BETHLEHEM, Pa. --- Moravian College prides itself on being a community when students come to the campus, and at the school of just over 1,600 undergraduate students, there is a sense of family that is built during their time in Bethlehem.
That feeling of being part of a family draws alumni back to their alma mater for work especially in the athletic department which currently has 24 alumni on staff including five head coaches. In fact, the College employs 96 graduates among its 450-plus workforce. Former student-athletes dot offices all over campus including President Bryon L. Grisgby, a 1990 graduate and former men's soccer player. Moravian's Chairman of the Board of Trustees Ken Rampolla played football for four years before graduating in 1979.
Head Softball Coach and Associate Athletic Director John Byrne came to Bethlehem from North Penn High School as a freshman in the fall of 1978 and has been here ever since. After completing his degree in 1982 and playing on the baseball team for four years, Byrne became an admissions counselor and assistant baseball coach. He worked as Athletic Recruiting Coordinator from 1985 to 1998, and Byrne served as head volleyball coach in 1988 and as an assistant football coach from 1989 to 1997. He took over the softball program in 1994 and has led the Greyhounds to 675 wins in 21 seasons with three NCAA Division III World Series appearances, 14 NCAA Division III playoff berths, 17 conference playoff appearances and 15 conference championships.
"I was attracted to Moravian by the opportunity to receive a quality education while being able to continue my playing career with a tradition rich baseball program," commented Byrne. "I treasure the friendships and memories made with my teammates and classmates. Championship memories you always remember.
"It was not my initial plan to remain in Bethlehem after graduation but, Robert Snyder, former Vice President of Moravian College was a big baseball fan and had been a regular at all Moravian games during my career. Toward the end of my senior year, he summoned me to his office to let me know there were openings in the Admissions and Development Offices and suggested that I apply," Byrne continued. "I was fortunate to have been selected to an Admissions position and in the spring was allowed to assist with the baseball team."
Head Football Coach Jeff Puksyzn is another former Greyhound that hasn't left since arriving at the school. Pukszyn's path took a minor detour after graduating from Allentown Central Catholic High School as he played his freshman year at Kutztown University. However, we would transfer to Moravian in the fall of 1994 to play for now Director of Athletics Scot Dapp for his final three seasons. After graduating, Pukszyn stepped into a part-time coaching in 1997. Pukszyn joined the coaching staff full-time in 1999 as defensive coordinator and added the titles of assistant head coach in 2001 and special teams coordinator in 2007. He moved into the head coaching position on July 1, 2011 when Dapp moved into the role of athletic director.
"I had a tremendous experience both on and off the field at Moravian," Pukszyn said. "I built lasting relationships with players, coaches, and faculty members. Moments that I'll always remember are beating Muhlenberg all three years I played.
"I was given a great opportunity both academically and athletically while a student here at Moravian College," he continued. "I wanted to be able to give something back to the college and the football program. Talking to Coach Dapp after my playing career was over I wanted to get into coaching and a part-time spot became available on his staff. I jumped at the chance."
Moravian's three other head coaches that are also alumni took some time away before deciding to return to Bethlehem and the Greyhound staff.
Head Field Hockey Coach Amy Endler spent ten years on the high school level after graduating in 1993 as the head basketball and field hockey coach at Roselle Park (N.J.) High School. Endler, a member of the Moravian Hall of Fame that played on the Greyhounds' national runner-up women's basketball squad in 1992, first came back as an assistant women's basketball coach but stepped into the role as head field hockey coach the following year, completing her 12th season this past fall, and she still works with the basketball team during the winter.
"I was not highly recruited as a high school player so when the field hockey coach and coach Mary Beth Spirk, showed a little interest in me, I looked at Moravian more closely," Endler explained. "On my visit, everyone was very friendly and the campus was beautiful. Compared to my other college visits Moravian certainly stood high above them all.
"I had a great experience on and off the playing field," continued Endler. "I remember how approachable all the professors were and how much they cared about you. When I tore my ACL as a freshman, one of my professors had the entire class sign a get well card for me. Having had such a great experience while a student, I wanted to stay involved as an alumnus. I got involved with the Blue & Grey Club and wanted to help current students have a memorable experience as well."
Director of Tennis Art Smith has had two stints at Moravian. A 1968 graduate and also a member of the Moravian Hall of Fame, Smith served as an assistant men's basketball coach from 1992 through 2002 and assistant men's tennis coach from 1997 through 2002. He returned to campus as the head men's tennis coach in 2011 and took over as the director of tennis this past summer to lead both the men's and women's programs.
"It was always a dream of mine to coach where I played my collegiate tennis," commented Smith. "My experiences at Moravian, as a student and athlete, were such that I felt this was a place that I felt the most comfortable."
Head Golf Coach Kevin Edwards is in the midst of his fifth season leading the Greyhounds on the links. Edwards graduated from Moravian in 1996 and was part of Moravian's 1994 undefeated conference championship squad. He also works as the PGA Director of Golf at Woodstone Country Club in Danielsville where the Hounds host their annual fall and spring tournaments.
"I was attracted to Moravian because I had grown up coming to sporting events at the school with relatives who attended the school," stated Edwards. I knew a good amount about the school and felt I would be able to play here. I liked the size of the school and the campus.
Byrne has one of his former players, 2006 graduate Leah Holmes, on his current coaching staff, and Holmes was a part of the Greyhounds' national runner-up squad in 2004.
"I don't look to alumni right after graduation for coaching spots. It is tough making the transition from player to coach while people that are your friends are still playing," explained Byrne. "I have had many players come back after a few years to assist and that is a great feeling to see them share their pride and experiences."
Pukszyn has kept the alumni of the football program involved as well on the coaching side with five assistant coaches having graduated from Moravian. Gary Martell, a 1976 graduate and member of Moravian's Hall of Fame, has been on the staff since completing his playing career, working as an offensive assistant while also serving as the director of the Boys and Girls Club of Bethlehem. The football staff also includes Tim Wait, a 2008 graduate, as the outside linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator, Gordy Frack, a 2000 graduate, as a defensive secondary coach, Nick Sacco, a 1993 graduate who also works for the Department of Treasury, as an assistant offensive line coach, and Ian Heck from the Class of 2012 as the kicking coach.
"Although it's nice to have alums you always have to make sure you have the best possible fit at the position," Pukszyn said. "It's always great when that does turn out to be an alum."
Smith has had Bill Neal, who earned a Master's Degree from Moravian last spring and was the graduate speaker at commencement last May, as his assistant coach with the men's tennis squad since 2011 and Neal is working with both the men and women this year.
The men's basketball team has three alumni on its staff this season with Dennis Robison in the ninth year of his second stint with the Greyhounds. Robison is a 1968 graduate was also awarded Moravian's Robert M. Herbstman Award this past November at the Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. Jeremy Walker, son of Head Coach Jim Walker, is his eighth season on the Hounds' bench after graduating in 2007, and Jeremy also completed his MBA at Moravian in 2012. Logan Stano, a 2014 graduate, joined the staff this winter.
Other assistant coaches that call Moravian their alma mater include Jon Baltz, a 2011 graduate working with the baseball team, Kelly McLean Rindock, a 2003 graduate in her second season as a women's basketball assistant coach, Allie Valdetara, a 2010 graduate that has returned to work with the women's soccer team, and Gary Zack, a 2012 graduate and 2011 National Champion in the javelin that coaches the throwers on the track & field teams.
It isn't only on the field where the Greyhounds attract alumni back to campus. Moravian's most recent hire in the athletic department just before the holidays was 2008 graduate and former baseball player Josh Baltz returning to campus as equipment manager. Josh joins his brother Jon on the staff. Vinny Reed moved from student and a member of the football team to assistant strength and conditioning coach after graduating last May, and Moravian's entire cheerleading coaching staff is made up of former Greyhounds including Head Coach Ashley Stone, a 2010 graduate, and assistants Shannon Smith from the Class of 2013 and Allie Frensky from the Class of 2011.
With all of the alumni on staff, it makes it easy to talk about the school during the recruiting process.
"I have always felt that my insight and experiences at Moravian have made it much easier to recruit because it tends to be natural," Bryne explained. "It is very easy to speak about a place you have had a good experience yourself. The fact that the players you coach will share a common bond as fellow alums is very rewarding. I have never considered my time at Moravian a job, but more of a feeling of ownership and giving back to the institution. The wins are a little sweeter and the losses are a little tougher when you are representing a part of yourself."
"I always tell recruits and their parents that I am an alum, and I usually mention all the other coaches who graduated from Moravian as well. I think it says a lot about a college to have so many alums working here," stated Endler.
Smith concurs. "Yes, I feel that it does help. I also use the line that my wife, my son, and oldest daughter also went to Moravian; therefore I cannot be very objective in talking about Moravian. I also mention even though my youngest daughter rebelled by going to Philadelphia University, she did receive her teaching degree from Moravian so we do include her as part of the Moravian family. By being an alum, I think you can speak about Moravian College from personal experiences while you attended. Sometimes when I walk around campus with a recruit I think is it 1968 or 2015? The college has certainly changed but many things are the same."
"Absolutely, as an alum I have first-hand knowledge of what it take to balance our academics and athletics," added Pukszyn. "It's also great to be able to share and sell our football traditions that I was once a part of."
"Being an alum definitely helps sell the school to both the student athlete and the parents," Edwards said. "Being able to speak about your own experiences and what you like about the school definitely is a big selling tool. You aren't just telling someone, you can make it much more personal, which I think they appreciate."
Moravian wants you to be part of its family when you come to school and with the number of alumni that return to work for their alma mater, the College has been successful in that goal for many years.