with the Green Bay Packers.

In 1968, Howie served as a graduate assistant in football at Boston University where a year later, he earned a master’s of education degree in physical education. He went on to coach football at Tufts University (1969–1972), Brown University (1973–1975), and Springfield College (1976–1983) before being named head football coach at Bowdoin in the spring of 1984. Over the course of his sixteen-year coaching career at the College, the Bowdoin Polar Bears captured seven Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) Championships. While football was his central focus, Howie’s coaching talents at Bowdoin extended to both men’s tennis (four seasons) and softball (two seasons), and he was especially proud to have recruited a class of softball players that went on to be one of the most successful in program history.

In addition to his lifelong love of football, Howie was an avid film buff. In 1998, he helped to organize a week-long festival in Portland honoring the life and career of the Academy Award-winning film director and Maine native John Ford. “He was the preeminent film director of the twentieth century,” said Howie, who thought Ford should be counted among the greatest artists to come from Maine.

Howie was an active member of the National Football Foundation (NFF) for nearly fifty years. He was NFF northeast regional coordinator and president and founder of the organization’s State of Maine Chapter, which now bears his name. He was also the recipient of several awards, including the Carens Award for Contribution to New England Football, the Citation of Honor from the Football Writers Association of America, and the All-American Football Association’s John Vaught Lifetime Achievement Award. He was inducted into the Northbridge High School Hall of Fame in 2003 and the Maine Sports Hall of Fame in 2012.

Howie is survived by his wife of more than fifty-four years, Sara Jean, by the couple’s two children, Deborah and Craig, and by several grandchildren. A memorial service for Howie will be held on Saturday, January 7, at 11:00 a.m. at First Parish Church (9 Cleaveland Street, Brunswick, ME), followed by a reception at Cram Alumni House (83 Federal Street, Brunswick, ME).

“Coach Vandersea developed lifelong relationships with his players and was a valued mentor for many Bowdoin athletes long after their time on campus came to an end,” said Tim Ryan, Bowdoin’s Ashmead White Director of Athletics, who was a captain of Bowdoin’s 1997 football team coached by Howie. “His passion for the game of football and the life lessons learned through sport are just two of the many things he instilled in his players, and I certainly will forever be grateful for the opportunity to have played for him at Bowdoin.”

It is never easy to lose a loved one, but it can be especially difficult during the holidays. Our thoughts are with Sara Jean and the rest of the Vandersea family at this very difficult time.

1 Comment Howard S. Vandersea

  1. Jeff Lewis 92

    Coach Vandersea was one the good guys. He coached me in football for four year, oversaw the student funding committee that I chaired as well. Always said kind and encouraging things; he knew I was off to seminary an asked me to say the team prayer. I remember the football skit where I opened the playbook to the diagram of the field and said “men, I want you to memorize this…because this thing changes all the time.” Funniest joke of the night; the placed roared. Coach took the joke in great spirit. Coach, I’ll see you on the other side.


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