Bowdoin Remembers C. Nels Corey ’39

C. Nels Corey '39

C. Nels Corey ’39


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.

Hockey goalie

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).

Nels Corey '39 with football co-captains Charlie Speleotis '62 and Dave Fernald '62.

Nels Corey ’39 with football co-captains Charlie Speleotis ’62 and Dave Fernald ’62.

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.”

Nels Corey '39 with lacrosse co-captains Dave Fernald '62 and Jack Adams '62.

Nels Corey ’39 with lacrosse co-captains Dave Fernald ’62 and Jack Adams ’62.

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.


  1. Rod and Judy Collette says:

    He was a great man. I am happy that I had a chance to know him and play for him. He also coached our son Mike at Hotchkiss and he too feels the loss. We will all miss his smiling face, enthusiastic laugh and his wonderful stories.

  2. charles dyer '59 says:

    A terrific individual.

  3. Dave Stocking, '66 says:

    It is most fitting that the name of C. Nels Corey be carried on the new scholarship bearing his name, intended for a deserving young man or woman who needs a financial boost to succeed at Bowdoin College. Given Bowdoin’s popularity among aspiring and high-achieving college-bound applicants, I’m reminded of Coach Corey’s own enjoyment of the cerebral and psychological challenges of coaching. I had never before had a coach who planned game strategy so willingly, took so seriously his relationships with opponents, his staff, and student-athletes, and welcomed people with such delightful bursts of ticklish enthusiasm. I always thought he carried a belief that every time he encountered someone, there was something about which he could smile. He was refreshing.

  4. Deepest sympathy to Kay, Jeff and Charlie. He will be missed.

  5. Bob Spencer says:

    He was an original. He saw in me much potential when I was a very young/floundering freshman and with his guidance helped me reinvent myself in athletics and in the classroom.
    A dear man and good friend friend

  6. Mike Coster says:

    A great leader and a real gentleman.
    Mike Coster 57

  7. Michael J. Fiori says:

    Growing up in Brunswick Charlie, Jeff, and I had a lot of good times and memories as children. Mr. and Mrs. Corey always found plenty of time for the friends of their boys and I was one of them! Attention focused on sports in those days and whether we were in the basement of their house playing hockey or in the basement of St. Charles Church on Noble Street for catechism classes we were talking about the “next game.” I can remember the times when we needed to be “quiet” because Nels was reviewing football plays or films at the house. The respect for his endeavors as a coach was immense whether it be at home, among family and friends, or on the field. The friendships were all renewed when Charlie and I found ourselves together in the Beta Theta Pi house together at Bowdoin. Nels Corey “stood out” and that is how we will always remember him. Blessings to my friends Charlie and Jeff and to Kay who was another mother to all their friends. Michael J. Fiori ’74

  8. Harry H. Hall III says:

    Played football for Nels at Hotchkiss. Class of 1971. In four years we only lost five games. Won three league championships, if memory serves. Pretty much everything I brought to the business world I learned from him. He taught me everything. I owe him a great debt of gratitude, and I will never, ever forget him.

    Harry Hall

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