James S. Lentz, a mentor to countless students as football coach and director of the Outing Club, died on July 22, 2009, at Mid Coast Hospital in Brunswick, Maine.
Lentz spent half his life serving Bowdoin, becoming a symbol of leadership, dedication and compassion, as he coached his football players to within one point of an undefeated season, and grew the Outing Club into the largest student organization on campus. Former players and friends from Bowdoin and Harvard donated a large fieldstone hearth at the Schwartz Outdoor Leadership Center in his honor, and each year, the Outing Club recognizes student leaders with the James S. Lentz Leadership Award. He was born on April 5, 1927, in Drexel Hill, Pennsylvania, and prepared for college at Upper Darby High School and the Perkiomen School. He served in the Army Special Service division from 1945 to 1946 and was stationed in Austria. Always an accomplished athlete, he played football and was a boxer during his military career and continued in those sports at Gettysburg College, where he graduated in 1951 as an economics major. He went on to earn a master’s degree in health and physical education from Columbia University in 1957. He returned to Gettysburg for his coaching job, leading the freshman football and swimming teams. He became the line coach of the football team in 1956, and the next year left to become an assistant football coach and freshman lacrosse coach at Harvard University. He served as the defensive coach of the football team from 1962 to 1968, and in 1968, came to Bowdoin as head coach of football and lacrosse. He coached the lacrosse team for a single season before focusing his attention on football. In his 16 years as head coach, his players won ten Colby-Bates-Bowdoin championships. In 1970, when his team came within one point of an undefeated season, he placed a close second in the voting for the United Press International’s New England Small College Coach of the Year Award. He “retired” in 1984, but continued to work with Bowdoin students, turning his attention instead to his other passion – the outdoors.He taught whitewater canoeing, cross-country skiing, fly tying, and fly-fishing. After working to gain official recognition of the Outing Club, he became its first director in 1984. That year, he instituted the Outing Club’s Leadership Training Program, which has become a hallmark of the organization. The club now attracts more 450 members, making it the largest student organization at Bowdoin. He is survived by his wife of 40 years, Martha (Lindholm) Lentz; son John B. Lentz; daughter Sara Perry; two grandchildren; and a brother, Richard Lentz.