Above: EG coaching legend Art Kershaw, left, stands with EG Athletic Director Chris Cobain.
By Aiza Shaihk
Art Kershaw, Dr. Victor Mercurio, and Chris Cobain were congratulated and awarded by the RIIAAA for their years of service in East Greenwich as a scaled down awards ceremony in late June.
The RIIAAA (RI Interscholastic Athletic Administrators Association) gives awards to school administrators, athletic directors, and coaches across the state. The organization also inducts a few residents into its Hall of Fame each year. This year, the event took place on a weekday morning in front of East Greenwich High School, bowing to the reality of the pandemic.
Victor Mercurio was recognized as 2020 Administrator of the Year; Mercurio served as EG’s superintendent of schools for 10 years, leaving in December 2019. Coaching legend Art Kershaw was inducted into this year’s RIIAAA Hall of Fame. And Chris Cobain won the 10 Years Service award for his time as EGHS’s athletic director.
During his years in education, Victor Mercurio has been a middle and high school English teacher, high school assistant principal, high school principal, director of secondary education, and superintendent. He is now an associate professor at Johnson and Wales University.
Mercurio has also been a significant leader in athletic education. He played soccer in both high school and college. After college, Mercurio served as assistant coach of URI’s varsity soccer team. He has also served as a member and director of the Principals’ Committee on Athletics, a member of the RI Interscholastic League (RIIL), and an inductee of the RI High School Soccer Coaches’ Hall of Fame.
Mercurio said his experience in athletics had a great impact on his success in education.
“My participation in soccer and athletics has been significant in my role as an administrator,” says Mercurio. “It has taught me about leadership and teamwork and how to respond to achievement and failure. I used those experiences to help me.”
His involvement in school sports was also the reason for Mercurio’s career choice.
“I had great teachers and coaches that I looked up to,” he says. “They inspired me…. I thought I’d choose a career in the field.”
Mercurio said he looked on the administrator award as “a statement about the community.”
“The award speaks to the community’s support of athletics. There is a lot of opportunity and support,” he said.
“It was an honor and a privilege for me to receive that award and to be recognized in the same ceremony as Art Kershaw,” he adds. “Kershaw is a legend.”
Art Kershaw has made numerous contributions to the EG community over the past 57 years. He first came to East Greenwich in 1963 when he accepted the teaching positions for science and physical education. Six years later, he became a guidance counselor at EGHS. After some time, he began serving as athletic director, while simultaneously teaching physical education. He retired from the school in 2002.
Throughout his 39 years in the EG school district, Kershaw played a significant role in EGHS’s athletic teams’ successes and accomplishments. He coached football (for all 39 years), wrestling, and basketball. In 1999, EGHS was named RIIAAA School of the Year. Kershaw was also named RI Coach of the Year for his high school football coaching.
The 2020 RIIAAA Hall of Fame is actually the seventh Hall of Fame that Kershaw is part of. He was previously inducted into the West Warwick Athletic Hall of Fame, East Greenwich Athletic Hall of Fame, RI Football Coaches’ Hall of Fame, RI Baseball Coaches Hall of Fame, Providence Gridiron Hall of Fame, and RIIL High School Athletics Hall of Fame.
Matt Plain, a current member of the EG School Committee, had Kershaw as both a teacher and coach during his years at EGHS.
“He treated us like his own. He encouraged us to overcome adversity…. He had an unflappable spirit,” said Plain. “He not only expected, but also demanded, sportsmanship and teamwork from [the team].”
Plain described Kershaw as a coach who connected with each of his students.
“If you had him as a teacher, you knew you could call him up anytime,” Plain said.
Since retirement, Kershaw has kept himself busy with selling firewood and eggs from the chickens that he raises at his home.
Aiza Shaikh, a member of the EGHS Class of 2021, is a reporter for East Greenwich News.
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I first met Mr. Kershaw when he was the gym teacher at Eldredge as I arrived there to begin the 7th grade in the fall of 1965, 55 years ago. He made us run laps; funny what you remember after a half-century. He was intimidating, but inspiring, as his record over the decades since shows. Well done, Mr. Kershaw. Thank you.