Vince Pugliese never walked into a room - he strode in. His distinctive gait, his upright military bearing, his forceful voice, and his confident manner made him stand out to several decades of Blair Students and faculty members. These same characteristics also made him a little scary at times.
That's because Vince was one of Blair's very successful football coaches, noted for his dedication to discipline, hard work, helping teammates, and well, being tough.
He was often called on by administrators to remind students of the great opportunities that Blair provided and imploring them to remember that being able to say 'I go to Montgomery Blair' brought responsibility, along with pride,' a former student recalled. "I can remember one assembly where all he did for about 30 minutes was give us an 'attitude adjustment' speech about some unruly behavior in the halls and lack of respect students were showing for some teachers. This wasn't a football rally - this was an entire student body assembly.
While perhaps best known as a football coach, Vince actually had an impact on thousands more students who remember him as a teacher who loved his fields of history and social studies and tried to treat students with the same respect he received from them. He also served as faculty sponsor for several service clubs, including the O'Debs and the Varsity Club.
Vince started his teaching career at Blair in 1954 in the History Department after graduating from Bucknell University. Because of his athletic background (he had been a Junior College All American at Montgomery Junior College and the school's outstanding Athlete in 1952), being involved in the school's athletic program was a natural. He started as the assistant football and basketball coach the same year he began classroom teaching.
Vince then took three years off from teaching to serve in the U.S. Army, returning to teach at Blair in 1958. He also resumed his coaching duties, and in 1962 he became the Head Football Coach.
The highlight of his tenure was the 1964 undefeated County Championship team. Vince taught at Blair until 1973, and continued teaching in Montgomery County until his retirement in 1985, serving as Rockville High School's Athletic Director during that time. In 1987 he was inducted into the Maryland State Athletic Directors Association Hall of Fame. In 2009 he was inducted as one of the original members of the Montgomery Blair High School Alumni Association Hall of Fame.
When learning of Vince's passing in late July, fellow HOF inductee Morgan Wootten noted that "I played with Vince at Montgomery Junior College. We had a great team, and Vince became a friend for 60 years. I'm really sad he's gone."
So are generations of Blair students and faculty members who were touched by Vince Pugliese.