Mike Linkovich, former Athletic Trainer and Honorary member of the Bowdoin Alumni Association, died on December 4, 2022, in Brunswick, Maine.
(The following notice was shared by President Rose on December 5, 2022)
To the Bowdoin community,
I write with the sad news that Mike Linkovich, retired head athletic trainer, two-time US Olympic team trainer, inductee both in the Bowdoin Athletic Hall of Honor and nationally at the Athletic Trainers Hall of Fame in Seattle, and a beloved member of the Bowdoin community, died Sunday morning at the age of 100.
For more than six decades, Mike was one of the most recognizable people on campus, and his name—and various nicknames, starting with Big Daddy and evolving into Link—was synonymous with Bowdoin athletics. His service to the College and its students, which extended well past his official retirement in 1994, made him a legend.
Born on February 2, 1922, Mike grew up in Monaca, Pennsylvania. A World War II veteran, he served in the US Army infantry from 1942 to 1946, including time in both France and Germany. When he returned to Monaca after the war, he went back to the same steel mill where he had worked after finishing high school. The wages were good, but Mike decided he’d rather go to college on the GI Bill.
He studied physical education at Davis and Elkins College in West Virginia and played basketball for coach Petar (“Press”) Maravich, father of NBA Hall of Fame player Pete Maravich. After Mike graduated in 1953, he came north to Springfield College in Massachusetts to earn a master’s degree, with a plan to become a baseball and basketball coach. But a professor at Springfield set him on a different course by introducing him to athletic training.
That redirection was Bowdoin’s great gain. Mike did hesitate in 1954 before accepting a position training Bowdoin’s athletes because he wasn’t sure Bowdoin had enough to offer in the field. “I didn’t really think it was the place for me,” Mike told assistant football coach Kevin Loney in an interview for Bowdoin Magazine. A call from athletic director Mal Morrell, Class of 1924, helped convince Mike to give it a try.
He ended up staying for more than six decades. He married Virginia M. Simonian in 1960, and the couple raised two sons in Brunswick while Virginia worked as a secretary in the economics, history, and government departments and Mike earned a reputation that extended far beyond the campus. Mike was appointed a director of the National Athletic Trainers Association (NATA) in 1961, representing the New England states. Later he was elected vice president of the Eastern Athletic Trainers Association. He was named to the NATA Hall of Fame in 1982.
When the “Miracle on Ice” was unfolding at the 1980 Winter Olympic Games in Lake Placid, New York, Mike was there as a trainer for the US Olympic Hockey Team. He was also appointed an athletic trainer for the United States team for the l980 Moscow Summer Olympics, which the US ultimately boycotted to protest Russian intervention in Afghanistan.
The students Link worked with did not forget him, naming him an honorary member of the Class of 1967. In 1980, he received the Bowdoin Alumni Council’s Alumni Award for Faculty and Staff for “outstanding service and devotion to Bowdoin.” He was inducted into the Bowdoin College Athletic Hall of Honor in 2004. Link was also a member of the Beaver County (Pennsylvania) Sports Hall of Fame (1983), the Davis and Elkins College Athletic Hall of Fame (1993), and the Maine Baseball Hall of Fame (2000). In 1995, he received the American College Hockey Association’s Jim Fullerton Award for “one who loves the purity of the sport,” and in 1996 he received the Maine Chapter of the National Football Foundation and Hall of Fame’s Contribution to Amateur Football Award. Upon his retirement in 1994, after forty years at Bowdoin, Link was named an honorary member of the Bowdoin Alumni Association.
In April 2019, forty years after her groundbreaking victory at the Boston Marathon, Olympic champion Joan Benoit Samuelson ’79 posted a photograph of herself and Mike on the campus, with a caption that described him as one of the best athletic trainers of all time. She had just run the 2019 Boston Marathon, once again wearing her Bowdoin track singlet. “Link was there for me forty years ago and he is still there today at 97 years young,” she wrote.
Last year, in celebration of his ninety-ninth birthday, a group of Bowdoin alumni connected with Link on Zoom to express to him their friendship and admiration. Recounted by David Treadwell ’64 in his local newspaper column, the event was hosted by Emmett Lyne ’81, who told Link, “You represent the best of Bowdoin and the essential glue that binds generations of Bowdoin athletes and people who love the College. Big Daddy, you are the greatest!”
A natural athlete himself, Mike saw sport as a means of learning that went beyond the rules of the game. “Playing a sport teaches you how to get along with people and how to deal with things when they go your way,” Mike said in an interview in 2011, “and when they do not.”
Link had a special relationship with our Dining Service staff, and after losing his beloved Virginia in 2013, he took many of his meals on campus, where there was always someone eager to sit and talk with him. He is survived by two sons and two daughters-in- law, Steven M. Linkovich ’84 and his wife, Denise, of Groveland, Massachusetts, and Michael J. Linkovich and his wife, Francine, of Boynton Beach, Florida.
Memorial arrangements are pending and will be shared with the Bowdoin community as soon as they become available.
One of my great joys was the opportunity to know Link. I would see him most often in Thorne where he had his regular table at a window in the servery. He would always check in on what I was doing, especially whether I was raising enough money. He was devoted to the students with whom he worked, and his impact on these men and women over the years is something to behold. Link loved Bowdoin, and he made Bowdoin better. I know you join me in conveying heartfelt condolences to Link’s family, along with our gratitude for his many contributions and our deep respect for an extraordinary life so well lived.