The Bowdoin community was saddened to learn of the death of outstanding athlete and former coach of football, hockey, and lacrosse Nels Corey of the Class of 1939 on August 11 in Gardiner, Maine. Nels was 98, but he always greeted friends and former players alike with a laugh, genuine enthusiasm, and the firm handshake of a man half his age.
Nels was born in Lynn, Massachusetts, and attended Newburyport High School and Governor Dummer Academy before coming to Bowdoin. He was a natural leader — a member of the Student Council for three years, class president, president of Delta Upsilon Fraternity, and an outstanding athlete.
In the days when freshmen were not allowed to compete on the varsity level, Nels won a total of nine varsity letters in three sports.
He was captain of the football team, a two-time All-Maine selection as a tackle, and a Williamson System All-American.
He earned All-New England honors as a goalie on the hockey team, he was a first baseman on the baseball team, and he found the time to play basketball before Bowdoin had a varsity team.
Nels’s brilliant career as an athlete translated into an illustrious coaching career at the college and preparatory school levels.
Following his graduation with a B.S. degree, Nels was a teacher-coach at the Pomfret School in Connecticut until the outbreak of World War II.
He served in the U.S. Navy in the South Pacific for 25 months, attaining the rank of lieutenant.
He returned to the field of education and to coaching after the war, first at Governor Dummer Academy, at Maine Central Institute (where his football teams won four consecutive Maine Preparatory School Championships), at Colby College from 1950-52 (where he was head hockey coach and football coach), and at Williams College.
Nels returned to Bowdoin in 1955, where he became head hockey coach (1957), head football coach (1959), and the first collegiate lacrosse coach in the State of Maine (1959).
His football teams won state championships in 1960 and 1963, when the schedule still included games against the University of Maine.
He was elected Maine Coach of the Year for 1960.
Nels left Bowdoin in 1965, and became one of the most respected preparatory school athletic directors and coaches in New England.
He was at the Hotchkiss School for 15 years and then at North Yarmouth Academy.
The New England Preparatory School Athletic Council presented him with the Martin William Souders Award for his “distinguished record in sports and in life through high ideals, leadership and accomplishments.”
The Western New England Prep School Lacrosse Association established the Nels Corey Award for the Outstanding Defensive Player in Division 1, and he was named the association’s Coach of the Year in 1972.
Nels was inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame in 1997, and he was in the first class inducted into the Bowdoin College Athletic Hall of Honor in 2002.
Nels married Kathleen Monaghan in 1947. Nels and Kaye have two sons, Charlie ’75 and Jeff, three grandchildren, and a host of friends and admirers in the Bowdoin community and among the many people who have been inspired by their generosity of spirit.
There will be a private service for the family; a memorial service will be held at the College at a later date, to be announced.